on 17 March 2015
Child of the Dark is the first and, at the moment, only one of its kind. It is diary written by Carolina Maria de Jesus, a Brazilian peasant who lived most of her life in one of the slums of São Paulo. It starts abruptly with no introduction or beginning point. It just jumps straight into Carolina’s everyday life. This has both positive and negative outcomes. On the plus side it shows that the diary has been kept as pure as possible. There has been very little editing of what Carolina wrote; from what I have read I believe that the editor did not change any of the writing but only removed bits that were repetitive. On the downside it means that it takes you a really long time to catch up to what is happening. Carolina is talking about events and people and you’re quite far into the book before you really feel like you know what is going on.
Because the book was written in very simple language (Carolina never finished school) it can be quite difficult to read. There’s no beautiful prose or elegant descriptions. It’s blunt, modest and realistic. If you begin reading the book knowing this it is a lot easier to get into. While it was difficult reading a whole book written like this it wasn’t what I found hardest about the book. I found the story became very repetitive. I appreciate life in a slum isn’t going to very varied but I found that by a lot of what was said, by the end, had been said before. This is no fault of the writers but more of the editors – I felt a lot of it could have been cut down. I also think that Carolina is extremely negative and judgemental of the people who live in the slum with her and views herself as apart from them, as better than them. This does, at times, make it difficult to like her as she can come across as being slightly arrogant.
Despite the negatives this was an interesting read, even if it was a bit of a struggle to finish. It really shines a light onto what it is like to live in a favela: how there is never enough food, parents have to leave their toddlers to care for themselves while they go to ‘work’ (in Carolina’s case this means finding paper on the streets to sell to recyclers), and the general hardship these people face to even survive. That this book was written and published is amazing and I feel I really learnt a lot from reading it.