City of God (Portuguese: Cidade de Deus) is a 1997 semi-autobiographical novel by Paulo Lins, about three young men and their lives in Cidade de Deus, a favela in Western Rio de Janeiro where Lins grew up. It is the only novel by Lins that has been published. It took Lins 10 years to complete the book. The novel was hailed by critics as one of the greatest works of contemporary Brazilian literature.
It was made into a feature film of the same name in 2002, which went on to be nominated for four Oscars. An English translation of the book was published in 2006. Thanks to the international recognition of the film the book continued to be translated into several more languages including Italian, French, Spanish and German.
The book is named after the Favela in which the novel takes place, the City of God. The city of god Favela was established in 1960 in the western zone of Rio de Janeiro as part of a government strategy to systematically move favelas away from the city centre and relocate inhabitants to the suburbs.
City of God is set in a city renowned for its natural beauty. The novel follows the lives of gangsters and petty criminals living in the Favela. The novel is set from the 1960s through to the 1980s. At the beginning, the money made by the delinquents is essentially gained through hold-ups. As the years progress into the 70’s, cocaine begins to make a large appearance in the criminals' lives; the focus now turns to drugs, both dealing and consuming vast amounts. Due to the increase in drug lords, money becomes guns and with guns come power. Large conflicts evolve, about who has the ultimate control over drug dealing in the Favela, resulting in gang wars. The law does not apply; throughout the novel, the power is held by the criminals and drug lords who effectively govern the Favela. The police are interested in how well the gangs are doing for their own gain, due to the lack of government involvement and the low wages the police get paid, the police are easily corrupted.
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