Clueless student radicals, indigenous Brazilian Indians and the Internet find an uneasy mix within a novel that seems to serve as a political allegory.
During the first third of the novel, the protagonist seems to be a young law student and activist named Paulo, who shares some background with the author as well as his first name. Then he disappears from the bulk of the novel, and from Brazil, except for occasional interruptions from his new place in England, before he returns home in the final pages. He operates out of a “contagious inertia, a blind freedom that needed to be exercised urgently.” As for the political commitment of Paulo and his fellow club-hopping hipsters, it finds expression in an adage they hear at a rally: “To bring about a revolution in the world we have to bring about a revolution in ourselves. It sounds naïve, I know.” Propelling the plot is a chance encounter between the increasingly disillusioned Paulo, who considers abandoning both his studies and his politics, and a young Indian girl with whom he develops an age-inappropriate relationship, which results in her pregnancy and his disappearance. “I’m not even sure how to describe a cretin who gets a fifteen-year-old Indian girl pregnant then vanishes into thin air,” says one of the multiple narrators. The boy who results from that pregnancy—offering a thematic embodiment of the complex relationship between upper-middle-class politics and impoverished, indigenous culture—dominates the novel’s second half, emerging as an unlikely Internet performance artist and viral sensation.
By the time the novel’s final few pages attempt to tie these various strands together, the writer’s ambition has exceeded his accomplishment.