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Sum Marky: Vila Flogá [Villa Flogá]

The hero of this novel is Sum Olímpio, a rather downtrodden black man who works as a cook for two white men, Sum Ferón and Sum Raul. They are, on the whole, not bad employers in Sum Olímpio’s view, fairly generous and not too demanding, even if they frequently shout at him and even hit him now and then. They also have their foibles. Sum Ferón, in particular, can be difficult. He expects Sum Olímpio’s duties to include procuring girls for him. Sum Ferón is not interested in lasting relationships. The girls that go to his room normally spend an hour or so there and then are never seen again. He also likes his regular baths and showers. Both expect their meals on the table, well cooked and on time and both have been pressurising Sum Olímpio to find a servant boy to come and work for them. However, that is not Sum Olímpio’s main problem. His main problem is the ironically named Vila Flogá of the title. It is not, of course, a villa but a rundown shack, made by Sum Olímpio himself, where he lives. The problem is that the city is carrying out a slum clearance project and Vila Flogá is right in the path of the bulldozers and likely to be knocked down.

Sum Olímpio has already identified a new piece of land that he can buy and move Vila Flogá to. The problem is that it costs 300 escudos and he does not have anything like that money. The early part of the book is about his attempts to get hold of the money. He tries – successfully – to borrow money from each of his employers (without the other one knowing). He is not averse to theft and decides to steal his employers’ chickens (which he has to look after) and sell them, which he does. The problem is that Sum Raul tells the police. The police captain appears and straightaway arrests Sum Olímpio, knowing full well that it is he who is responsible. He has no evidence for this whatsoever; indeed Sum Ferón and Sum Raul both testify that Sum Olímpio has been with them for four years and is a good and honest employee. The police captain is having nothing of it and takes the unfortunate Sum Olímpio to jail, where he is beaten several times before being thrown into a cell. Only when they realise that they are not getting their dinner do Sum Ferón and Sum Raul intervene.

Sum Olímpio gets his piece of land but his problems are not over. The slum clearance project is moving to his new property. Again he has to move and again he has to try and find a piece of land on which to live. Her also has another problem. The police are arresting blacks who do not have a document from their employers and making them do forced labour. Sum Olímpio ask his employers to provide him with such a document. They promise to do so but are always too busy. Meanwhile, things are getting complicated with the two employers who are both chasing the same woman. She is looking for marriage. They are not. Then things get worse with the events leading up to the Batepá massacre.

It is certainly not a great novel and is generally told in a humorous fashion, mildly mocking both Sum Olímpio and his foibles and worries as well as mocking the adventures, usually of a sexual nature, of his two employers. However, there is the serious side with the treatment of the Creole population by the whites, even if the Batepá massacre, while mentioned, is treated almost as a sideshow. Sadly, this book has not been translated into any other language and is unlikely to be translated so, unless you read Portuguese, I am afraid you will not be able to enjoy it.

Publishing history

First published 1963 by M C Castro
No English translation