Bruna Veríssimo, a youth from the hardscrabble streets of Recife, in Northeast Brazil, spoke with Tobias Hecht over the course of many years, reliving her early childhood in a raging and destitute home, her initiation into the world of prostitution at a time when her contemporaries had scarcely started school, and her coming of age against all odds.
Hecht had originally intended to write a biography of Veríssimo. But with interviews ultimately spanning a decade, he couldn't ignore that much of what he had been told wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. In Veríssimo’s recounting of her life, a sister who had never been born died tragically, while the very same rape that shattered the body and mind of an acquaintance occurred a second time, only with a different victim and several years later. At night, with the anthropologist’s tape recorder in hand, she became her own ethnographer, inventing informants, interviewing herself, and answering in distinct voices.
With truth impossible to disentangle from invention, Hecht followed the lead of Veríssimo, his would-be informant, creating characters, rendering a tale that didn’t happen but that might have, probing at what it means to translate a life into words.
A call and response of truth and invention, mental illness and yearning, After Life is a tribute to and reinterpretation of the Latin American testimonio genre. Desire, melancholy, longing, regret, and the hunger to live beyond the confines of past and future meet in this debut novel by Tobias Hecht.
Latin American history—the stuff of wars, elections, conquests, inventions, colonization, and all those other events and processes attributed to adults—has also been lived and partially forged by children. Taking a fresh look at Latin American and Caribbean society over the course of more than half a millennium, this book explores how the omission of children from the region's historiography may in fact be no small matter.
Children currently make up one-third of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean, and over the centuries they have worked, played, worshipped, committed crimes, and fought and suffered in wars. Regarded as more promising converts to the Christian faith than adults, children were vital in European efforts to invent loyal subjects during the colonial era. In the contemporary economies of Latin America and the Caribbean—where 23 percent of people live on a dollar per day or less—the labor of children may spell the difference between survival and starvation for millions of households.
Minor Omissions brings together scholars of history, anthropology, religion, and art history as well as a talented young author who has lived in the streets of a Brazilian city since the age of nine. The book closes with the prophetic dystopian tale "The Children's Rebellion" by the noted Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi.