Sweeping history of Rio de Janeiro that captures both its uniqueness and tumult.
Debut author Morton handily captures the allure Rio holds for those who visit—its natural and cultural beauty, the great food and drink, the beaches, the people, etc. “For those seeking more than a beach and a view,” he says, “Rio has many attractions: a major game in Maracanã, a candomblé ritual, a performance in the Teatro Municipal.” If you’d like to do more than people watch, “Rio is said to have more museums than Paris.” And, of course, “Rio’s reputation for an easy-going sexual culture should not be forgotten.” However, from the very beginning Rio has always been a volatile brew, uneasily juxtaposing wealth and poverty, religion and secularism, modernity and tradition. Often, Rio’s identity crisis has expressed itself as a pendulum swing between stubborn resistance to Europeanizing and an enthusiastic embrace of it. While this panoramic account will largely interest those with a personal attachment to the city, the author deftly connects the history of Rio to Brazil as well as Latin America as a whole. This painstakingly researched account of Rio’s history is amazing in scope; Morton even discusses the first human inhabitants in the area some 12,000 years ago. He charts Rio’s trajectory from a lesser-known city essentially run by Jesuits to the cosmopolitan center now known for its revelry. Along the way, he also discusses its persistent class conflict, the birth of the notorious favelas, culture and geography so colorful they inspire poetry, and the racial fallout of its earlier dependence upon slavery. The work is speckled with illustrative photos and art, which help convey the flavor of the city. Readers might sometimes get bogged down in the avalanche of detail, but the drama of the city’s evolution, and the skill with which it’s reported, more than makes up for it.
A meticulously researched guide to one of the world’s most famous cities.
(link to review)
FOREWORD CLARION REVIEW
This is a comprehensive and well-researched history of one of South America’s most exciting cities.
The city of Rio de Janeiro is having the international spotlight shone on it thanks to Brazil’s many recent achievements and the fact that Rio is hosting the 2016 Olympics. Thus, it’s fitting that a book comes along to explore Rio’s history in-depth: Orde Morton’s Rio: The Story of the Marvelous City. Starting right from Rio’s beginnings, covering all major historical events up to the present day, and written without pretense but with much enthusiasm and clarity, Rio educates and entertains simultaneously.
Morton has clearly done his research on the subject. Right off the bat, he breaks down Rio in terms of its colonization and geography. He articulates everything from the first indigenous settlers in Rio—the Tupi from Amazonia—to the coming of the Portuguese in the form of Dom João and Queen Maria I, escorted by their British allies.
Along the way, Morton inserts details about Rio that are fascinating and explanatory. Emphasizing tribal influence, he points out how the word Carioca, a long-standing term for Rio residents, may come from the Tupi word kari oka or “white man’s house.” He also explains how the early organization of the city and its aqueduct system are still referenced in Rio’s modern zoning.
Issues like inner-city crime and poverty are prominent in Rio today. Morton’s text is helpful here in understanding how sociopolitical matters have long been in the blood of Rio’s social landscape, right from the earliest sugar harvests where slaves were imported from Africa to compensate for the lack of Tupi labor. As Morton notes, “real profits were to be made. … Finding labour was trickier.” And since Rio was a port city right in the heart of South America, it became a smuggler’s paradise.
Aside from the standard sociopolitical histories, the book digresses to show how Rio de Janeiro engaged the rest of the world with now-famous movies and music. Morton points out how the first bossa nova record, “Chega de Saudade,” and the cinema classic Orfeu Negro(Black Orpheus)—both Rio pieces still influential in their respective fields today—introduced the rest of the world to the best of Brazilian culture in the late 1950s.
A key text for any traveler or student researching Rio de Janeiro, Rio is just as engaging for nonfiction lovers. The history and lifestyle of Rio, delivered with easy prose, is memorable on its own. With the 2016 Olympics on its way, Rio the book gives Rio the city that much more excitement.
(link to review)
Review by Eurico de Lima Figueiredo
(translated from Portuguese)
Orde Morton's book, "Rio: The Story of the Marvelous City", is not just the first and the most complete and inclusive
history of Rio de Janeiro in English. It is also destined to become an obligatory reference in any other language, including
Portuguese. . . One of the best qualities a historian can display is empathy. Those who have this attribute are able
to view the history of a society that is not their own with the minimum possible interference of the inherent biases and
outlook of their own country . . . Orde Morton - a Canadian by origin - meets all these conditions in his book.