In her new novel Less Than One (“Menos que Um”), Patrícia Melo talks about the daily battles for survival of a group of characters – street vendors, parking attendants, unemployed people, drunks, thieves, and scavengers; people who all share the fact that, by force of circumstances, they have to live on the streets.
“We are people”, shouts Chilves, a young black man, semi-literate, who grew up in a garbage dump and walks twenty kilometres every day, collecting paper, glass and cans to survive. His dream, as a Humble Professor of Truth, is to promote the Revolution. Jessica, fourteen, a crack user in search of her mother, doesn’t quite understand Chilves’ political message but she likes him, and to Chilves she is a goddess. The girl becomes pregnant, so the young couple’s main goal becomes finding a home for their soon-to-be-born child, but also for their street companions. Among them is Glenda, with sharp claws and jaguar tights, who wants to be happy as Glenda, and not as Weverton, her baptismal name. There is Zélia, a madwoman who lives in the cemetery of Piedade, dreaming of piercing the eyes of her son’s murderer. This son, the reader will learn, is Jessica’s brother. The reader will also learn that on the street, such an inhospitable place, friendships exist just like anywhere else, and synergies work. With everyone’s collaboration, fighting against real estate speculators, this homeless community manages to occupy an abandoned building and create a solidarity project.
This novel by Patrícia Melo, in which literature and poetry intertwine the destinies of the forgotten and abandoned of the big city, tries to answer the most human question of all: What is there when what there is is less than one? The answer that emerges from Less Than One is one only: Beneath the dirt, the vice, the hunger, the cold, the invisibility, the violence, the fear, and the loneliness, these men, women and children are people who also dream, or have once dreamed. Patrícia Melo’s fiction mercilessly shows the inequality and social violence of contemporary Brazilian society, but allows a way out for its protagonists, who get a place to live together and continue dreaming.