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Category Archive for 'Angola'

Set during immediate aftermath of Angolan independence from Portugal in 1975, this novel by Angolan author Jose Eduardo Agualusa reflects the conflicts involved in setting up a new government under the Marxists and Leninists who helped during the revolution. With the war for independence from Portugal over, and many who fought in that war are getting ready to fight anew against the one-party Leninist state which has taken its place. Ludovica Fernandes Mano, the fifty-year-old main character and speaker, has been living in Luanda with her sister Odete and brother-in-law Orlando, who works in the diamond trade, and they now fear the future and their roles in Angola. Originally from Portugal, these residents have found that all allegiances and alliances are now in question, and no one knows, for sure, whom they can trust. One morning, without warning, Ludo wakes to find herself suddenly alone in the family’s comfortable apartment. Her sister and brother-in-law have escaped to Portugal, leaving her behind. Ludo takes surprisingly forceful action, and she does it alone. Using materials left behind the apartment, she bricks up and plasters over the entire entrance to her apartment. Once she has finished, she closes herself in and does not leave for twenty-eight years, essentially disappearing from the earth, and it is no surprise that much of her mental energy is concerned with other disappearances and the memories and the forgetting that are associated with them.

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If a reader were to base his/her whole opinion of this latest book on the “bliss” Paul Theroux experiences when he sees the Ku/’hoansi bush people, one might conclude that this book is a genuflection to simpler cultures living the hunter-gatherer lives of their forbears, a rare reaction by Theroux who is notoriously hard to please. That felicitous conclusion would be completely wrong, however, even in relation to his experience among the lovely Ju/’hoansi bush people who so impress him in Namibia. When he makes this statement, Theroux has already traveled through South Africa, spending significant time in Capetown and discovering that while the special townships created for the poor have improved in the last ten years, that new, even more desperate, poor are arriving from rural areas and making new, and even more primitive settlements in slums on the outskirts. His travel plans up the west coast, from Capetown to Timbuktu in Mali, along the south and west coasts of Africa, allow him to seize opportunities as he travels, make notes as he goes, and post his observations in ways similar to his observations of the Horn of Africa and the East Coast ten years ago. His visit with the Ju/’hoansi on Namibia has been the first sign of hope that he has had in his trip. Angola, his next stop, proves to be the turning point. One of the richest countries in the world in terms of its oil production and revenues, all of which end up in the pockets of politicians and businessmen, Angola becomes the centerpiece of the book in terms of the corruption at the heart of African life. Ultimately, Theroux must decide whether it makes sense to continue into increasingly devastated West African cities.

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In this alternative history set in 1952, debut author Guy Saville assumes that the negotiations of Lord Halifax, a British advocate of appeasement throughout the war, has led ultimately to détente between Great Britain and Germany. In 1943, the two countries, wanting to avoid war, had met at the Casablanca Conference and agreed to divide the African continent into two spheres of influence. The divisions would be primarily along the historical colonial lines: West Africa would remain largely under German rule, while much of East Africa would remain British. In a dramatic opening scene, a British assassin arrives in Kongo disguised as an SS surveyor, hoping to kill Walter Hochberg, the Governor General of Kongo. Cole stabs him to death, then escapes with some of his co-conspirators, only to discover later that Hochberg is somehow alive. Reading this novel is like reading a movie. The action is so graphic and so cinematic, that it is easy to imagine a hardcore action thriller, peopled with characters as impervious to pain as Superman. By the halfway point, Burton Cole and Patrick Whaler have been beaten, stabbed, slashed, smashed, and tortured to what would be the breaking point if these bigger-than-life men could be broken, but the chases and escapes continue. The characters on both sides are stereotypical, but Saville is an exciting new author with a suspenseful, dramatic style, but I’ll be hoping for more depth of character and more fully developed motivation to bring his future novels to life.

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In this high-temperature fever dream of a novel, with images that boil and explode with emotional intensity, author Antonio Lobo Antunes describes the life of a newly graduated Lisbon physician who has been sent to Angola from 1971 – 1973, during Portugal’s war to preserve its colonies. As the novel begins, six years have passed since the speaker has returned to Lisbon from Angola, but the young physician still cannot come to grips with all he saw and felt there. Furious by the betrayal of the Portuguese government, consisting of the ultra-right wing Estado Novo led for many years by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, the speaker accuses that government of responsibility for all the African dead and all the Portuguese lost souls who had to fight that senseless war. After bedding a woman he has just met, he is suddenly impelled to talk about his experiences in Angola, and, once started, he cannot stop. The intensity of the feelings and images throughout this book belie the usual objectivity of a novelist. Like his speaker, the author, too, was a young physician when he was sent to perform military service in Angola from 1971 – 1973, and though this is considered a novel, it is obviously extremely autobiographical.

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