**touchstones are not loading today**
I have traveled to Africa several times and hope to go back. I've been to Egypt,Sudan,Ethiopia,Ghana,Senegal,Ivory Coast,Zambia,Zimbabwe & South Africa.
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I've been writing about them both on all of my groups! It has been a while since I read a book and finished fufilled, reassured.
I think the next two books I want to read are Graceland and Icarus Girl
The book's a magical realist coming of age story about a young woman who is in no way a delicate flower despite a central romance subplot. The protagonist has power that scares everyone around her, but still compels her friends to help her on a world-healing quest that is fated to end in their deaths. It sounds like mush, but it rings true for any straight woman who ever needed a man to take a backseat and support her calling. There is hope for heteros in this world.
The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola
This month I read an odd novella in which the setting was Nigeria. I'm not sure what genre it would be, but I'm guessing a folktale, with maybe some fantasy elements (?) The never named narrator tells this story first person as the son of a rich man who loses his tapster and hence his friends. He goes in search of the tapster in various parts of the bush that is inhabited by all sorts of inhuman creatures. Not my cup of tea! 125 pages 3 stars
Book #28: The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo by Germano Almeida
The recently deceased Napumoceno da Silva Araújo was widely regarded as a pillar of the business community in the port city of Mindelo on the island of São Vicente, as he was perceived to be a self made man who emigrated to the city from the nearby island of São Nicolau as a poor orphaned boy with a few escudos to his name, but died a wealthy man who owned one of the largest and most successful trading companies in Cabo Verde. He was known to be a modest lifelong bachelor with no love interests who generously donated to the poorer residents of São Vicente, was free from corruption or excessive ambition, and kept mainly to himself, with few friends or visitors to his hilltop home.
In keeping with the law his last will and testament, numbering 387 pages, was read in the presence of a notary and witnesses who knew Senhor da Silva Araújo, including two acquaintances and his nephew Carlos, a driven and unscrupulous young man who stood to inherit everything as the only surviving relative, even though he openly mocked and privately despised his aged uncle. To everyone's surprise, Araújo left nearly all of his wealth to a young woman, Maria de Graça, whom he named as his daughter, and Carlos was only given a small piece of property.
As the testament is read the details of Araújo's secret life are slowly revealed, including Maria de Graça's conception, his other trysts, and the true love of his life, Adélia, who is known to no one. Maria de Graça takes it upon herself to find out who Adélia is, and to learn more about her father, who she believed to be only a godfather until his death.
The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo is set around the time of Cabo Verde's independence from Portugal in 1975, and it provides an interesting view of life in Cabo Verde, on the island of São Vicente, and in the port city of Mindelo, which grew rapidly due to the influx of immigrants from other Cabo Verdean islands due to famine in the 1940s and 1950s, and was unique in terms of its ethnic diversity and lack of established hierarchy and political structure.
Germano Almeida (1945-) is one of Cabo Verde's most celebrated authors, who was awarded the Camões Prize in 2018, the most prestigious literary award in the Lusophone world, which is given annually to an author of an outstanding oeuvre of work written in Portuguese. He received a law degree from the University of Lisbon, and he continues to write prolifically and practice law in Mindelo. The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo was chosen as one of Africa's best 100 books of the 20th century during the 2002 Zimbabwe Book Fair, the only book by a Cabo Verdean author on that list.
The Tuner of Silences by Mia Couto
Family, school, other people, they all elect some spark of promise in us, some area in which we may shine. Some are born to sing, others to dance, others are born merely to be someone else. I was born to keep quiet. My only vocation is silence. It was my father who explained this to me: I have an inclination to remain speechless, a talent for perfecting silences.
I was eleven years old when I saw a woman for the first time, and I was seized by such sudden surprise that I burst into tears.
Mwanito is an 11 year old boy whose father, Silvestre Vitalício, has taken him and his older brother Ntunzi to live in Jezoosalem, the ruins of an abandoned game preserve in the countryside of Moçambique after the mysterious and sudden death of his beloved wife. Silvestre's brother in law and friend make a community of five, and the domineering Silvestre insists that Jezoosalem is the last remaining civilized place on Earth. He loves his sons, especially Mwanito, whose gift as a "tuner of silences" helps mitigate Silvestre's tortured mind and most violent instincts, especially towards his rebellious older son, who rejects his father's incredulous claims and beliefs.
Life in Jezoosalem is suddenly transformed by the appearance of Marta, a Portuguese woman who befriends Mwanito and sets Ntunzi's hormones raging, but she is a dire threat to Silvestre and what he has taught his sons. Tension steadily builds in the altered community, and the increasingly unstable Silvestre boldly vows to remove the stranger by force if she does not leave willingly.
The Tuner of Silences is a lyrical, captivating and unforgettable novel filled with damaged souls who struggle to find meaning and happiness in lives permanently altered by the deaths of those they love the most. Mia Couto is one of Africa's most celebrated contemporary writers, and after reading The Tuner of Silences, one of my favorite novels of 2021 to date, it is easy to see why.
Good Morning Comrades by Ondjaki, translated from the Portuguese by Stephen Henighan
Ndalu, the narrator of this novel, is a schoolboy in Luanda, the capital of Angola, in the spring of 1991, a time in which the country was led by President José Eduardo dos Santos of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), who rode in public in a bulletproof Mercedes surrounded by heavily armed guards, as the country was in civil war against the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas Savimbi. The MPLA was supported by Cuba and, to a lesser extent, the Soviet Union, and between 1975 and 1991 400,000 Cubans served as teachers, physicians and soldiers there. UNITA was mainly supported by the United States, especially during President Ronald Reagan's two terms in office, along with the apartheid South African government, as both feared the spread of Marxism to other sub-Saharan countries, including South Africa itself. The MPLA held control of Luanda and the urbanized coastal areas of Angola and were supported by the Mbundu people, whereas UNITA's power was in the north and less populated interior of the country and were favored by the Ovimbundu, Angola's largest ethnic group. Due to the strength of MPLA and the large presence of disciplined Cuban soldiers Luanda at that time was relatively safe especially after 1988, when the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale repelled a South African/UNITA armed invasion, cemented Cuban/MPLA control of the country, and led to the downfall of South African President P.W. Botha. Guerrilla attacks on schools and other establishments was a constant fear, although a questionable reality.
The title of this novel refers to the use of the word comrade to formally address nearly everyone in the MPLA controlled territory; Ndalu's favorite visitor at home is Comrade António, and his primary teachers are Comrade Teacher Maria, the wife of Comrade Teacher Ángel, both from Cuba. Ndalu and his schoolmates are in the last few days of their classes, and are good kids although somewhat rebellious and apt to get into mild trouble, even though they love the school and their teachers, although they find them and other Cubans to be somewhat inscrutable and overly idealistic. Through Ndalu's eyes the reader views the everyday life in Angola in the early 1990s, which is marked with frequent mass rallies, socialist holidays, and speeches at school in opposition to imperialism, Ronald Reagan and apartheid, along with the use of ration cards to purchase goods. Most of Ndalu's classmates and their families are relatively well off in comparison to their Cuban teachers, and they sit alongside each other in an ethnic melting pot of Blacks, mixed race mestiços, and white Cubans and Portuguese.
At the end of the school year the children are saddened to learn that their teachers would soon return to Cuba, leaving their future education in charge of native Angolans. Soon they would learn that a peace agreement between MPLA and UNITA had been reached, and Cuba withdrew its presence from the country. What they could not foresee is that the presidential election held the following year kept President dos Santos and MPLA in power, and led to a vicious resurgence of the Angolan Civil War after Jonas Savimbi and UNITA, who were assured that they would win the election, lost instead.
Good Morning Comrades is a valuable insight into Angola during the end of the Cold War, and what appeared to be the end of the Angolan Civil War, which is mainly drawn from the Ondjaki's own childhood in Luanda. The afterword by the book's translator, Stephen Henighan, provides valuable context to the novel, which is essential for those unfamiliar with the country's history, and his comments bumped my rating of the book from 3½ to 4 stars.
This superb novel, written by Mozambique's first published female novelist and expertly translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw, is narrated by Rami, a modest southern Mozambican woman who has been faithfully married to a police chief in the capital of Maputo for the past 20 years, but is disturbed by the increasing frequency of Tony's nights spent away from home and his inattention to her. She soon learns that he has taken on another lover, which is not uncommon in this patriarchal society that accepts and celebrates male infidelity, permits polygamy as a cultural norm, and looks the other way when wives are abused and beaten by their husbands, while expecting these women to serve their men the best parts of their homecooked meals while kneeling in servitude and gratitude. Rami encounters her rival, and after a violent argument they become allies. Soon Rami finds out that Tony has taken on three other lovers, none of whom are completely satisfied with their lot. After he refuses to give up his lovers Rami befriends these four women, who come up with a plot to confront Tony as one, and shame him into becoming a respectable provider and lover to all of them. Tony, however, has other ideas.
The First Wife portrays the repressed lives of women in modern Mozambican society while also being easily readable and often lighthearted and humorous, and demonstrates the power of collective action of women in a society that falsely claims that it respects and values them. Despite being nearly 500 pages in length this was a quick and very enjoyable and educational novel, and I hope to read more of Paulina Chiziane's work.
The latest novel by last year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is set in the former colony of German East Africa, or Deutsch-Ostafrika, beginning in the immediate aftermath of the Maji Maji Rebellion (1905-07), in which an armed insurrection by local residents against harsh demands and working conditions imposed on them by the colonists was met with brutal and overwhelming force, and the resultant genocide by the Germans cost approximately 300,000 Africans their lives.
Khalifa is a half African, half Indian young man who is hired as a bookkeeper by a cunning and largely unscrupulous merchant in a port city in German East Africa. After he agrees to marry the niece of the merchant, a match which benefitted the merchant but did not bring happiness to Khalifa or his new wife, he meets and befriends a younger man, Ilyas, who enters town with a letter of recommendation by his German overseer. Ilyas was orphaned at a young age and rescued from bondage by his master, who taught him both the language and the customs of the mother country. Once he is settled Ilyas returns to his home village and rescues his beautiful younger sister, Afiya, from the family who has kept her as little more than a house servant. After the two settle in a peaceful existence in town Ilyas suddenly decides to enlist as a soldier in the schutztruppe, the colonial troops which were tasked to crush any rebellious activities or behaviors by the resentful and downtrodden subjects of the Germans. Afiya is left unprotected, but is rescued from a life of abuse and bondage by Khalifa and his wife Asha.
The schutztruppe in German East Africa is used to fight against the askari, Africans of other countries who were often forcibly recruited to engage in war against enemy colonies during the First World War, under inhuman conditions and with heavy loss of life. One survivor of the war is Hamza, who returns to the port city that he escaped from by joining the schutztruppe. He is hired by the son of the merchant who employed Khalifa, and he gradually gets to know, and ultimately fall in love with, Afiya, who remains unmarried and available.
The primary focus of Afterlives is the growing relationship between Afiya and Hamza, and their story is beautifully conveyed by the author, with rich portrayals of the young lovers and the other major characters in the novel. The brutality of colonial rule under the Germans between the end of the Maji Maji Rebellion and the end of World War I is also compelling and evocative, particularly Hamza’s often harsh treatment by his commanding officers. However, the end of the book is quite rushed, underdeveloped and somewhat unconvincing, as if Gurnah wanted to be done with the book. As a result I knocked down my rating of Afterlives by half a star to four stars, but it is still a superb novel and one well worth reading.
I’m currently reading Timothy M. Aluko’s One Man One Matchet, a very sharp novel of pre-independence Nigerian village politics. I really like the Heinemann African Writers series, and pick up volumes whenever I can.
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