José Eduardo Agualusa
© Jorge Simão
José Eduardo Agualusa was born in Huambo in 1960 and is considered one of Angola’s most important writers. He studied in Lisbon and currently lives in Portugal, Angola and Brazil. Both as a novelist and a reporter Agualusa has become an important voice of his country.
In 2007, Agualusa was awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and in 2013, the Fernando Namora Prize.
Teoria geral do esquecimento (“A General Theory of Oblivion”) tells the true story of Ludo, a Portuguese woman who, horrified by the ongoing events of the Angolan War of Independence in 1975, bricks herself into her apartment in Luanda for almost thirty years. Interlinking Ludo’s tale with the moving stories of other characters and writing with a subtle irony that emphasizes the amazing coincidences of life, Agualusa creates a convincing and charming whole.
Everything in this implausible, vibrant and intricate Luandan world is plausible.
A book that hooks the reader from the very first page.
José Eduardo Agualusa’s juvenile novel A vida no céu (“Life in the Sky”) tells the extraordinary story of 16-year-old Carlos, who was born in the skies and goes looking for his father.
When the earth becomes too hot to live on after excessive global warming, people start building whole balloon cities in the sky. Carlos himself was born in a floating colony called Luanda. When his father disappears after a tragic balloon accident, Carlos is certain he survived. Travelling on his own in his family’s balloon, he discovers a floating Paris full of unknown wonders, makes friends and falls in love for the first time. But will he also find his father?
Full of adventure, mystery and passion, A vida no céu is a moving book about friendship that addresses pressing sociological and ecological topics in an elegant and intriguing way.
Milagrário pessoal (“Personal Notebook of Miracles”) is both an unusual love story and a journey across the history of the Portuguese language. When Iara makes the incredible discovery that the Portuguese language is being infiltrated by amazingly familiar-sounding new words, she asks her professor, an 80-year-old Angolan anarchist, for help. Together they go looking for a mysterious list of words which were once stolen from the language of the birds.
Milagrário pessoal confirms Agualusa as a great writer. This book is a declaration of love to the Portuguese language.
Angola need no longer be on the look-out for a chronicler of its history - his name is José Eduardo Agualusa.
Barroco tropical ("Tropical Baroque") tells a passionate love story hurtling inevitably towards an abyss, just like the Angolan society in which it is set. Bartolomeu is a well-known author and filmmaker, his girlfriend Kianda an internationally celebrated singer. When the famous television presenter Núbia de Matos dies a violent death after openly addressing child abuse and drug use among the country’s powerful men, Bartolomeu decides to investigate her murder…
Barroco Tropical veers between shock and rapture, between a furious dynamic and the tradition-laden weight of identical recurrences. A breathtakingly masterful novel.
Agualusa entertains himself and us with his talent for spreading happiness. I would say that in current Portuguese literature there is nothing as spectacular as this.
Alexandra Lucas Coelho, ípsilon
Moving between fiction and reality, in As mulheres do meu pai (“My Father’s Wives”) José Eduardo Agualusa tells the story of the musician Faustino Manso, who, at his death, left eight widows and eighteen children in different cities and countries across Africa. Laurentina is a film director who lives in Lisbon. When her mother dies, she leaves a letter telling how Laurentina was adopted in Angola and that her real father was Faustino Manso. Laurentina decides to go to Africa to find out more about the father she never knew, and to make a documentary about the life of the late musician.
Together with a group made up of her boyfriend Mandume, her newfound nephew Bartolomeu, her photographer Jordi and the driver of their ancient vehicle, Pouca Sorte, they set out from Luanda, the Angolan capital, heading for Mozambique, via Namibia and South Africa. The narration through the eyes of the different characters and their different perspectives leads the reader on a journey across modern-day Africa and into its historical roots, through times of political struggle and a still-present sense of mysticism. The idea of the African Male is deconstructed as the narration progresses, in a very human manner, bringing to light the power held by African women.
Laurentina returns to Lisbon at the end of the long journey, pregnant and certain that Faustino Manso was sterile. As mulheres de meu pai is a journey that takes the reader to Africa in its music, cooking, passions and landscapes. Through his depiction of the harsh reality of an Africa that is still suffering from the wounds of its difficult past, Agualusa brings out simply the richness of these countries and their inhabitants, making a refreshing change from the gloomy news of the international media.
In Africa, where some see light, others see only shadows, Agualusa chooses the light. A radiant humour and humanity speeds this novel through its picaresque twists and turns.
Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
With charm and colour, Agualusa celebrates the creole world of Portuguese Africa.
Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
The novel O vendedor de passados (“The Book of Chamaeleons”) has been drawing a lot of attention since its publication and has been reprinted several times. The albino Félix Ventura lives in Luanda in a big house full of books and earns his living by offering an altogether unusual service: he invents pasts. After decades of war, Angola is undergoing rapid change. It is home to many people with absolutely unimaginable careers, but their pasts are not always quite presentable if they want to have a promising future. So Félix Ventura invents acceptable pasts for several people - they all receive a family register with family photographs and the necessary documents. The omniscient narrator tells the story from a rather intriguing perspective: that of a lizard. In the fiction of reconstructed pasts much turns out to be real. With ironic nudges and winks, Agualusa holds up a mirror to his country and stages a complex confusion in which truth and lies, reality and fiction lead to a surprising end.
Fierce originality, vindicating the power of creativity to transform the most sinister acts. Not since Gregor Samsa’s metamorphosis have we had such a convincing non-human narrator, brought vividly home to us by Daniel Hahn.
Amanda Hopkinson, the Independent
Agualusa weaves a gorgeous and intricate story about a man who trades in memories, selling people pasts to help reinvent their futures.…There’s a murder mystery here, and not only a meditation on the nature of memory. Agualusa’s deftness and lightness of touch means we buy into the strange setup with scarcely a blink. He’s a young master.
José Eduardo Agualusa is an exceptionally gifted author. His new novel appears quiet and discreet, charming and sensitive. Agualusa has mastered the art of the fine and unagitated style.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
His first book A Conjura (“The Conspiracy”) is a historical novel set in Angola in the period between 1880 and 1911. As in his later novel, A nação crioula (“Creole Nation”), Agualusa paints a fascinating portrait of a society marked by opposites, in which only those who adapt have a chance of succeeding. The necessary process of adaptation corresponds to that of creolization. By this Agualusa not only means mixing black and white, but above all, mixing different cultures, a theme on which this author, himself a Creole, focuses again and again in his subsequent works.
Apart from his novels, Agualusa has also published poems, short stories and a children’s book, which won several prizes for the text and the illustrations.
A Rainha Ginga
Lisbon: Quetzal 2014, 340 p.
Teoria geral do esquecimento
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2012, 237 p.
English sample translation available
Fernando Namora Prize 2013
Brazil: FOZ 2012 ● France: Métailié 2013 ● UK: Harvill/Secker ● US: Archipelago
Milagrário pessoal, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2010, 184 p.
Brazil: Língua Geral 2010 ● Serbia: Dereta ● US: Archipelago
Barroco Tropical, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2009, 342 p.
Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2009 ● Croatia: Meandar ● France: Métailié 2011 ● Germany: A1 Verlag 2011 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera ● Mexico: Almadía 2014 ● Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2010 ● Serbia: Dereta
As mulheres do meu pai, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2007, 382 p.
Brazil: Língua Geral 2007 ● Croatia: Meandar 2010 ● France: Métailié 2009 ● Germany: A1 Verlag 2010 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2010 ● Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2008 ● Poland: Znak 2012 ● Serbia: Dereta ● UK: Arcadia 2008
O vendedor de passados, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2004, 232 p.
Film rights sold to Conspiração Filmes, directed by Lula Buarque de Hollanda
Brazil: Gryphus 2004 ● Bulgaria: Prozoretz ● China: Hunan ● Croatia: Sysprint 2008 ● Egypt: Sphinx ● Estonia: Varrak 2011 ● Finland: Kampus Kustannus ● France: Metáilié 2006 ● Germany: A1 Verlag 2008 ● Israel: Kinneret 2012 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2008 ● Korea: Joongang Books 2010 ● Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2007 ● Romania: Corint 2009 ● Russia: Ripol ● Serbia: Dereta 2008 ● Slovak Republic: Slovart 2008 ● Spain: Destino 2009 ● Taiwan: Ye-Ren 2013 ● Turkey: Pegasus 2009 ● UK: Arcadia 2006 ● US: Simon & Schuster 2008
O ano em que Zumbi tomou o Rio, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2002, 282 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2002 ● France: Métailié 2007 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2004 ● Spain: Cobre 2004
Nação crioula, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1997, 159 p.
Bangladesh: Sandesh ● Brazil: Gryphus 1999, Língua Geral 2011 ● Croatia: Meandar 2014 ● Germany: dtv 1999 ● Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2003 ● Spain: Alianza 1999, Magrana (Catalan) 1999 ● UK: Arcadia 2002
Estação das chuvas, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1996, 279 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2001, Língua Geral 2010 ● France: Gallimard 2003 ● Spain: Bronce 2002 (avail.) ● UK: Arcadia 2009
A conjura, Lisbon: Caminho 1989, 203 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2009
A vida no céu
Lisbon: Quetzal 2013, 186 p.
Stories and other texts:
Catálogo de luzes
Medellín: Tragaluz 2013, 127 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2013
O Lugar do Morto, Lisbon: Tinta da China 2011, 157 p.
Italy: Urogallo 2012
A Educação Sentimental dos Pássaros, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2011, 126 p.
Manual prático de levitação, Rio de Janeiro: Gryphus 2005, 153 p.
Catálogo de sombras, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2003, 151 p.
Dançar outra vez, Luanda: Caxinde 2001, 87 p.
A substância do amor, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2000, 196 p.
Um estranho em Goa, Lisbon: Cotovia 2000, 168 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2001, 2010 ● Italy: Urogallo 2009
Fronteiras perdidas, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1999, 118 p.
Denmark: Ørby 2001 ● Italy: Morlacchi 2000
Lisboa africana, Lisbon: ASA 1993, 158 p
A feira dos assombrados, 1992, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2001, 147 p.
Sweden: Alma viva 2001 ● Italy: Edizioni dell’Urogallo 2009
A rainha dos estapafúrdios
(Ill. by Danuta Wojciechowska)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2012, 32 p.
Prémio Manuel António Pina
Nweti e o Mar
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2011, 44 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2012
A girafa que comia estrelas
(Ill. by Henrique Cayatte )
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2005, 25 p.
Brazil: Língua Geral
Estranhões & Bizarrocos
(Ill. by Henrique Cayatte)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2000, 61 p.
Several awards for text and illustrations
Brazil: Língua Geral