José Eduardo Agualusa
© Rosa Cunha
José Eduardo Agualusa was born in Huambo in 1960 and is considered one of Africa’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. He has a weekly column in the prestigious Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
In 2007, Agualusa was awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and in 2013 the Fernando Namora Prize and a translation grant of the English PEN in 2014. His novel Teoria Geral do Esquecimento (“General Theory of Oblivion”) was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2016 and was awarded the International Dublin Literary Award 2017.
His books have been published in almost 30 countries.
Angolan-born Agualusa, together with Mozambique writer Mia Couto, are among the most inventive writers at work in lusophone Africa.
The Angolan journalist Daniel Benchimol dreams of people he does not know. Moira Fernandes, a Mozambican artist based in Cape Town, stages and photographs her own dreams. Hélio de Castro, Brazilian neuroscientist, films them. Hossi Kaley, a hotelier and former guerrilla with a dark and violent past, has a very different and even more mysterious relationship with his dreams. Dreams bring these four characters together in a dramatic sequence of events, in a country dominated by a totalitarian regime on the verge of complete breakdown.
A Sociedade dos Sonhadores Involuntários (“The Society of Involuntary Dreamers”) is a political, satirical and entertaining fable that challenges and questions the nature of reality, while advocating the rehabilitation of the dream as an instrument of consciousness and transformation.
Agualusa is a translator of dreams The Society of Involuntary Dreamers is a novel woven with the finest materials of poetry.
José Eduardo Agualusa’s long-awaited novel A Rainha Ginga (“Queen N’jinga“) tells the life of one of the most fascinating historical personalities of Angola.
Africa, early 17th century: Father Francisco comes to assist N’jinga in her duties as ambassador of her brother the king, at a time of great historical turbulence. Accompanying N’jinga in her rise to power, Francisco discovers a completely new world and questions everything he believes in, even his Catholic faith, when he falls in love with one of the women of N’jinga‘s court.
An African account of the colonization of Angola that sheds new light on the roles of slavery, religion, inquisition and the complex network of relationships between Europe, Africa and the New World. A great adventure story by one of Angola’s most important voices. The novel sold already over 25,000 copies in Portugal!
Agualusa’s novel is a powerful examination of personal recollection and public upheaval, and a penetrating study of isolation and the cost of freedom.
History, legend and timeless reflection come together in this adventure story.
Within these pages the future is being invented, far beyond any geographical constraints.
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.
The light detachment and readability of Louis de Bernières at his best, but combined with the sharp insights of JM Coetzee… Agualusa’s writing is a delight throughout.
If it’s true that a man with a good story is practically a king, then Agualusa can count himself among the continent’s new royals. Alongside Mozambique’s Mia Couto, Agualusa has already become one of lusophone Africa’s most distinctive voices.
In the hands of a literary expert and sensitive empathist like Agualusa, Ludo’s life story is irresistible.
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.
Times Literary Supplement
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 Sociedade dos Sonhadores Involuntários
Lisbon: Quetzal 2017, 277 p.
Brazil: Planeta 2017 ● France: Métailié ● Germany: C.H. Beck ● Netherlands: Koppernik ● Norway: Bokvennen ● UK: Harvill Secker ● US: Archipelago
A Rainha Ginga
Lisbon: Quetzal 2014, 340 p.
Over 30,000 copies sold in Portugal
Brazil: FOZ 2015 ● France: Métailié 2017 ● Italy: Lindau 2016 ● Russia: Book Centre Rudomino
Teoria geral do esquecimento
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2012, 237 p.
International Dublin Literary Award 2017
Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2016
Winner of the English PEN Award 2014
Fernando Namora Prize 2013
Argentina: Edhasa 2016 ● Brazil: FOZ 2012 ● Croatia: Meandar ● Denmark: Batzer & Co ● France: Métailié 2013 ● Germany: C.H. Beck 2017 ● Greece: Opera ● Italy: Neri Pozza 2017 ● Korea: Kuhminsa ● Mexico: Almadía ● Netherlands: Koppernik 2015 ● Norway: Bokvennen 2016 ● Poland: Kairos ● Romania: Polirom ● Sweden: Leopard 2017 ● Turkey: Timas ● UK: Harvill/Secker 2015 ● Uruguay: Banda Oriental ● US: Archipelago 2015
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2010, 184 p.
Brazil: Língua Geral 2010 ● Serbia: Dereta ● US: Archipelago
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2009, 342 p.
Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2009 ● Croatia: Meandar ● France: Métailié 2011 ● Germany: A1 Verlag 2011 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2012 ● Mexico: Almadía 2014 ● Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2010 ● Serbia: Dereta
As mulheres do meu pai
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2007, Quetzal 2017, 413 p.
Brazil: Língua Geral 2007, Tusquets ● 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, Quetzal 2017, 148 p.
Film rights sold to Conspiração Filmes, directed by Lula Buarque de Hollanda
Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2007
Argentina: Edhasa 2017 ● Brazil: Gryphus 2004, 2011, 2015, Tusquets ● Bulgaria: Prozoretz ● China: Hunan 2015 ● Croatia: Sysprint 2008 ● Estonia: Varrak 2011 ● Finland: Kampus Kustannus 2015 ● France: Metáilié 2006 ● Germany: A1 Verlag 2008, 2nd Ed. 2015 ● Greece: Opera ● Israel: Kinneret 2012 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2008 ● Korea: Joongang Books 2010 ● Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2007 ● Poland: Kairos 2016 ● Romania: Corint 2009 ● Russia: Ripol ● Serbia: Dereta 2008 ● Slovak Republic: Slovart 2008 ● Spain: Destino 2009 ● Taiwan: Ye-Ren 2013 ● Turkey: Pegasus 2009 ● United Arab Emirates: Noon Publishing 2016 ● UK: Arcadia 2006 ● Uruguay: Banda Oriental 2016 ● US: Simon & Schuster 2008
O ano em que Zumbi tomou o Rio
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2002, Quetzal 2017, 306 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2002 ● France: Métailié 2007 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2004 ● Spain: Cobre 2004
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1997, Quetzal 2017, 165 p.
Bangladesh: Sandesh ● Brazil: Gryphus 1999, Língua Geral 2011, FOZ ● Croatia: Meandar 2013 ● Germany: dtv 1999 ● Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2003 ● Spain: Alianza 1999, Magrana (Catalan) 1999 ● UK: Arcadia 2002
Estação das chuvas
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1996, Quetzal 2017, 267 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2001, Língua Geral 2010 ● France: Gallimard 2003 ● Polen: Kairos ● Spain: Bronce 2002 (avail.) ● UK: Arcadia 2009
Lisbon: Caminho 1989, Quetzal 2017, 181 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2009
A Vida no Céu
Lisbon: Quetzal 2013, 186 p.
Film rights under option
Argentina: Editorial Puerto de Palos (MacMillan) 2015 ● Brazil: Melhoramentos 2015 ● French: Joie de lire ● US: Archipelago
Stories and other texts:
O Livro dos Camaleões
Lisbon: Quetzal 2015, 120 p.
Catálogo de luzes
Rio de Janeiro: Gryphus 2013, 234 p.
Colombia: Tragaluz 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.
Italy: Urugallo 2015
Passageiros em Trânsito
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2006, 168 p.
Italy: Urugallo 2015
Manual prático de levitação
Rio de Janeiro: Gryphus 2005, 153 p.
Catálogo de sombras
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2003, Quetzal 2017, 149 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
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1999, 118 p.
Denmark: Ørby 2001 ● Italy: Morlacchi 2000
Lisbon: ASA 1993, 158 p
A feira dos assombrados
Lisbon: Vega 1992, 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
Brazil: Melhoramentos 2016
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