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 A General Theory of Oblivion was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2016 and was awarded the International Dublin Literary Award 2017. José Eduardo Agualusa is the winner of the National Prize for Culture and Arts in Angola 2019 in the area of literature. The jury underlined his contribution "to the emergence of the emancipated reader" and "to the strengthening of citizenship and freedom of expression".
His books have been published in over 30 languages.
Angolan-born Agualusa, together with Mozambique writer Mia Couto, are among the most inventive writers at work in lusophone Africa.
The Living and the Others (“Os vivos e os outros”) follows the story of Agualusa‘s previous novel The Society of Reluctant Dreamers: Daniel has been living with the artist Moira in her native Mozambique for three years now, on the coastal Ilha de Moçambique.
They are awaiting the birth of their child, and at the same time they are organizing the island’s first literary festival. The small town with colonial charm is somewhat run down after years of civil war, but still constitutes a hub of African, Arab and European culture. As soon as the first festival-goers arrive, the coast is hit by a cyclone.
The island is spared, but the mainland sinks under rain and mud. The bridge to the mainland becomes impassable, and telephone and internet connections are down. The islanders, and with them the writers who have been invited to the festival, are cut off from the outside world and left to their own devices. The authors talk, eat and drink, get closer to each other, hear ghostly voices and meet characters from their own books. Some believe themselves to be in an intermediate realm, a kind of limbo, and some begin to write. The boundaries between reality and fiction, between past and future, between life and death become blurred. After five days everything goes back to normal, but the world has become a different place.
Where do we go when it’s all over? Perhaps to a small island. As one of the characters in this novel says, „after the world ends, it will start again on the islands“. This is a novel about the nature of life and of time, and the extraordinary power of imagination and the written word, capable of creating anything and regenerating everything.
»Cross J.M. Coetzee with Gabriel García Márquez and you‘ve got José Eduardo Agualusa, Portugal‘s next candidate for the Nobel Prize.«
Alan Kaufman, author of Matches
The Elegant Terrorist (and other stories) (“O terrorista elegante e outras histórias”) is made up of three stories based on theatre plays written jointly by José Eduardo Agualusa and Mia Couto, commissioned by the theatre groups A Barraca, from Lisbon, and Trigo Limpo – Teatro ACERT, from Tondela in Northern Portugal.
In The Elegant Terrorist, which gives its title to the book, an Angolan is arrested in Portugal for his alleged participation in acts of terrorism. The man claims to be able to fly and talks to a bird in prison, which seems to give him the necessary guidance to fulfil his mission. – „I come here to kill.“ This is how the protagonist of It Rains Love in the Street of the Killer (“Chovem amores na rua do matador”), the second story, finally tries to make peace with his past: by killing the three women in his life. The city night plunges into chaos and, as the conflict unfolds in the dark streets, a masked stranger looks for someone to kill. In Black Box (“A Caixa Preta”), generations of the same family are forced to face their best-kept secrets. Three delicious short novellas, full of humour and suspense, by two of the most popular and renowned fiction authors in Portuguese.
A book of singular importance, which represents a high and expressive flight of wisdom undertaken by two great writers from the Portuguese-speaking world, who reveal the history, culture, and destiny of others and of themselves. In each of these texts there is a clear willingness to touch on subjects such as abuse, violence and abandonment, in a manner that is both subtle and crude, and that humour is so often the crudest and yet the best way to say what needs to be said. Mia Couto and José Eduardo Agualusa are, at the very least, to be thanked for their audacity and ingenuity.
Francisca Moura, Deus me Livro
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.
The Society of Reluctant Dreamers (“A Sociedade dos Sonhadores Involuntários”) 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.
Without doubt one of the most important Portuguese-language writers of his generation.
António Lobo Antunes
José Eduardo Agualusa magically describes Angola’s reality in his novels. He playfully brings together poetry and politics, reality and dream. With quiet irony, he narrates the tortuous paths of love, dreams, revolution, and resistance.
José Eduardo Agualusa’s long-awaited novel Queen N’jinga (“A Rainha Ginga”) 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.
A General Theory of Oblivion (“Teoria geral do esquecimento”) 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 Life in the Sky (“A Vida no Céu”) 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, Life in the Sky is a moving book about friendship that addresses pressing sociological and ecological topics in an elegant and intriguing way.
Personal Notebook of Miracles (“Milagrário pessoal”) 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.
Personal Notebook of Miracles 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.
Tropical Baroque (“Barroco tropical”) 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…
Tropical Baroque 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 My Father’s Wives (“As mulheres do meu pai”) 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. My Father’s Wives 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 The Book of Chameleons (“O vendedor de passados”) 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 The Conspiracy (“A conjura”) is a historical novel set in Angola in the period between 1880 and 1911. As in his later novel, Creole Nation (“A nação crioula”), 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 childrens’ books, which won several prizes for the text and the illustrations.
The Queen of Absurdities (“A rainha dos estapafúrdios”) tells the adventures of Ana, a restless and curious young partridge in search of clothes more colourful than the ones that nature gave her. Alone, she deceives a hungry hyena, faces a ferocious lion and becomes queen of the savannah. How does she achieve all this? Discover these and many other adventures of the Queen of Absurdities in the colourful and magical pages of this book. This is a book to live every day of our lives.
Once upon a time there was a giraffe called Olímpia, who always walked with her head in the clouds, trying to see angels and eating stars, and Dona Margarida, a chicken from the bush with her head full of old sayings. They meet and become friends. They want to solve the problem of the drought that was ravaging their land. Would they succeed? With humour, mastery and simplicity, José Eduardo Agualusa and Henrique Cayatte tell us in The Giraffe That Ate Stars (“A girafa que comia estrelas”), a beautiful history of friendship and wit.
An inventor of impossible things: mechanical ants, steam-powered birds, flying shoes, sneezing devices, Oddballs and Oddities (“Estranhões & Bizarrocos”) and much else besides. Wise camels, a teddy girl, the queen of butterflies. A country where everything happens in reverse, rivers run from sea to source, and cats are the size of oxen. The birth of the first firefly in the world... These are stories to sleep angels.
The Living and the Others (“Os vivos e os outros”)
Lisbon: Quetzal, April 2020; São Paulo: Tusquets, June 2020
The Society of Reluctant Dreamers (“A Sociedade dos Sonhadores Involuntários”)
Lisbon: Quetzal 2017; São Paulo: Planeta 2017, 277 p.
Selected among the Books of the Year 2019: Fiction in translation, by the Financial Times
Argentina: Edhasa 2018 ● Catalonia: Periscopi 2019 ● France: Métailié 2019 ● Germany: C.H. Beck 2019 ● The Netherlands: Koppernik 2018 ● Norway: Bokvennen 2018 ● Sweden: Bokförlaget Tranan ● UK: Harvill Secker 2019 ● USA: Archipelago
Queen N’jinga (”A Rainha Ginga“)
Lisbon: Quetzal 2014; Rio de Janeiro: FOZ 2015, 340 p.
Over 30,000 copies sold in Portugal
Argentina: Edhasa 2018 ● Brazil: FOZ 2015 ● France: Métailié 2017 ● Italy: Lindau 2016 ● Russia: Book Centre Rudomino 2017
A General Theory of Oblivion (”Teoria geral do esquecimento“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2012, 237 p, Quetzal 2018; Rio de Janeiro: FOZ 2012, 241 p.
Premi Llibreter 2018
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 ● Azerbaijan: “La Fabula” ● Catalonia: Periscopi 2018 ● China: Horizon Books ● Croatia: Meandar ● Denmark: Batzer & Co ● France: Métailié 2013, 2018 ● Germany: C.H. Beck 2017, btb (Random House) pb ● Greece: Opera 2018 ● Italy: Neri Pozza 2017 ● Japan: Hakusuisha Publishing House Co. ● Korea: Kuhminsa 2018 ● Kuwait: Alsurra (Arabic) 2019 ● Lithuania: Vox ● Mexico: Almadía ● The Netherlands: Koppernik 2015 ● Norway: Bokvennen 2016 ● Poland: Kairos ● Romania: Polirom 2018 ● Russia: Phantom ● Slovakia: Slovart 2019 ● Spain: Edhasa 2017 ● Sweden: Leopard 2017 ● Turkey: Timas 2019 ● UK: Harvill/Secker 2015 ● Uruguay: Banda Oriental 2017 ● USA: Archipelago 2015
Personal Notebook of Miracles (“Milagrário pessoal”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2010, 184 p.
Brazil: Língua Geral 2010 ● USA: Archipelago
Tropical Baroque (“Barroco tropical”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2009, Quetzal 2018, 372 p.
Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2009 ● Croatia: Meandar ● France: Métailié 2011 ● German: A1 Verlag 2011, Unionsverlag pb ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2012 ● Mexico: Almadía 2014 ● The Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2010
My Father’s Wives (“As mulheres do meu pai”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2007, Quetzal 2017; Rio de Janeiro: Língua Geral 2007; São Paulo: Tusquets, 413 p.
Film rights sold to BRO, LDA, Portugal
Croatia: Meandar 2010 ● France: Métailié 2009 ● German: A1 Verlag 2010, Unionsverlag pb 2020 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2010 ● The Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2008 ● Poland: Znak 2012 ● Serbia: Dereta ● UK: Arcadia 2008
The Book of Chameleon (“O vendedor de passados”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2004, Quetzal 2017; Rio de Janeiro: Gryphus 2004, 2011, 2015; São Paulo: Tusquets, 148 p.
Feature film directed by Lula Buarque de Hollanda, 2015
Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2007
Argentina: Edhasa 2017 ● Azerbaijan: “La Fabula” ● Bulgaria: Prozoretz ● China: Hunan 2015, Horizon Media ● Croatia: Sysprint 2008 ● Czech Republic: Triada 2019 ● Estonia: Varrak 2011 ● Finland: Kampus Kustannus 2015 ● France: Metáilié 2006 ● German: A1 Verlag 2008, 2015, Unionsverlag pb 2018 ● Greece: Opera 2019 ● Israel: Kinneret 2012 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2008 ● Korea: Joongang Books 2010 ● The Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2007 ● Poland: Kairos 2016 ● Romania: Corint 2009 ● Russia: Ripol 2013 ● Serbia: Dereta 2008 ● Slovakia: Slovart 2008 ● Spain: Destino 2009, Edhasa 2018 ● Taiwan: Ye-Ren 2013 ● Turkey: Pegasus 2009 ● UK: Arcadia 2006, 2014 ● United Arab Emirates: Noon Publishing 2016 ● Uruguay: Banda Oriental 2016 ● USA: Simon & Schuster 2008
The Year in Which Zumbi Took Rio de Janeiro (“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
The Creole Nation (“A Nação Crioula”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1997, Quetzal 2017, 165 p.
Bangladesh: Sandesh ● Brazil: Gryphus 1999, Língua Geral 2011, FOZ ● Croatia: Meandar 2013 ● Germany: dtv 1999 ● The Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2003 ● Spain: Alianza 1999, Magrana (Catalan) 1999 ● UK: Arcadia 2002
Rainy Season (“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
A Conjura (“The Conspiracy”)
Lisbon: Caminho 1989, Quetzal 2017, 181 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2009
Stories and other texts:
O Terrorista Elegante
(e outras histórias)
together with Mia Couto
Brazil: Tusquets 2019, 176 p.
Lisbon: Quetzal (Bertrand)
A Black Box (“A Caixa Preta”)
(in: O Terrorista Elegante e outras histórias, together with Mia Couto)
Film rights sold to Filmes da Praça, Portugal, under the title Nayola, directed by: José Miguel Ribeiro
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, Quetzal 2018, 124 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.
A Foreigner in Goa (“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
The Market of the Damned (“A feira dos assombrados”)
Lisbon: Vega 1992, Dom Quixote 2001, 147 p.
Sweden: Alma viva 2001 ● Italy: Edizioni dell’Urogallo 2009 ● USA: Archipelago Books
Paraíso e outros infernos
Lisbon: Quetzal 2018, 334 p.
Life in the Sky (“A Vida no Céu”)
Lisbon: Quetzal 2013, 186 p.
Among the winners of IBBY Argentina (ALIJA) 2016
Prize of the Foundation of Children and Youth books (FNLIJ)
Film rights under option
Argentina: Editorial Puerto de Palos (MacMillan) 2015 ● Brazil: Melhoramentos 2015 ● French: Joie de lire 2018 ● USA: Archipelago
The Queen of Absurdities (“A rainha dos estapafúrdios”)
(Ill. by Danuta Wojciechowska)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2012, 32 p.
Prémio Manuel António Pina
Highly recommended by the Brazilian section of IBBY 2017 (International Board on Books for Young People)
Brazil: Melhoramentos 2016
Nweti e o Mar
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2011, 44 p.
Brazil: Gryphus 2012
The Giraffe That Ate Stars (“A girafa que comia estrelas”)
(Ill. by Henrique Cayatte )
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2005, 25 p.
Brazil: Língua Geral
Oddballs and Oddities (“Estranhões & Bizarrocos”)
(Ill. by Henrique Cayatte)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2000, 61 p.
Several awards for text and illustrations
Brazil: Língua Geral