Luandino Vieira

Angola

© Daniel Mordzinski

 

 

José Luandino Vieira, born in Portugal in 1935, was brought up in Luanda and at a young age became involved in Angola’s struggle for liberation from Portuguese colonial rule. He was arrested by the PIDE, the Salazar regime’s secret police, in 1959, and a second time in 1961. This time he was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. Until his release in 1972 he spent time in many different prisons, including eight years at the notorious Tarrafal concentration camp in the Cape Verde islands. In 1975, he was able to return to a newly independent Angola. He was a founding member of the Angolan Writers’ Union, took part in the creation of radio and television stations, and held many official posts. Since 1992 he has lived quietly in northern Portugal.

Luandino Vieira is considered the most significant representative of modern Angolan literature in Portuguese. Like other poor Portuguese immigrants, he lived alongside the black population in Luanda’s slums, the musseques, and it is this environment that provides the setting for his novels and short stories. In the mid-1970s he began to publish the texts he had written in prison. The novel Nosso musseque (“Our Musseque”) was written 40 years ago, and was published for the first time in 2003 by Editorial Caminho, which is currently reissuing the author’s complete works.

In this novel, we come across a number of familiar figures from previous stories. Looking back at childhood and youth, the author brings us the camaraderie and conflict of people living in a world marked by the daily struggle for survival, repression and racism. He portrays his characters in their complex contradictions, children and young people as friends and foes, adults resisting the ever-present secret police, hard-working craftsmen, opportunistic tradesmen, petty thieves and prostitutes, determined women fighting to feed their families. Luandino Vieira gives each their own voice. He artfully blends elements from slang and Angola’s African languages, in particular Kimbundu, into a vivid language that has had a decisive influence on later authors, such as the Mozambican writer Mia Couto. His innovative use of language has often brought comparisons with modern Brazilian literature’s great writer, João Guimarães Rosa. Nosso musseque, like the author’s work as a whole, is an impressive portrait of a society on its way toward a self-determined future.

 

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Novels:

 

A vida verdadeira de Domingos Xavier, Lisbon: Edições 70 1974; Caminho 2003, 116 p.

Luanda: U.E.A. 1977

Serbia: Treci Trg 2011

 

Nosso Musseque, Lisbon: Caminho 2003, 192 p.

English sample translation available

UK: Dedalus

 

Nós, os do Makulusu, Lisbon: Sá da Costa 1975; Caminho 2004, 160 p.

Luanda: U.E.A. 1977

 

João Vêncio: os seus amores, Lisbon: Edições 70 1979; Caminho 2004, 96 p.

Luanda: U.E.A. 1987

 

O livro dos rios, Lisbon: Caminho 2006, 140 p.

(first novel of the triology: De rios velhos e guerrilheiros)

Italy: Albatros 2010

 

Stories:

A cidade e a infância, Lisbon: Casa dos Estudantes do Império 1960

Luanda: U.E.A. 1977

 

Vidas Novas, Porto: Edições Afontamento 1975

Luanda: U.E.A. 1976

 

Luuanda, Lisbon: Edições 70 1972; Caminho 2004, 160 p.

Luanda: ABC 1964

Spain: El Gall 2011

 

No antigamente, na vida, Lisbon: Edições 70 1974 ; Caminho 2005, 176 p.

Luanda: U.E.A. 1977

 

Macandumba, Lisbon: Edições 70 1978; Caminho 2005, 183 p.

Luanda: U.E.A. 1978

 

Lourentinho, Dona Antónia de Sousa Neto & Eu, Lisbon: Edições 70 1981

Luanda: U.E.A. 1981

 

Velhas Estórias, Lisbon: Plátano Editora 1974: Caminho 2006, 200 p.

Luanda: U.E.A. 1976