A dreamscape of astonishment by Rustum Kozain

Writer’s brief

My Father’s Wives by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn was published by Arcadia Books May 2008

Upon his death the famous Angolan composer Faustino Manso left seven widows and eighteen children.  His youngest daughter, Laurentina, a filmmaker, tries to reconstruct the late musician’s turbulent life.

In My Father’s Wives, reality and fiction run side by side, the former feeding into the latter. However, in the territories José Eduardo Agualusa crosses, fiction plays a part in reality too. The four characters in the novel which the author is writing as he travels accompany him from Luanda, the capital of Angola, to Beguile and Namibe. They cross the Namibian sands and their ghost towns, reaching Cape Town in South Africa. Then they continue on to Maputo and from Maputo to Quelimane beside the Bon Sinai’s river, and thence to the Island of Mozambique. As they drift on they cross landscapes that border dreams, landscapes from which – there and there – the strangest characters emerge. My Father’s Wives is a novel about women, music and magic.

José Eduardo Agualusa was born in Huambo, 1960, and is one of the leading young literary voices from Angola, and from the Portuguese language, today. Arcadia was pleased to publish his Creole, awarded the Portuguese Grand Prize for Literature, as well as The Book of Chameleons, winner of the 2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Agualusa divides his time between Brazil, Angola, and Portugal.

[Excerpt from Agualusa and Karen Boswall's "journal":]

“Hours later I [Agualusa] met Orlando on the veranda, sitting in a plastic chair, eyes lost in the vast darkness. I wanted to know who this Dancer was. My friend smiled. An engrossed smile.

“No one,” he said. “She lived here . . .”

“She lived here?!”

“That’s it. She lived here. She lived with a sapper. The Dancer and the sapper. Can you imagine a stranger love story than that?”

“What happened?”

“What do you think happened? One day the sapper went to work and never came back. One of the mines exploded while he was defusing it. The next day they found her dancing, naked, on the minefield.” . . .

“And what’s she doing here?”

“Just sits and breathes. She doesn’t do anything any more. A while ago she knocks on the door and I let her in. She’s sort of a ghost, but without the impertinence that ghosts have.”

Reading List

  • Agualusa, J E, Hahn, D (trans), 2008 [2007] My Father’s Wives, Arcadia Books
  • Agualusa, J E. 2007, Creole, Arcadia Books Limited, London
  • Agualusa, J E, 2008 The Book of Chameleons. Simon and Schuster,
  • Agualusa, J E, 2010 Rainy Season. Arcadia Books, London
  • Ondjaki, Henighan S 2008 Good Morning Comrades. Biblioasis, Ontario
  • Ondjaki, Bartlett R 2008 The Whistler, Aflame Books
  • Wa Thiong’o, N 2007 Wizard of the Crow. Anchor Books
  • Okri, B 2007 Starbook: a magical tale of love and regeneration. Rider
  • Couto, M 2008 A river called time. Serpent’s Tail
  • Eco, U & Weaver, W 2007 Foucault’s Pendulum. Harcourt, San Diego
  • Márquez, G G & Rabassa, G. 1995 One hundred years of solitude Alfred A. Knopf
  • Kozain, R 2008 This carting life. Kwela Books, Cape Town
  • Kozain, R Groundworks Blog <http://groundwork.wordpress.com/>

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