Saturday, 31 May 2014

Portuguese-Language African Literature Month: the wrap-up post




Portuguese-Language African Literature Month is over. I hope you enjoyed it and derived some use from it. It was my attention to bring attention to several writers who are not yet, or could be better, known in the English-speaking world. I mixed new writers with the old generations, men and women, fiction and non-fiction, in order to provide a wide picture. I apologize to those who think this turned into a poetry event; I confess I preferred the poets to the prose writers.

With this selection of writers I don’t want you to assume that these are the essential or more important authors. I could certainly have organised this event with many different combinations. There are other writers I could have written about: Germano Almeida, Ondjaki, João Melo, Filinto de Barros, Lília Momplé, Aida Gomes, Carlos Lopes, Luandino Vieira, Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa, Luís Bernardo Honwana, Baltasar Lopes, to name but a few. Time, opportunity, availability and money were the principal conditions that shaped my final list. Some, like Pepetela, were old pleasures, whereas Arménio Vieira and João Vário, to name only two, were wonderful new discoveries, and certainly it won’t be the last time you read about them in this blog.

I tried to be fair to all five countries on my list – Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe – but it was hard, sometimes almost impossible, to find representatives for some of them. Angola and Mozambique, being the richest, most developed countries of the list, it’s no surprise that they also have a more fertile literary production and that it’s easier to find their books in Portugal. Angola, I’d go so far as to say, for the richness of its literature, in poetry, novel, short-story and even non-fiction, gives me the impression of being the literary centre of Portuguese-language Africa. Even so, I had great fun reading from this heterogeneous and surprising group of countries.

After a frantic and tightly-paced month, though, I need a break and I admit it’s a relief to go back to a laxer schedule next week. And it comes in good time, because Lisbon Book Fair started two days ago and I’ll be busy going there almost every night to buy books.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for doing this! While I haven't really been able to pay as much attention as I would have liked, it's useful to have this as a resource for future reference :)

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    1. Tony, thank you, I do hope this resource is of use to you!

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  2. My thanks as well, for all the ground covered, and I would gladly have attended those who you haven't (yet), hope you'll give them some attention in future, even if only in precis.

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    1. Nnyhav, I'll certainly write about them here and there, from time to time, as occasion and inclination wills it.

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  3. Miguel, I was curious about how easy or how hard it was for you to find some of these authors' works in Portugal but I see you've sort of answered that question already in your post. Interesting to hear Angola crowned the literary epicenter--guess the Marxist past didn't damn the decadent bourgeois pleasures of reading and writing non-utilitarian poetry and prose to an existence limited by the world famous socialist realism brand of literature made famous by Borges, Saramago and Proust!

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    1. Richard, Angola and Mozambique are great literary producers and they're the easiest to find books from; they're also the most heavily marketed, and I presume it also has to do with the weight their economies have on the Portuguese one. Surprisingly, next comes Cape Verde, and with very original voices. The other two practically have no representation on the market; in fact I don't know a single novelist or poet from Guinea.

      Angola is not Marxist at all; these days it's a casino capitalist society with a dictator. Even when it was officially Marxist, Pepetela at least was a keen and relentless observer of the revolution's failures. In fact, disappointment with the revolution is one of the main themes I found across these writers.

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