Saturday, May 23, 2020

Angola: The Society of Reluctant Dreamers, by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Near the start of this project I read Jose Eduardo Agualusa's book "A General Theory of Oblivion", but that was before I started posting summaries of the books I read on my blog.

Recently I spotted his latest book at the library and as I had enjoyed the previous one, decided to read that as well. I really liked this book and it's rather unusual narrative. Daniel Benchimol, a reporter, finds a waterproof camera floating in the sea. It turns out to contain images of a woman who has been appearing in his dreams. He discovers that the woman is Moira, a Mozambican artist famous for a series of photographs depicting her own dreams.

Daniel contacts Moira and they meet. Meanwhile his daughter has been arrested as one of a group of young protesters against the current political regime.

The idea of dreams, both in the sense of what happens when we sleep, and in the sense of visions and hopes for the future, binds this book together. It is about the power of art, and of working together. It is both a beautiful and lyrical fantasy, and a powerful political document.

I found myself wondering about the history of the country and the current political situation - if, as it seemed from this book, it is still under a dictatorship, then how could the book get published when the author still lives in the country? So, I suspect that the government depicted in the book is fictionalized, but I will need to do more research before being sure of that.

Jose Eduardo Agualusa was born in Huambo, Angola. His previous book "A General Theory of Oblivion" won the International Dublin Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. "The Society of Reluctant Dreamers" was translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn and published by Harvill Secker in 2019.

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