The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

 

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

Guinea Bissau fiction

Original title –  A Última Tragédia

Translator – Jethro Soutar

Source – Personal copy

Well I decide to add Portuguese lit to the Spanish lit month I had a look at what was out there and this is one of the first books to catch my eye as it is the first book from Guinea Bissau to be translated into English. Abdulai Sila studied electrical engineering and worked for cisco and other companies in the US before he returned to Guinea Bissau, where he set up Sila Technologies to bring affordable tech to his homeland. He has written three novels this is his second book and the first to be translated into English.

Ndani had prepared for the journey meticulously. Nobody in Biombo knew anythingabout it, nobody other than her friendly stepmother. It was her stepmother who’d taught her ghe phrase she was now repeating, and one of two others besides. Her stepmother had een made Ndani memorise certain rules of behaviour, things white masters demanded of black house helps: particular ways to respond; gestures that showed b=obedience and submission

The young girl needs to learn how to be in the big city for the white folk !!

This is maybe a classic African tale it is the story of one woman’s journey and also shows a time when Africans in the former Portuguese colonies were starting to question the place in the world. Ndani is sent from her rural village to work for a Portuguese family in the capital Bissau. The first thing that happens is the woman of the house starts to try and get her to believe in the church as her children have flown the nest and her husband has his eyes elsewhere she is trying to baptise the young girl, but as Dona Deolinda is doing this. The master of the house has other ideas for the young maid she tries to esca[e him but in doing so is shown the door . Where on she meets the village cheif  Regulo, but he is uneducated but the young girl is settled he has tried to improve his village much to the opposition of the administrator, by building a school and his huge house to try and show the locals are moving up in the world. Ndani also meets the teacher from the school a man she connects with but what will happen.

“Thou shalt not covet”, one of gods comandments . She was Regulo’s wife , the teacher could harbour no ambition to have her. God’s laws were sacred, they had to be upheld. Violating them would be a sin. A good christian and a teacher besides,must not sin. At least not in such a flagrant fashion. This is something he taught his students every day ,how could he ignore it himself ? nor could he ignore the fact that the Regulo had been good to him

The teacher after first meeting Ndani is torn between religion and Lust in a way .

As I said a classic tale of a young woman leaving her home, now she has been told by the local juju man that she is the carrier of a bad spirit and in a a lot of ways her journey is a long one and through her eyes we see the awakening of the locals in the Village chief and the way he wants his village to improve. As I say this is a universal story It reminds me of one of my favourite stories Stones in a landslide which also followed a young girls journey from a village. There are other stories from Africa like the Zimbabwean novel Nervous conditions which show a young girl growing up in the background of that country breaking from colonial rule. May I also say this is one of the most eye catching covers of the year.

Our Musseque by Jose Luandino Viera

Our Musseque by Jose Luandino

Angolan fiction

original title – Nosso musseque

Translator – Robin Patterson

It’s in a person, it’s in a person
I’m warning you, I’m warning you
It’s the truth

Africa land for preachers gold
Land for everybody young and old
The place that holds for some bright future,
But for others the future tend to torture
Ma’ Africa.

What went wrong with your brains?
You kill each other you destroy human dignity
People of Africa lets stand together
And make it the land of hope!

I want to tell everybody about myself.

Todays lyric is Ma africa from the one giant leap album ( a collection of singers and songs from around the world )

I often think there isn’t enough fiction of Lusophile origin from Africa , so every time one cross my path it is a welcomed with open arms by me . Jose Luandino Viera is a writer who grew up in Luanda in Angola , the setting of the book in the 1940’s .He grew to be a political activist who had a trail in 1959 that start the uprising in his country .He spent a lot of time after that in prison until the collapse of the Salazar regime .He wrote this book in the 60’s whilst in prison although it didn’t see the light of day until 2003 .

And so the nickname was born . When people who lived further away from the Musseque heard the story , they chuckled to themselves , made fun of it and said our group of boys had even stooped to messing around with goats ,From then on they started referring to our dead companion as Xoxombo the goat shagger .

The book opens with talking of getting a nickname and how everyone had a nickname in the Musseque .

This is the story of a Musseque , a township , a shanty town .This is a portrait of te shanty town of Luanda told through the eyes of our child narrator .A world of people with nicknames , a close-knit but rough community of prostitutes labourers and those that provide for them .A tough life for Zeca , Buenu and Xoxombo are a group of boys growing on these streets , watching life on the tough side of the streets as they find girls and fighting .But at the same time there is rumblings in the background of their world that are pieced in glimpses .The book is a collection of glimpses into this world and the lives around it vibrant , colourful but most of all a world on the cusp of something that in the end took more than forty years to get there .

As evening slowly fell , children made their way back home , some of them heading up to Ingombota , others going down towards Mutamaba .They were laughing and teasing ,showing off their toys .ZEca and Xoxombo walked with their arms around each other , not speaking to anyone .They walked very slowly through the alleyways and up the sandy tracks , Xoxombo crying sometimes and Zeca heaping insults on the man in the white suit , the teachers ,the school kids , everyone , nobody escaped his fury

The boys heading through the night one the way home angry at the world but friends together .

I read this book last december then as is the case with me I put it to one side so sad ,I am at times a bad reviewer as this is one that had stuck with me .Not so much for the characters in the book The narrator and his friends are well drawn child characters . For me what last is the sense of place the vibrant shanty town the place that was their home but also a place that at the time was dangerous for them , but they didn’t see that we do as the reader to them this is their everyday life .I feel Viera who wrote this whilst in prison is looking back with fond memories of his youth seeing the tough side of his life but also the comrades friends and characters he grew up with .this book is considered an important book in the cannon of fiction from Angola as Viera is one of the most decorated writers and acknowledge .I’m so pleased Dedalus took a chance and published this book as it is a gem .

Have you read any Lusophile fiction from Africa  ?

What became of the white savage by François Garde

What became of the white savage by François Garde

French fiction

Original title –  Ce qu’il advint du sauvage blanc

translator – Aneesa Abbas Higgins

Source – Prize winner

 

In eighteen hundred and forty-six
On March the eighteenth day
We hoisted our colors to the top of the mast
And for Greenland sailed away, brave boys
And for Greenland sailed away

The lookout in the crosstrees stood
With spyglass in his hand
There’s a whale, there’s a whale
And a whalefish he cried
And she blows at every span, brave boys
She blows at every span

The captain stood on the quarter deck
The ice was in his eye
Overhaul, overhaul! Let your gibsheets fall
And you’ll put your boats to sea, brave boys
And you’ll put your boats to sea

I choose a Pogues song about Whalers in the 1800’s seemed fitting to this book .

This was a lucky win for the French inisitute on their facebook page , which ask for comments on the cover , I put this is what happens when you fall asleep and leave the pens out for the kids , which won me this book . The book is a prize winning French novel it won the Prix Goncourt Roman , which is the section of the french prize that is awarded to the best first novel . This is The first Novel by Francois Garde , he worked as a senior civil servant for many year in the french overseas territories in Pacific and Indian oceans .

When he reached the top of the small cliff he realised that he was alone . There was no sign of the dinghy drawn up on the beach , no sign of a boat floating on the blue-green water . The schooner lying at anchor in the entrance to the bay was nowhere to be seen , no sails visible on the horizon . He closed this eyes , shook his head .Nothing they had left .

The opening as he sees he is all alone .

This like an earlier Goncourt Roman winner I reviewed HHhH is a novel based on a historic event .This is the true life story of  Narcisse Pelletier a young French sailor who in the 1840 was apart of a french ship that left him behind and was shipwreck in the far reaches of Australia .He is lucky to have been found by a tribe of Aboriginals whom adopt him after he removes his clothes and they see he is a man just like them  . The  story starts when he is discovered after seventeen years in the wild and taken under the wing of a French geographer whom brings the young man named the White savage because of the way he looks .On the way back to France the two men try to discover what happened to Pelletirer , who he is where the rest of the crew are and what he has done for the last seventeen years .

“He belongs to neither the black nor the yellow races . This is evident from the colour of his skin , his build and the texture of his hair . Nor is he of the semitic races this can be seen from his high forehead , straight nose , straight brown hair and full beard . I must also point out that he is circumcised , not in the way that Jews and muslims are , but rather in the manner of the natives of this country .

Narcisse when he is first found is a mystery where did this White savage come from .

To be truthful I hadn’t heard of Narcisse Pelletier or his story before this book . But have always been a fan of Robinsonade  books like The island before tomorrow  , pincher martin or even my childhood favourite Abels island , books inspired or similar by Robinson Crusoe .This in a way is the flip of that story when Crusoe tamed the savage , This sees the white man go native to survive another reason I love these stories is traveling up every year to my grans we passed through the village of lower Largo the home of Alexander Selkirk , whom many thinks was the role model for Robinson Crusoe after he spent five years on an island of the coast of Chile . If you like a novel with a lump of true life this is the one for you as the story unfolds from the two mens points of view , Narcisse telling his story and Octave the geographer telling the story of the journey back via a collection of letters . A book about who we really are where we from or where we have grown !

Have you a favourite novel from the Robinsonade Genre ?

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