September 19, 2019
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Author laments African nations' disparate literary success

 Angolan writer Jose Eduardo Agualusa takes part in a book fair in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceara on Aug. 17, 2019. In an interview with EFE, Agualusa lamented the uneven literary success of African countries and pointed to Nigerian letters as an example for other nations on that continent to follow. EPA-EFE/Antonio Lacerda

Angolan writer Jose Eduardo Agualusa takes part in a book fair in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceara on Aug. 17, 2019. In an interview with EFE, Agualusa lamented the uneven literary success of African countries and pointed to Nigerian letters as an example for other nations on that continent to follow. EPA-EFE/Antonio Lacerda

By Maria Angelica Troncoso

Fortaleza, Brazil, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- One of Africa's most acclaimed contemporary authors lamented the uneven literary success of countries on that continent and pointed to Nigerian letters as an example for other nations to follow.

Jose Eduardo Agualusa made his remarks about African literature in general and its relationship to Brazil during an interview with EFE at the 13th Biennial International Book Fair in Ceara, an event in that northeastern Brazilian state that will run until Friday.

Nigerian literature "is selling millions all over the world" with names like Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) and 41-year-old female novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, said Agualusa, the author of 13 novels that have been translated into more than 30 languages.

That is not the case with other African countries, including Portuguese-speaking Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe, which have lacked sufficient government support in the areas of education and culture.

"To create writers you first need to create readers, and for that it's important for them to love books," a goal very difficult to achieve without public investment in schools and libraries, Agualusa, a special guest at the book fair in Ceara, said.

The Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa have suffered a great deal of political turmoil and "have many stories to be told," but he said that the ability to convey them in literature requires education and culture.

The author of "The Book of Chameleons" (original title: O Vendedor de Passados) and "A General Theory of Oblivion" (Teoria Geral do Esquecimento) also discussed the historical relationship between Brazil and Africa, a nation and a continent with cultural ties stemming from the era of slavery.

The writer and journalist said literature has led to a reestablishment of links between those two parts of the world in the 21st century.

Brazil, the country outside of Africa with the largest number of people of African descent, has inherited phenotypes, beliefs, traditions and music associated with that area of the planet.

And although ties have always persisted thanks to cultural syncretism in the South American country, a revitalized connection between Brazil and Africa was established around 15 years ago thanks to literature, a discipline that Agualusa says has had a greater unifying effect than music in the new century.

"I think that reconnection with Africa is happening through literature, and I'd even say it's having a greater effect than music. And African music has enormous power! But curiously enough, Brazil remains unaware of African music," the writer said.

A son of Portuguese immigrants who was born in the Angolan city of Huambo in 1960 when that country was known as Portuguese West Africa, Agualusa experienced from an early age the ravages of a civil war that began in 1975 and lasted for nearly 27 years.

On April 4, 2002, representatives of the Angolan government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) insurgent group signed a peace deal that brought an end to what was regarded as Africa's longest-ever civil conflict.

His vision of that reality is embodied in some of his works, the lingering effects of an armed struggle that left a lasting mark on him but have become more bearable thanks to literature.

"Literature helps one remember," he said. "You have to first remember so you can forget."

Agualusa was the first African recipient of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize - in 2007 - for "The Book of Chameleons," while he won the International Dublin Literary Award in 2017 and was shortlisted for the 2016 International Booker Prize for "A General Theory of Oblivion."

"O Terrorista Elegante e Outras Historias," a story collection co-written by Agualusa and Mozambican author Mia Couto and published by Planeta Brasil, will be officially released in October in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, although it already is being sold in Brazil. EFE-EPA

mat/mc

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