Mas era verdade. Terceiro dia Amanhece. Izidine aparece Izidine. Mas responda-me com verdade… Marta. Eu estou a trabalhar.
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It is daft, but I shall attempt to outline briefly the plot of this phantasmagorical tale that makes the most ardent proponents of magical realism seem like champions of formal nineteenth-century European literary naturalism in comparison.
Most simplistically, one can view this novel as a "whodunit. Naita has been sent to investigate the murder of the local administrator, a man of brutal temperment, lascivious behavior, and corrupt practices. The young officer is baffled and, as his time for departure nears, he is warned that his own impending death has been foretold. Instead we are introduced to a cosmology that astounds and befuddles not only the detective but the reader as well.
Meanwhile, the small and barely still alive population of the site with names like Little Miss No and the Old Gaffer await the policeman so that they can regale him with magical tales and fill their confessions with all the spirits and incredible happenings of their unseen world. Their stories reveal aspects of African religious and philosophical belief systems, but to the Western-trained Naita they seem irrational.
What is truth? Can these seemingly fanciful accounts provide any answers or are they merely the ravings of those suffering from senile dementia? Moreover, Couto demonstrates a sympathetic understanding of the African connection between humans and animals in the context of their environment as well as a perceptive sensibility to the conflict between custom embodied by the elders and the forces of modernity represented by Naita and the contemporary political regime.
In fact, the volume reveals much about corruption by both the earlier Portuguese colonizers and their currrent revolutionary African substitutes. Like truth, the answer is never simply black nor white. One must continue searching for it, sifting through and unearthing the lies that reveal what is true.
Possibly, however, because this is a translation, the voices of the characters sound remarkably alike and undifferentiated. Moreover, the use of the technique of magical realism in this novel seems less integrated with thematic elements than is evident with such practitioners as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, or Salman Rushdie.
Nonetheless, there is much to appreciate with Mia Couto, who is, by the way, male, a Mozambican of European descent, and a biologist by training and profession. Like this book, nothing is quite what it appears to be.
Resenhas - A Varanda do Frangipani
A VARANDA DO FRANGIPANI: ROMANCE (6ª ED.)