Jose Eduardo Agualusa poses with his book A General Theory of Oblivion. Photo credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images.

Last month, with his ninth novel and twentieth book, A General Theory of Oblivion, Angola’s Jose Eduardo Agualusa became the second African to win the €100,000 International Dublin Literary Award.
Published in Portuguese in 2012 and translated into English in 2016, A General Theory of Oblivion was also a finalist for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. It is his fourth novel to be translated into English, all of them by the British translator Daniel Hahn. And he has since added four more books to his eye-popping catalogue, bring his total to 24. Here is a description of the novel on Amazon.

As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers.

A General Theory of Oblivion is a perfectly crafted, wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable.

Here are 13 poetic quotes from the book on yearning, dreams, God, forgetting, and Angola—courtesy of Good Reads.
*
“When people look at clouds they do not see their real shape, which is no shape at all, or every shape, because they are constantly changing. They see whatever it is that their heart yearns for.”
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“The night, like a well, was swallowing stars.”
*
“Nothing happened today. I slept. While asleep I dreamed that I was sleeping.”
*
“I have understood over these last years that in order to believe in God, it is essential to have trust in humanity. There is no God without humanity. I continue not to believe, neither in God, nor in humanity.”
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“If, when we are asleep, we can dream of sleeping, can we then, when awake, awaken within a more lucid reality?”
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“If I still had the space, charcoal, and available walls, I could compose a great work about forgetting: a general theory of oblivion.”
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“Monsters, show me the monsters: these people out on the street.  My people.”
*
“God weighs souls on a pair of scales. In one of the dishes is the soul, and in the other, the tears of those who weep for it. If nobody cries, the soul goes straight down to hell. If there are enough tears and they are sufficiently heartfelt, it rises up to heaven.”
*
“However, he began to walk stooped slightly to the left, as though he were being pushed, from within, by a violent gale.”
*
“One of those characters who in Angola are often called ‘lost frontiers,’ because by daylight they look white, and at twilight they are discovered in fact to be half mulatto—from which it might be concluded that sometimes you can understand people better further away form the light.”
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“She couldn’t stand the picture at first. She saw in it a distillation of everything she hated about Angola: savages celebrating something—some cause of joy, some glad omen—that was quite alien to her. Then, bit by bit, over the long months of silence and solitude, she began to feel some affection towards those figures that moved, circling around a fire, as though life really deserved such elegance. She.”
*
“Trees, little animals, a multitude of insects were sharing their dreams with me. There we all were, dreaming in chorus, like a crowd, in a tiny room, exchanging ideas and smells and caresses. I remember I was a spider advancing toward its prey and the fly caught in the web of that spider. I felt flowers blossoming in the sun, breezes carrying pollen. I awoke and was alone.”
*
“He reminds me of a guy I met many years ago. He died. A shame, as I’d have really liked to kill him again.”

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young’s writing has been shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, the 2017 Gerald Kraak Award, and nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His fiction has appeared in Transition (“A Tenderer Blessing,” 2015), The Threepenny Review (“Mulumba,” 2016), and Pride and Prejudice: African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality (“You Sing of a Longing,” 2017), an anthology of The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His work further appears in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays, Africa in Dialogue, and Brittle Paper, where he is submissions editor. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series: a sequence of concept-based e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness. The first anthology, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (Oct., 2016) focuses on cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June, 2017) focuses on professions. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and currently teaches English at another Nigerian university. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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