Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."
José Craveirinha5

Jose Craveirinha as a young man

Pseudonyms are standard in the publishing world. Writers publish under names other than their legal names for all sorts of reasons—to hide their identity or simply because they don’t like their legal names.

But there are others who use pseudonyms because they believe that their message is way more important than their own individual identity. In this case, hiding a true identity ensures that readers focus more on the message than on the writer.

That was the case with Mozambican poet Jose Craveirinha. He was a prolific poet who wrote in seven different pseudonyms at different moments in his writing life: Mário Vieira, José Cravo, Jesuíno Cravo, J. Cravo, J.C., Abílio Cossa, and José G.

I encountered Craveirinha’s work a few years ago when I took an active interest in African literature written in Portuguese—or Lusophone African literature as scholars like to call it. Initially, I limited my exploration to contemporary writers such as Mia Couto and Jose Eduardo Agualusa. Blown away by the rare beauty of their work, I wanted to explore their literary ancestry and, in the process, I discovered Craveirinha’s work.

Craveirinha was born in Maputo in 1922 and came to literary prominence in the 1950s. His poetry explored everything from blackness to family bonds, even erotic love. He lived a long life and wrote for most of it.

When I came across the bit about his many pseudonyms, I was baffled. Most authors who take up pseudonyms are content with just one. Why would a writer need seven?

My sense is that pseudonyms may have been a political necessity for Craveirinha. Early on in his career as a journalist, Craveirinha struck a path of political activism. In the 1950s, he joined organizations that fought for Mozambique’s independence from Portugal, the most prominent of which was the marxist-influenced organization, FRELIMO. It’s very possible that writing under these names gave him a place of relative safety from which to engage with the oppressive colonial power.

His adoption of different pseudonyms could also have been ideologically driven. For someone who styled himself as a poet speaking on behalf of the people, a pseudonym might have been a way of distancing his personal identity from his poetry. He could impersonate the collective, speak with their voice and in their place when he was not speaking as himself but through a different persona.

Craveirinha’s collection of poems is expansive. It includes everything from racial nationalism (negritude) to revolutionary poetry, to love poems addressed to his wife to erotic verses. Maybe the pseudonyms gave him the freedom to explore a wide range of themes and styles. Perhaps these names were a little more than pseudonyms. Perhaps they were alter egos. They allowed him the possibility of inhabiting a different poetic self in order to produce different kinds of writings.

Craveirinha is one of the unsung pioneers of African literature. It is truly sad that writers like himself are relatively unknown across the continent and globally. Craveirinha was the contemporary of Achebe, Soyinka, Gordimer, Ngugi, and others. But because the global literary landscape has always been dominated by African writing in English, writers like Craveirinha remain obscure oven though they helped shape African literature as a global form.

Jose_Craveirinha

Jose Craveirinha later in life

Craveirinha achieved literary greatness in his lifetime. He wrote poetry all through his life. In 1991, he became the first African writer to win Prémio Camões—“the highest literary accolade in the Luso-Afro-Brazilian world of Portuguese-speakers.”

Craveirinha died in 2003 in Johannesburg. He was 80 years old.

Here is a link where you can read a small collection of his work: José Craveirinha: 34 Poems by Luis R. Mitras

 

***********
Image 1.  via Tempo Cultural Delfos

Image2.  by Amalviva

Image 3. by Raffi Asdourian via flickr

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

2 Responses to “Find Out Which African Writer Has 7 Pseudonyms” Subscribe

  1. obakanse lakanse 2016/09/01 at 02:52 #

    Never heard of him.A good job you have done bringing him to some notice In the.coming days i shall find time to to read his work God willing

  2. house alterations warkworth 2018/09/01 at 04:54 #

    Everything is very open with a clear description of the issues.
    It was truly informative. Your site is extremely
    helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Chimurenga’s Latest Issue of The Chronic Explores Circulations and the African Imagination of a Borderless World

chimurenga chronic october 2018 cover

Fresh from winning the 2018-20 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice, arts and politics collective Chimurenga has released […]

Read an Excerpt from Michelle Obama’s Memoir, Becoming

UNITED STATES - JULY 25: First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Michelle Obama’s buzzed-about memoir Becoming will be published in South Africa by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Ahead […]

Out There: 5 Talkbits on War Futures in Outer Spaces | Ainehi Edoro, Camae Ayewa, Rasheeda Phillips, Keith Spencer & Jamie Thomas in Conversation

out there - graph

As part of its Horizons of the Humanities initiative, the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) will be hosting […]

Excerpt #2 | My Sister, The Serial Killer | by Oyinkan Braithwaite

my sister the serial killer

FATHER   Ayoola inherited the knife from him (and by “inherited” I mean she took it from his possessions before […]

Scholastique Mukasonga’s Novel, Our Lady of the Nile, in Film Production as Short Story Appears in The New Yorker

Scholastique Mukasonga by Sunday Times

Rwanda’s best known contemporary writer, Scholastique Mukasonga, author of the novel Our Lady of the Nile (2015) and the memoir Cockroaches […]

The 2018 Brittle Paper Anniversary Award: Meet the 8 Finalists

brittle paper anniversary award

The shortlists for the 2018 Brittle Paper Awards were announced in October. Begun in 2017 to mark our seventh anniversary, the Awards aim to recognize the […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.