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."

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.”
*
“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.”
*
“If, when we are asleep, we can dream of sleeping, can we then, when awake, awaken within a more lucid reality?”
*
“If I still had the space, charcoal, and available walls, I could compose a great work about forgetting: a general theory of oblivion.”
*
“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.”
*
“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.”

Tags: , , ,

Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

No comments yet.

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

On Confessional Schizo-Poetry and Finding Meaning: In Conversation with JK Anowe, Winner of the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry

jk anowe - graph

JK Anowe, a Nigerian-born poet, holds a BA in French from the University of Benin, Nigeria, where he was awarded […]

Photos | Pages & Palette Hosts Reading of Frankie Edozien’s Lives of Great Men in Abuja

Lives of Great Men - Frankie Edozien at Pages & Palette -- photo by Victor Adewale (9)

Last December, Abuja bookstore Pages & Palette hosted a reading of Chike Frankie Edozien’s memoir Lives of Great Men. Published […]

Mauritanian Blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir Has Now Been in Jail for 5 Years

mohamed mkhaitir

In December 2013, Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir wrote a blogpost criticizing his country’s government for using religion to discriminate against minorities. […]

Read Chapter One of Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities

an orchestra of minorities - graph

Chigozie Obioma’s second novel An Orchestra of Minorities was published this January. As part of The Summer Library’s “selected extracts from […]

Laila Lalami’s Fourth Novel, The Other Americans, Is a Family Saga, a Murder Mystery, and a Love Story

laila lalami - alchetron - graph

Laila Lalami’s new novel is forthcoming on 26 March 2019 from Pantheon, an imprint of Penguin Random House. The 320-page […]

Thursday’s Children: 11 Contributors to Forthcoming Anthology Discuss Experimentation and the Nature of Creative Nonfiction

thursday's children - graph

Thursday’s Children is a forthcoming anthology of personal essays. Co-edited by Adams Adeosun and Bello Damilare, it comes with an […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.