27 November 2007

José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons, 2004

In the Angolan capital Luanda, Félix Ventura is a man who creates your past – if you don’t like yours, he can come up with a new one. The book’s narrator is a gecko, also with a past life as a human, but who necessarily adopts a lizard-on-the-wall style of narration. The storytelling allows you to see the small ensemble of shifty characters from just about every angle, in a way that suggests the transience of identities and the influence of memories, real or created: everyone in this book changes who they are to various degrees. The Latin American influence on The Book of Chameleons is self-evident given that it was written in Portuguese, but ah, if only more African writing was as imaginative as this. Excellent.   PY

  The Book of Chameleons is the first Angolan novel to be translated into English, and also won the 2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

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