Alberto Mussa was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1961. He studied Mathematics briefly, before taking up Language and Literature Studies at the University of Rio de Janeiro. Aside from Tupi, the language of Brazil’s original inhabitants, he studied various African languages, amongst them Yoruba, the language of the Afro-Brazilian religious communities, and Arabic. He completed his studies in 1991 with a work on the history of the oral Portuguese of slaves. After that, he worked as a sixth form teacher and lexicographer. Because of family roots (his father’s family originated from Lebanon and Palestine), he has a special interest in Arabic literature. He has translated several short stories by African and Arab writers into Portuguese, as well as compiling the pre-Islamic anthology ‘Muallaquat’, a collection of seven odes by the greatest Arabic poets of the sixth and early seventh centuries. He also has been a lecturer in pre-Islamic poetry at the University of Rio de Janeiro. In 1997 he published his first volume of stories: ‘Elegbara’, named after the Yoruba deity Eshu-Elegbara, the crafty messenger of the Gods. Elegbara’s traits, be they extreme cruelty or profound wisdom, are mirrored in the protagonists of these ten short stories, which directly, or indirectly, refer to Brazil’s colonial history. He also revisits the colonial past in his first novel ‘O trono da rainha Jinga’ (1999; Engl: Queen Jinga’s Throne). In seventeenth century Rio de Janeiro there was a secret society of blacks who sought the liberation of slaves through the brutal murder of white colonial rulers and representatives of the Catholic Church. There is a strange connection between the slave trade and the north Angolan Mbundu queen Jinga. The story unfolds through shifts in the perspectives of the different protagonists. Alberto Mussa maps out a panorama of the society upon which the state of Brazil was founded. Alberto Mussa was awarded the Premio Biblioteca Nacional for ‘O trono da rainha Jinga’, the first of five planned novels about the history of Rio de Janeiro from its founding to the end of the twentieth century. With his most recent novel, ‘O enigma de Qaf’ (2004; Engl: The Qaf’s Riddle), Mussa drew upon his knowledge of myriad philosophical, mythological and literary references and combined them in a story about the origins of Arabic language and civilisation, at whose centre stands the fictitious poet al-Gatash, author of the eight odes of ‘Muallaquat’. Alberto Mussa lives in Rio de Janeiro.
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