José Eduardo Agualusa

Portrait José Eduardo Agualusa
© C.H. Beck

José Eduardo Agualusa was born in Huambo, Angola, in 1960. He studied agriculture and forestry in Lisbon, but as a student he began to write journalistic and literary texts. His début novel »A Conjura« (tr: The Conspiracy) was published in Portugal and Angola in 1989. Since then, he has published around thirty novels, short story collections, children’s and young adult books, and plays, which have been translated into 25 languages.

The central theme of his first historical novel »A Conjura«, set in Sao Paulo de Luanda between 1880 and 1911, is the merging of European and African cultures in modern Angolan society, a theme which recurs throughout his later novels. In his contemporary novel »Estaçao das Chuvas« (1996; tr: »The Rainy Season«, 2009), the first-person narrator, equipped with autobiographical traits, sketches a sober social chronicle of both fact and fiction around the fictional life story of the Angolan poet and historian Lidia do Carmo Ferreira that nightmarishly shows the reader the devastating consequences of thirty years of war and civil war. Agualusa borrowed the main character of his novel project, »Naçao Crioula« (1997; Eng. »Creole«, 2002), ambitious in its form and content, from a novel by the Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz (1845–1900). In a witty literary exercise, he broadens the original by projecting the perspective of the colony of Angola on Europe and on Brazil, which was colonized mainly by settlers sailing from Angola. The novel »O Vendedor de Passados« (2004; Eng. »The Book of Chameleons«, 2007), the first African book to win the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007, deals with questions of identity in the form of a »genealogist« who, after various system changes in Angola, invents glamorous or simply »clean« pasts for people of the »new bourgeoisie«. »Teoria Geral do Esquecimento« (2012; Eng. »A General Theory of Oblivion«, 2015), which was awarded the International DUBLIN Literary Award, portrays the distortions and entanglements of Angolan history from the perspective of a lady suffering from agoraphobia who, on the eve of the revolution, walls herself off in her apartment for thirty years. His most recent novel »A Sociedade dos Sonhadores Involuntários« (2017; Eng. »The Society of Reluctant Dreamers«, 2019) again directly addresses contemporary political events in Angola and, like the dystopia »Barroco Tropical« (2009; tr: Tropical Baroque), is a poetic reckoning with autocratic regimes and societies that have lost their dreams and utopias.

Agualusa also works as a journalist for radio and print media in various countries. He lives on the Ilha de Moçambique and in Lisbon.