Mia Couto

Mia (António Emílio Leite) Couto was born in Beira, Mozambique to Portuguese immigrants. At the age of 14 he had his first poems published in the newspaper »Notícias da Beira«. Three years later he began to study Medicine and then worked as a journalist. After Mozambique had achieved independence from Portugal, Couto became the director of the news agency AIM and worked as the editor in chief of the newspapers »Tiempo« and »Notícias de Maputo«. In 1985 he resigned from these posts to study biology. Today he works as an environmental biologist at Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

After the poetry volume »Raiz de Orvalho« (1983; t: Root of dew) and the collection of short stories »Vozes Anoitecidas« (1986; Eng. »Voices Made Night«, 1990) Couto became internationally renowned for his novel »O Último Voo do Flamingo« (2000; Eng. »The Last Flight of the Flamingo«, 2004). In a poetic and innovative way the oral storytelling tradition is fused together with modern literary forms, and motives of popular belief are combined with current political events. In civil war-ridden Mozambique, led by the communist single political party after its independence, UN Blue Helmets disappear in a mysterious way. The investigation into the background of these occurrences develops into a journey through the cultural heritage of this tattered country, in which the boundaries between dream and reality, past and present become blurred. At the awards ceremony for the Prémio Mário António, Couto showed a clear commitment to the moral responsibility of an author. »›The Last Flight of the Flamingo‹ talks about an extreme theft of hope committed by the ruthlessness of the powerful. The advance of these consumers of nations forces us, ourselves, writers, to a growing moral obligation. Against the indecency of those who enrich themselves at the expense of everything and everyone, against those who have their hands dripping with blood, against the lies and crime and fear, against all of this the words of writers should be constructed. This duty to my country and my era has guided not only this book but all my previous novels.« Couto has also pursued this obligation in numerous columns, from which a selection under the title »Cronicando« was printed in 1991. During the Iraq war Couto, in an open letter to the U.S. President George Bush, denounced with fierce words the arrogance of the superpower.

The novel »A Varanda do Frangipani« (Eng. »Under the Frangipani«, 2001), published in 1996, is considered Couto’s most important work. A police inspector is investigating a murder of a tyrannical asylum director in a former Portuguese fort which stored slaves and ivory – and all the suspects are eager to claim responsibility for the act. Once again by using the form of parable and alluding to the country’s culture and history, the novel reflects on the end of the civil war and on the democratisation of Mozambique. The book is translated into German, as is »Terra Sonâmbula« (1992; t: A sleep walking land) which was chosen by the jury for the International Book Festival in Zimbabwe as one of the 12 best African books of the twentieth century. Furthermore Couto has also won numerous prizes such as the Prémio Vergílio Ferreira. The author lives in the capital of Mozambique, Maputo.

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