22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Sónia Gomes

Portrait Sónia Gomes
© Ali Ghandtschi

Sónia Gomes was born in 1977 in Luena-Moxico, a city in a thinly populated province of Angola near the eastern borders with Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Moxico is legendary as the main base of operations of the leader of UNITÁ, Jonas Savimbi, and also as the place for the official negotiations for peace in 2002.

Political conflicts, however, are not the focus of Gomes’ literature. She is more interested in the »children of the war« (»Filhos da guerra«), as one of her stories is titled. Here two women, a mother and daughter, have moved to a different part of the city Luene because in their earlier home they were known as sympathizers with the FAPLA, the government army that Savimbi’s soldiers fought against. But now, as strangers in completely new surroundings during the civil war, the situation is dangerous for them. Unbelievable rumors make the rounds: the extremely corpulent mother is said to eat children and to fly at night on a broomstick to other countries; the daughter supposedly goes whoring with another woman’s husband; and so forth. Things go so far that the neighborhood attacks the daughter and destroys their house. In Gomes’ first novel »A filha do general« (2010; tr. The daughter of the general), Gomes writes about conflicts within families and between lovers or friends, addressing the subtle differences between rich and poor, young and old, mistress and wife. The title of the novel, which refers to a general’s family, already says a lot to Angolans. In peacetime, the generals from the war have to be rewarded for their services, of course, and are often found in high positions and are often well to do. Accordingly, the daughter of the general has a sheltered childhood, but grows up to be not only a rich, self-employed real estate trader, but also quite corpulent – in a country where that is considered the ideal of beauty. The resulting conflicts are the subject of the book and are openly addressed.

Along with the situation of women, which is always central in her literature, Gomes also focuses on themes like AIDS, contraception, abortion, and domestic violence. Diseases also play an important role – naturally enough for someone who is also a professional nurse. She has familiarized herself with many bodily imponderables in a country in which, for the first 25 years of her life, she experienced nothing but war. These themes and motifs have brought her great popularity, especially among young readers in Angola.