A General Theory of Oblivion
Jose Eduardo Agualusa
I realized I had forgotten my book as soon as I sat down on the ferry. It was the perfect paperback, too. Just right for my solo overnight trip to Victoria where the agenda was to do nothing but wander around and read in coffee shops and relax. And so I walked from the dock directly to Russell Books and stalked the aisles, waiting for something to call to me. Downstairs, at the very edge of Fiction, I spotted the distinctive binding and cover design of an Archipelago title. Aha! Something from far away to transport my soul!
It worked. My destination was Luanda in 1975, as the chaos of Angolan independence overtakes a frightened and agoraphobic Portuguese woman named Ludo, who barricades herself in her apartment. For 28 years. Over the course of 37 chapters, stark stories of her self-confinement and the relentlessly invading glimpses, vibrant anecdotes and tales of political upheaval and social transformation are somehow stitched almost together. The backdrop of colonial independence and the intimate scale of personal trauma and bearing witness are harmonized in a genuinely interesting way. As Agualusa says, “A man with a good story is practically a king,” and there are some good stories here. Sometimes intense and sometimes elliptical. Which is, one imagines, a lot like watching a revolution from a window.
- Archipelago (2015), 194 pages
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- Publisher Description
Winner of the 2017 Dublin International Literary Award Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2016 “Who is this solitary young woman on the top floor of a luxury building in Luanda, Angola’s capital, and why has she walled off her apartment? Her name is Ludo…Her brooding presence is inescapable” — Kirkus Reviews On the eve of Angolan independence, an agoraphobic woman named Ludo bricks herself into her Luandan apartment for 30 years, living off vegetables and the pigeons she lures in with diamonds, burning her furniture and books to stay alive and writing her story on the apartment’s walls. Almost as if we’re eavesdropping, the history of Angola unfolds in A General Theory of Oblivion through the stories of those Ludo sees from her window in a a wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable. (Publisher’s Description)
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