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The Book of Chameleons: A Novel

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,369 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
Félix Ventura trades in an unusual commodity; he is a dealer in memories, clandestinely selling new pasts to people whose futures are secure and who lack only a good lineage to complete their lives. In this completely original murder mystery, where people are not who they seem and the briefest of connections leads to the forging of entirely new histories, a bookish albino, ...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published June 17th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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Sep 13, 2015 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ·Karen· by: Maria Helena (RL friend)
Shelves: africa

Yes, it really is narrated by a gecko, and a gecko who is a reincarnation of Jorge Luis Borges at that. A gecko that laughs. And dreams.

Maria Helena, my Brazilian friend who recommended it to me, informs me that a gecko in Portuguese is osga. Which makes me think of a drum-playing, glass-shattering inmate of a mental hospital.
"Sorry to ask - but could you tell me your name?"
"I have no name," I replied quite frankly. "I am the gecko."
"That's silly. No one is a gecko!"
"You're right. No one's a ge
Tea Jovanović
Ovaj šarmantni pisac zaslužuje svu vašu pažnju... Pretprošle godine je bio gost na sajmu... objavljeno je još nekoliko njegovih knjiga na srpskom...
César Lasso
Feb 27, 2016 César Lasso rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esta novela, relativamente breve, es la tercera que leo del angoleño Agualusa y, hasta ahora, la que más me ha gustado. Quizás en 2010, cuando leí las dos anteriores, todavía no tenía suficiente cultura lusófona como para sacarles toda su miga. Estação das Chuvas, basada en la agitada historia reciente de Angola, no me dijo nada. Tal vez me faltaran referentes locales. Y Nação Crioula me gustó un poco más, pero también me faltaban referentes como la figura del escritor Eça de Queirós, a quien Ag ...more
Very strange novella, and I don't know why it won the awards and plaudits that it did. Am I the boy declaring the emperor has no clothes, or have I missed the point? Either way, I wouldn't recommend spending your own money on it. This should probably be either 1* or 4*, but as I don't know which, I'm compromising on 2*.

It is about truth and lies, dreams and reality, memory, predestination, fitting in, and the difference between having a dream and making one, but it's more superficial than
Dec 27, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-novels
Brief and rather quirky novel set in Angola. The narrator is a gecko living in the house of Felix Ventura. The gecko is articulate and charming; he appears to have been a man in a previous life and he dreams. Felix likes the lizard and talks to him. Felix is an albino who creates memories and a past for people. Come to Felix and he will provide documentation and photographs of grandparents and illustrious ancestors. One client in particular really believes in the past he has been given and becom ...more
Dec 29, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit
“I think what I do is really an advanced kind of literature,” he told me conspiratorially.” I create plots, I invent characters, but rather than keeping them trapped in a book I give them life, launching them out into reality.” - José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books written by African writers and I am impressed by the wide range of subject matter and also the different writing styles I’ve encountered. I took a break from reading African lit a
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Tired of all these novels here with humans as narrators? Then try this one for a change. It's told by a lizard, specifically a spotted house gecko. It was born in, and has never left, this house of an albino who brings home prostitutes (sometimes decent women too) and who is visited by people needing his unique services. This guy, watched by this intrepid lizard-narrator all the times, manufactures the past for a living. People who pay him for it get new sets of identification papers, personal h ...more
José Eduardo Agualusa é realmente dotado de uma capacidade invulgar de transformar palavras em magia. Estou fã da literatura africana!

"Um velho festeja o seu centésimo aniversário. Quis saber como é que ele se sentia. O pobre homem sorriu atónito, disse-me, não sei bem, aconteceu tudo demasiado rápido. Referia-se aos seus anos de vida e era como se estivesse a falar de um desastre, algo que sobre ele tivesse desabado minutos antes. Às vezes sinto o mesmo. Dói-me na alma um excesso de passado e d
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
If you've always dreamed of reading a book narrated by a gecko who happens to be the reincarnation of Jorge Luis Borges, this is your lucky day. Otherwise, skip it.
Aconteceu-me uma coisa engraçada com este livro. Comecei a lê-lo durante uns bocados à noite, quando o sono já era algum, e talvez isso explique que só tenha percebido que o narrador era uma osga quando já tinha lido um terço. De facto, havia ali coisas que não tinha percebido bem, mas assim que se fez luz as peças começaram a encaixar no lugar, ainda que tenha achado necessário voltar ao início para melhor aproveitar a história.

Este livro é narrada por uma osga, outrora um ser humano, que vive
Vit Babenco
The Book of Chameleons is a tale of lost, misplaced and falsified identities…
“As we get old, the only certainty we’re left with is that we will soon be older still. To describe someone as young seems to me to be rather misleading. Someone may be young, yes, but just in the same way that a glass is still intact moments before it shatters on the floor. But excuse my digression – that’s what happens when a gecko starts philosophising…”
An intelligent house gecko – a result of metempsychosis – is a n
Jan 24, 2015 Tatjana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biblioteka
Topla, gotovo lirska, priča o opažaju stvarnosti, sećanjima, ljudima, prošlosti i sinhronicitetu. Preporuka!
Jim Fonseca
Sep 06, 2015 Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We’re in Angola after that country won independence from Portugal. But even though the fighting is over there is still political upset and people trying to settle old scores. There are so many folks who want to run away from their pasts that our main character, an African albino, has a business inventing new past lives for people. He’ll give you old family photos and biographical sketches of your mother, father, siblings and tell you what your childhood was like. Most of the plot in this short b ...more
Raquel Pereira
Este é um livro de contos, reescritos a partir de textos que o próprio escritor publicou em diversas revistas. Foi o primeiro livro que li do autor e também o primeiro livro de contos que li na íntegra. De uma forma geral gostei deste livro, embora sentisse alguma desconexão intrínseca ao ritmo de leitura. Alguns contos fascinaram-me mais do que outros, porém conseguia-se divisar uma temática transversal, que é a dos sonhos e a procura do amor. Com personagens insólitas e criativas, José Eduardo ...more
Jun 05, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“I know now-I think I probably already knew then- that all lives are exceptional.”

Whatever you are reading I bet that it is nothing like this!This book is really little more than a novella as almost half of the pages are blank title pages with only probably 90 pages of actual storyline but don't let this fool you it still has depth and meaning.

The narrator of this book is a gecko who lives on the walls of Felix Ventura's house in Luanda, Angola. Felix Ventura is an albino,a negative if you like
Apr 23, 2009 Milan/zzz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awarded, africa
This is first time I’ve read book from Angolan writer and I’m absolutely stunned. One of the most original work I’ve read this year. This is book about the landscape of memory and its inconsistencies and randomness, about how we can remember things that never happened with extraordinary vividness, and forget things that did. It’s beautiful example of surrealism but new form, very authentic, very poetic. As if you’re on the flying carpet traveling through the time and dreams, prior lives, imagina ...more
Apr 11, 2008 jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translation, fiction
josé eduardo agualusa is angolan and writes in portuguese. though he has authored nearly a dozen works, the book of chameleons is the first to be published in the united states. it was awarded the independent foreign fiction prize in 2007, and has as its origins a short story agualusa wrote for a portuguese newspaper.

the book of chameleons is a deceptively savvy piece of fiction. simplistically told, this is the imaginative tale of felix ventura, a man who, by trade, sells individuals an entirel
Feb 09, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Around the worlders
Recommended to Judy by: Chelsea's shelves
A book of changes as symbolized by the primary narrator, Eulalio, a chameleon. No one is quite what they seem. The albino is colorless as the image of an albino projects, but is he? Angela Lucia, a kind, beautiful woman, Felix Ventura's lover, right? Eva Miller, an interior decorator, or does she even exist?

From the beginning the arrival of pedro Gouveia to consult with Felix Ventura, the inventor of good pasts for those who would "like to have a grandfather with the distinguished bearing of a M
Jan 28, 2009 Kerfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The narrator of this book is a gecko. In his former life he was a man. Now he lives in Angola, in the house of Felix Ventura, a man who makes his living constructing new pasts for people.

In a series of short vignettes, Agualusa tells a loosely connected chronicle with conversations and dreams. But the book is really about how all humans constantly reinvent who they are. Memories, dreams, stories, photographs, relationships--whether conscious, or unconscious, our context never remains the same.

Rosa Ramôa
Jun 19, 2015 Rosa Ramôa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Felicidade Eterna

Antigamente todos os contos para crianças terminavam com a mesma frase, e foram felizes para sempre, isto depois de o Príncipe casar com a Princesa e de terem muitos filhos. Na vida, é claro, nenhum enredo remata assim. As Princesas casam com os guarda-costas, casam com os trapezistas, a vida continua, e os dois são infelizes até que se separam. Anos mais tarde, como todos nós, morrem. Só somos felizes, verdadeiramente felizes, quando é para sempre, mas só as crianças habitam e
Márcia Balsas
Aug 27, 2016 Márcia Balsas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Ler Agualusa é sempre aquela aposta certeira. Não há risco. Até agora saí sempre a ganhar.
É a primeira vez que leio Contos do autor e quero, definitivamente, descobrir os outros livros de histórias curtas. São só fantásticos. Os mais curtos são ainda melhores, na minha opinião. Cheguei ao fim de cada um deles deliciada pela qualidade da narrativa e surpreendida pela forma como se pode escrever tanto em duas ou três páginas.
Bons para ler numa tarde de Verão, deixando que as palavras acompanhem o
Feb 04, 2014 Miguel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O mais recente livro de José Eduardo Agualusa reúne um complexo de contos editados discriminadamente em publicações periódicas com ramificação literária.
Escrito num tom descontraído, que se casa com a elegância e bonomia africanas, O Livro dos Camaleões é uma visita a diversas geografias, unificadas pelo espírito dos seres humanos que por elas passam, pessoas que procuram a sua identidade e a orientação da sua existência.
O leitor entra numa dança espirituosa e gratuita, conduzida pelo autor,
Sep 03, 2010 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: deep-thoughts
Wow. I discovered this book as a result of my daily pageaday calendar. A wildly weird ethereal book and a very quick read. I thought I was reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez but it's really a homage to Jorges Luis Borges, whom I've never read. Really quirky characters that just fascinate the reader. The narrator is a gecko!! Lots of vivid imagery about light, time, and place. There are dreams and sometimes you are not sure what is real and what is dreamscape. And then sometimes you are wondering is ...more
Dec 22, 2015 sonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-portuguese
A maneira mais bonita de poetizar o passado, a maneira mais bonita de honrar a oralidade de uma nação, de se manter fiel às suas origens através de personagens sem sol, de personagens com cicatrizes, de memórias de um passado que se tenta esquecer mas que nos pertence.

E, acima de tudo, a maravilhosa ideia da osga. Este escritor, essa capacidade de se manter terra-a-terra com o que é seu, com o que lhe caracteriza, oferecendo-nos através da fantasia uma irrealidade quase real.

Por pouco não fora
Dioni (Bookie Mee)
Mee's rating: 3.5/5
Nov 27, 2014 Moisés rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Angola poscolonial. Félix Ventura é un albino intelectual que se gaña a vida inventando pasados e linaxes a medida. O seu lema: "Assegure aos seus filhos um passado melhor". A el acude un estranxeiro descoñecido que se transformará en José Buschmann. Todo isto contado por unha osga (=gecko).

É un dos libros máis divertidos que lin ultimamente, con momentos realmente hilarantes. O argumento pode parecer disparatado, pero sérvelle ao autor por un lado para falar de cousas tan trascendentais como a
Apr 04, 2016 Margarida rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este livro é constituído por um conjunto de contos escritos por José Eduardo Agualusa ao longo dos anos e dispersos em diferentes publicações.
Tenho pena que alguns contos apenas tenham 2 ou 3 páginas, porque interessava-me acompanhar as personagens mais um pouco.
Aug 19, 2013 Rita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mais uma estreia e muito boa por sinal.
Uma osga que já foi em tempos um homem e que vive vendo os outros viver.
Um homem que vende passados àqueles que querem mudar o futuro.
Um futuro que não sabemos se é real ou mais uma partida da nossa imaginação.
Mar 22, 2013 CAW rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel that deals in bright colours and light, the latter a major theme despite (or perhaps because) its protagonist and narrator being respectively an albino and a nocturnal gecko. Also love, home and memory. The story seems aware that if it took itself too seriously it'd be pretentious, padding lightly as though it feared to plummet from the ceiling, yet the language is intricate, the descriptions beautiful (even if poor Félix is referred to as 'the albino' even when there's no other 'him' ar ...more
This book was beautifully written and a remarkably fast read as well. I don't think that the story is complex enough to truly be classified as a novel, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, my only complaints are 1) the story doesn't take off until the very end and 2) the story continually builds and builds towards the ending, but then the ending didn't seem quite as artistic as everything that came before it. It's almost as if there is a shattering of the ethereal voice of the piece ...more
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Reading Challenge 2 3 Jun 16, 2016 03:58AM  
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«José Eduardo Agualusa [Alves da Cunha] nasceu no Huambo, Angola, em 1960. Estudou Silvicultura e Agronomia em Lisboa, Portugal. Os seus livros estão traduzidos em 25 idiomas.

Escreveu várias peças de teatro: "Geração W", "Aquela Mulher", "Chovem amores na Rua do Matador" e "A Caixa Preta", estas duas últimas juntamente com Mia Couto.

Beneficiou de três bolsas de criação literária: a primeira, conce
More about José Eduardo Agualusa...

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“Happiness is almost always irresponsible.” 9 likes
“In your novels do you lie deliberately or just out of ignorance?"

Laughter. A murmur of approval. The writer hesitated a few seconds. Then counter-attacked:

"I'm a liar by vocation," he shouted. "I lie with joy! Literature is the only chance for a true liar to attain any sort of social acceptance."

Then more soberly, he added - his voice lowered - that the principal difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that in the former there exists only one truth, the truth as imposed by power, while in free countries every man has the right to defend his own version of events.

Truth, he said, is a superstition.”
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