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The Book of Chameleons: A Novel

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  969 ratings  ·  122 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 bookis ...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published June 17th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,774)
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Paul
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
Cecily
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*.

THEMES
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
...more
Tea Jovanović
Ovaj šarmantni pisac zaslužuje svu vašu pažnju... Pretprošle godine je bio gost na sajmu... objavljeno je još nekoliko njegovih knjiga na srpskom...
Rowena
“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
...more
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.
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
Tatjana
Topla, gotovo lirska, priča o opažaju stvarnosti, sećanjima, ljudima, prošlosti i sinhronicitetu. Preporuka!
Peter
“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
...more
jeremy
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
...more
Miguel
O meu primeiro contacto com José Eduardo Agualusa foi um tanto esplendoroso - rendi-me imediatamente à sua escrita que, na altura, muito me dizia. Portanto, se o tivesse lido hoje pela primeira vez, a minha opinião, de certo, não teria sido tão elogiosa, devido à diferença das circunstâncias, penso eu.
Agualusa é um escritor que tem um enorme respeito pelas letras. Por vezes, até parece que se coíbe de demonstrar a sua opinião em relação a algum assunto. No entanto, fá-lo na perspectiva das perso
...more
Judy
Feb 09, 2013 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Milan/zzz
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
Chris
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
Moisés
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
...more
Rita
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.
CAW
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
Stephany
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
Mpho3
Despite or maybe because of the poorly translated title, The Book of Chameleons took me by surprise in the absolute best of ways. Entitled O Vendedor de Passados in Portuguese, a more accurate translation might be something like "Merchant of the Past." In fact there are no literal chameleons in the book, although there are some characters whose identities shift and mutate. That includes the narrator who is a gecko except for when appearing from time to time as a man in the simultaneous dreams he ...more
Kerfe
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.

"M
...more
Kingfan30
What a fascinating read and one I would never have found about if it wasn't for a bookcrosser kindly sharing it with me.

It's only taken me a day to read it, to be fair the titles of the chapters are given a whole page so it makes it a much smaller book than you think. For a long time I had no idea where it was going but the idea of someone who makes up histories for people is pretty interesting. When it does get round to the finale, it suddenly all makes sense. A great read.
Leif
Perfect chapters. A stunning reveal. Borges the gecko, his past addressed and his wits restored. Variations on memory and tremors of metamorphosis make for effervescent reading as Agualusa's characters take on chameleon guise. The writing is crisp with liveliness and force, and while the plot, such as it is, is slow going, the brilliance with which the story is told makes it worth your while.
Chloe
Quick thoughts: I only picked this up in the library because it's narrated by a lizard. The writing is gorgeous, the philosophy got me thinking, the characters are memorable, and the unusual narrator never came across as gimmicky. I loved this book.
Chris
So the narrator here is...(wait for it)...Jorge Luis Borges who has been...(wait for it!)...reincarnated as a...(wait-wait! WAIT!)...gecko. No, I don't really know why this was necessary. So, yeah.

JLB Gecko lives in the Angolan home of a man who fabricates and fashions new pasts for customers who either have something to escape or need a grander lineage, which leads to some interesting bits about why we remember, why we forget, and why we will ourselves to do both.

Also, JLB Gecko can project him
...more
Marco Lourenço
se há escritor que me consegue fazer viajar é sem duvida o Jose Eduardo Agualusa, eu fui feliz a ler este livro :)
Isabel Maia
Uma osga que fala e um homem que vende passados ilustres e brilhantes pode parecer um enredo um pouco fantasioso mas é exactamente essa a génese deste livro. Uma osga, um dia homem, vive em casa de Félix Ventura e relata o dia-a-dia do angolano. Félix Ventura vende passados falsos. Cria geneologias ilustres, cheios de barões e aristocratas a pessoas influentes mas de antepassados pouco ilustres. Tudo vai bem até ao dia em que surge em casa de Félix um estrangeiro a requerer os seus serviços. E é ...more
Selen
Switching between dreams and "reality", the Book of Chameleons tells the story of constant re-construction of self, past and present. Memory is fallible and truth has never been close to home. And we believe what we think the truth is, and who we think we really are. Truth is one big giant evasive reply. We chase it, and while doing it, we construct-deconstruct-reconstruct it. Set back in post-civil war Angola, and narrated by a gecko, this book offers a discussion on identity, history and the i ...more
Luciana Darce
Ano passado, no Clube do Livro, decidimos que em 2011 faríamos uma volta ao mundo literária: além de temas mais corriqueiros e fáceis de mastigar, íamos dedicar alguns meses para encontrar livros de cada continente do planeta, ler e debater.

Nossa viagem começou agora em janeiro com a África, o berço da humanidade. Foi assim um tanto complicado decidirmos o título do mês, porque ninguém do grupo realmente conhecia autores africanos, de forma que pesquisamos e indicamos livros só pela sinopse, sem
...more
Jessica
If it's possible to like a book without liking the experience of reading the book, that's how I felt about this book. That is to say, I liked the ideas this book plays with, how truth and history and identity and memory are all malleable. If someone tells you who they are, tells you stories about their life and their family history, would you have any reason to doubt them? What if the stories are fake but the person telling them really believes them? If the president had someone else do all his ...more
Magda Roberto
Em o "Vendedor de Passados" José Eduardo Agualusa narra a história de Félix Ventura, um angolano albino e solitário, que se dedica à construção de passados. Quem o procura - seja por ambição social ou por necessidade de apagar memórias magoadas - quer mudar o que foi e de onde veio. Com Félix vive a osga, Eulálio, que observa e narra os acontecimentos da vida do vendedor de passados. Eulálio acaba por intercalar essa narrativa com lembranças da sua vida, num tempo em que ainda era homem. Três mo ...more
Jim
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
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José Eduardo Agualusa (Alves da Cunha) is an Angolan journalist and writer born to white Portuguese settlers. A native of Huambo, Angola, he currently resides in both Lisbon and Luanda. He writes in Portuguese.

He has previously published collections of short stories, novels, a novella, and - in collaboration with fellow journalist Fernando Semedo and photographer Elza Rocha - a work of investigati
...more
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“Happiness is almost always irresponsible.” 8 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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