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A General Theory of Oblivion

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,656 ratings  ·  595 reviews
On the eve of Angolan independence an agoraphobic woman named Ludo bricks herself into her 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 through the stories of those she sees
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published June 25th 2015 by Harvill Secker (first published 2012)
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Gülistan İlk başta biraz karışık, hikayenin/ hikayelerin içine girmek biraz zahmet istiyor ve bazı bölümlerin tekrar okunması gerekiyor, çünkü yazar Angola bağ…moreİlk başta biraz karışık, hikayenin/ hikayelerin içine girmek biraz zahmet istiyor ve bazı bölümlerin tekrar okunması gerekiyor, çünkü yazar Angola bağımsızlık mücadelesini farklı karakterler üzerinden anlatıyor. Ben okurken notlar almıştım, çünkü romandaki kişiler dolaylı olarak birbiriyle bağlantılı. Aynı zamanda romanın felsefi bir derinliği, hayata ve insana dair ilginç tespitleri var. Son yıllarda okuduğum en iyi kitaplardan biri. (less)

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Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Free Yo’ Mind; Yo’ Ass Will Follow”
- the film ‘Platoon’

In revolution, everything is suspended - not just civility and justice and news broadcasts, but the lives and the immediate concerns of everyone touched by it. Revolution no matter what its motive is a brutal and brutalizing event. By definition its outcome is uncertain and its effects unpredictable. By-standers are incidental and unregarded victims. Except for those rare people who can by chance or guile hide from revolutionary chaos, no
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african, angolan
This book has been on my radar for a while but when it won the 2017 International Dublin Literary Prize, I needed to get it. Winning the prize helped because it actually was in available my local bookstore and no need to order it (a first for these kinds of books).

I devoured this book in two sittings. It is a truly amazing work of literature. I have been reading Portuguese writers over that past year, spurred on by recommendations on GR. Their writers shine although not well known over in Canada
Sidharth Vardhan
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1-africa, booker
Ludo is agoraphobic, even back in Europe she was afraid of sky. Even at age of seven she would carry a umbrella to school, no matter what the weather. And so, when she finds herself alone in a continent (of vast skies) she doesn't know in a time of chaos (Angola's independence) she bricks herself into her flat and lives alone except for company of her dog (who later dies) and books living like a cast-out on birds and animals, in a small unviable hole that the world around her is oblivious of. Sh ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Agualusa has written a fictionalized account based on the true story of Ludovica Fernandes Mano, a Portuguese woman who barricaded herself in an Angolan apartment from 1975 (Angolan independence) to 2003 (Angolan civil war.) She is limited to what she has access to, starting with her own food stores and then the fruit from the terrace, pigeons, and burning books for fire. I was reading this for my Africa 2016 project, so was a bit disappointed that 1) the main character was Portuguese with very ...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a fabulous book!!! Why isn't this book all over social media? Why isn't everyone talking about this book? I loved it to bits. This book is nothing like anything I have read before. I cannot think of any other books that I can compare it with. Review to follow. But pick up a copy already. ...more
Viv JM
A General Theory of Oblivion relates the story of Ludo, who at the beginning of Angola's civil unrest, literally barricades herself into her apartment (by building a wall) and stays there for 30 years. As well as her survival story, told partly through her journal entries, we also get vignettes of other players in the war. These are told in a factual way, similar to news reports. By the end, we can see how the strands weave together. No ambiguity here! (what a relief, after reading The Many prio ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, modern-lit
I missed this one when it was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize back in 2016, so thanks to the 21st Century Literature group for selecting it for a group read this month.

This was my fourth Agualusa book and probably the most enjoyable - the rest were all 9 or 10 years ago and are not fresh in the memory, but the poetry, a little surrealism and the fresh perspectives on life in Angola during the conflicts before and after independence are common to all of them.

The heart of this o
Manuel Antão
Aug 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Literature Without Balls: "A General Theory of Oblivion" by José Eduardo Agualusa, Daniel Hahn (translator) Published 2015 (English Edition), published 2012 (Portuguese Edition)

“If I had the space, the charcoal, and available walls, I could compose a great work about forgetting: a general theory of oblivion.”

I read this in the original Portuguese when it came out in 2012. And as soon as I got the English edition, I just had to re-re
Sarah El Harake
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I couldn't put it down at all. It has been a while since I read a perfect book that made me fall in love with it from the very first pages. It tells the story of a woman who shuts herself in her house for 30 years, while living the war in Angola. I won't say more because it contains some revelations throughout its pages or else I will ruin it. It is written really beautifully that one can't but fall in love with it and be affected while reading it. I totally recommend this to anyone who is looki ...more
This was a free advance copy received in exchange for an honest review, via Edelweiss and the publisher, Archipelago Books.

[4.5] You know those city novels of distant, interlocking lives set against the big events of history, usually in London or New York? Widescreen novels? I still love the idea of them, but it started to be a case of diminishing returns, probably because the events and types of people were so familiar; there could be a thrill of recognition or a cosiness, but no shock and wond
Paul Fulcher
Update: now chosen as winner of the 2017 Dublin International Literary Award, a rare award that allows translated and non-translated books in English to compete on equal terms.

"Os dias deslizam como se fossem líquidos. Não tenho mais cadernos onde escrever. Também não tenho mais canetas. Escrevo nas paredes, com pedaços de carvão, versos sucintos.

Poupo na comida, na água, no fogo e nos adjetivos"

"The days slide by as if they were liquid. I have no more notebooks to write in. No more pens either
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, portugal
OBLIVION: The state of being completely forgotten.

The Kubango starts being called the Okavango when it crosses the Namibian border. Though it is a large river, it doesn't fulfill the same destiny as its peers: it doesn't empty into the sea. It opens its broad arms and dies in the middle of the desert. It is a sublime death, a generous one, which fills the sands of the Kalahari with green and with life. Monte had spent his thirtieth wedding anniversary on the Okavango Delta, in an eco-lodge - a g
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes when glancing through the shelves at a bookstore, you stumble across a book by some author you aren't familiar with, and something draws you in, maybe a melodious title or an inviting cover. This was such a book – a bold title like A General Theory of Oblivion effortlessly instilled some curiosity – and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

The novel deals with the Angolan War of Independence and ensuing civil war in the 1970s, and tells the story (based on real events) of a woman, L
Gumble's Yard (aka Golden Reviewer)
Ostensibly the story of a reclusive Portuguese lady Ludo who after “the accident” lives with her sister and subsequently moved to Angola with her after her sister’s marriage and lived in a luxury apartment. After her sister and brother in law disappear following the declaration of Angolan independence, Ludo bricks herself in the apartment and lives there (alone other than for pets) for 30 years.

A book which completely fails to live up to (in fact does not even try to live up) to its premise – th
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: angolan-li
NEWS: (Agualusa is in!)
The 2016 Man Booker International Shortlist
Title (imprint) Author (nationality) Translator (nationality)

A General Theory of Oblivion (Harvill Secker), José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), Daniel Hahn (UK)

The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions), Elena Ferrante (Italy), Ann Goldstein (USA)

Angola 1961: starts the war against Portugal, the colonial power.
1975: Angola’s independence.
2002: civil war ends.

The writer, Agu
Jan 10, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What was this? A potentially interesting idea, put in a boringly written book. The format of the writing didnt appeal to me at all (short childish sentences, some sort of poems, lots of characters superficially presented). So it was a quick read („get it over with quickly“ kind of book, life is too short to waste it with things that don't produce some sort of mind organsmus). Interesting facts about Angola though, but unfortunatelly for Mr. Agualusa, I think i will take my infos about Angola fro ...more
lark benobi
Novels about war there have been plenty of, but never one before now, I guess, that is told from the point of view of an agoraphobic woman who walls herself in her apartment even as Angola erupts in civil violence outside her doors. The story is a fantastic one and yet it has so much detail, recounted in the form that almost resembles journalism, that it slips back and forth between feeling like a bizarre tale, and feeling completely plausible. A very enjoyable and enlightening read, one that's ...more
Dec 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, translation
the days slide by as if they were liquid. i have no more notebooks to write in. i have no more pens either. i write on the walls, with pieces of charcoal, brief lines.

i save on food, on water, on fire, and on adjectives.
angolan writer josé eduardo agualusa, independent foreign fiction prize-winning author of the book of chameleons , has penned some two dozen works, yet a general theory of oblivion (teoria geral do esquecimento) is but the fifth to be rendered into english. inspired by th
I found this book rather delightful despite it being a rather sad and bleak tale. The writing itself had a wonderful rhythm and pace, as Agualusa manages to weave a folktale-like story from within a harsh, realist setting. The short chapters, jumping from lead character Ludo's reclusive perspective to various other characters enmeshed in Angola's revolution, worked really well for me in setting off contrasting realities. I believe some other reviewers found Ludo's predicament somewhat unrealisti ...more
Czarny Pies
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those who want the nightmare view of Post Colonial Africa
Shelves: african
A General Theory of Oblivion is short terrifying tale of the state of post colonial Angola. The only person to find a coherent and morally viable strategy in the midst of the generalized horror is the protagonist, an agoraphobic woman, who chooses not to participate in any way in the affairs of the newly independent nation of Angola. She refuses to leave her apartment and limits her contact with human beings to that which is necessary to ensure her physical survival.

This novel gives a profoundly
Everything in this book is hampered by a severe lack of development. It seemed more like a skeleton of a story in an early stage of writing than a finished book. The blurb only mentions an agoraphobic woman who bricks herself into her house and lives in seclusion in the decades following the Angolan independence, but the narrative follows other characters too - all cardboard cutouts. Disappointing, it had a lot of potential.
Roger Brunyate
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
Written on Walls
If I still had the space, charcoal, and available walls,
I could compose a great work about forgetting;
a general theory of oblivion.
In this house all the walls have my mouth.
In 1975, during the fighting that followed Angolan independence, a middle-aged Portuguese woman called Ludovica ("Ludo") Fernandes Mano bricked herself up in a top-floor luxury apartment in Luanda, and remained there for 28 years. At first, she kept a diary in notebooks, but when she ran out she used charc
I could not put this down. We see Angola go from revolution to independence to civil war to peace but in a way quite different. We see if through the eyes of a Portuguese woman who has barricaded herself in an apartment where she stays, alone, for thirty plus years.

Ludo, after suffering a trauma as a young woman, secludes herself and refuses to venture outside her home in Portugal. Then the sister she is living with marries a mining expert from Angola. The newly-married couple insist that Ludo m
Loved it. A compelling & circular tale set during the years from Angola declaring independence from Portugal & the ensuing decades of civil war. A gem of a story.
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
There appears to be some question about whether José Eduardo Agualusa's A General Theory of Oblivion is based on real events in the life of Ludovica Fernandes Mano, a Portuguese woman who immigrated to Luanda not long before the Angolan War for Independence reached there in 1975. In a Foreword and later Acknowledgements, Agualusa states,
On a now distant afternoon back in 2004, the filmmaker Jorge António challenged me to write the screenplay for a feature-length film to be shot in Angola. I told
Dec 04, 2016 rated it did not like it
Remember the movie Elizabethtown? I wouldn't fault you if you didn't. It was a second-rate Cameron Crowe flick that made internet critic, Nathan Rabin, coin the famous term, "manic pixie dream girl", back in 2005. Nathan was talking about the film's flimsy female character, who was only there to make the male protagonist discover the joys and wonders of life, but who had no internal life of her own. She was also excessively quirky, and full of childish delight...and nothing else.

I'd humbly propo
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, 2016-mbi
Why is it that books (and films) that show several parallel but inter-related stories are so fascinating to me? This one is a bit different to others I have read as I think it is the first book I have ever read that is set in Angola. It is beautiful writing and an really engaging story (or stories).
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A General Theory of Oblivion

There's a taste of Bolaño in the writing.

'God weighs souls on a pair of scales. In one of the dishes is the soul, and in the other, the tears of those who weep for it.'

On the other hand there's the existential question. What's the best way to die, surrounded by family or alone in the woods?
Missy J
Last year I read Jose Eduardo Augalusa's novel The Book of Chameleons. I enjoyed the format of the book; short chapters and lyrical language. But the content was somewhat vague and left me unsatisfied.

This year I was surprised to find a more recent work by Agualusa "A General Theory of Oblivion" in the library and wanted to compare it to The Book of Chameleons. It started off really good. Again, Agualusa came up with a very creative plot - a Portuguese woman in Luanda isolates herself from soci
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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.

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