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Festival of African Lit. 2016 > A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa

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message 1: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3618 comments Comments about this story are welcome!

message 2: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3618 comments A General Theory of Oblivion is set in Angola. It's about a fictionalized, historical, formerly Portuguese woman Ludovico, who is left in her home at the beginning of the tumuluous Angolan Independence from Portugal. She is creative in her ability for survival, and after thirty years is basically rescued by a young, runaway boy.

As with the same author's The Book of Chameleons, many small, seemingly unrelated stories coalesce at the end. During Ludo's solitary years, partly with her large dog, in the eleventh-story residence, she writes her own stories in notebooks and on walls. Before burning a lot of furniture, wooden tiles, and eventually many books for fuel, she has the fortune of thousands of volumes all kinds of books as well as the possession of several large diamonds. Agualusa gives background to many of those possessions. Ludo herself harbors a mystery in her past, which the reader discovers at the end.

message 3: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3618 comments Angola is an independent nation since 1975. The chaos surrounding that event is a catalyst for Ludo's predicament in this novel.

Her sister and brother-in-law are lost, and thieves are breaking into the apartment. She is armed with a pistol and with bricks and cement from the anticipated building of a swimming pool.

(view spoiler)

Angola map

message 4: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3618 comments Early in this novel, there is the chapter "May 27" and elsewhere in it there are the cries of "Fractionist". Those two are connected. The nervousness of Ludo's dog on May 27 (1977) is the day of the coup. The Fractionist politcal party is responsible for the coup.

The retaliation for the attempted coup lasted a couple years and brought suffering and death to thousands of people.


"My usual place was in front of the Lello Bookshop [Livraria Lello Luanda]." = Luanda's biggest bookstore,

"Roque Santeiro" = the big open-air market which would have been located in Luanda at the time of this novel.

source: Angola

message 5: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3618 comments Some characters:
Papy Bolingô (the popular name for historical guitarist François Luambo Luanzo Makiadi)= as a result of the May 27 coup he loses his job at Rádio Nacional but then rescues Little Chief and hides the small man for years in his apartment; Papy performs in bars with an expanding baby hippo Fofo.

Little Chief= he finds two very pure diamonds and an anonymous letter about a secret rendez-vous on a pigeon; with that money he starts the Pigeon-post messenger service and gains millions through investment.

Daniel Benchimol= "collects stories of disappearances in Angola."

Music terms:

Bolero=Spanish dance with three beats to the bar.


Coladeira=a morna with a livelier tempo.

message 6: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3618 comments Agualusa is writing a truly Angolan book about the country's recent history and its contemporary problems and is mixing fictional characters and events with historical ones. In his illuminating conflict, he is including Luandans and Angolans of distant provinces.
Historical people, places, and culture:
Mucabal people = a semi-nomadic ethnic group in the Namib Desert of southern Angola; the disruption to Mucabal shepherds and their herds of cattle after the private enclosure of grazing lands; paintings of the Mucabal and their surroundings by Albano Neves e Sousa.

Kianda = a goddess of the sea in Angolan mythology.

Elza Soares = a Brazilian singer of samba (Brazilian dance music with roots in Angola and the Congo).

Ary Barroso = a Brazilian songwriter of samba.

Kuvale = probably speakers of the Kuvale language in the Namibe Province of Angola.

Ruy Duarte de Carvalho = an Angolan writer and movie maker of Portuguese descent.

Chico Buarque = Brazilian singer and writer; music for the play "The Death and Life of Severino" by João Cabral de Melo Neto.

Quinaxixe = a square in downtown Luanda at the site of Queen Njinga's statue and Ludo's probably fictional apartment building Prédio dos Invejados.

Kubango (Okavango) River = from Angola to Botswana.

kuduro / kudurista = late 1980s Angolan dance / singers and dancers of kuduro.
Fictional characters:
Daniel Benchimol = a good kind of detective with a specialty in disappearances.

Maria da Piedade Lourenço = Ludo's daughter.

Magno Moreira Monte = a character with a dark side.

Sabalu Estevão Capitango = the boy who saves Ludo.
The setting, characters, and plot are affected by political events, by interrupted utilities, by unseemly food shortages, and by humanity's dual nature of dark violence and pure love. The novel is a mix of realism and grotesqueness.

message 7: by Betty (last edited Oct 25, 2016 04:05PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3618 comments Corto Maltese = a popular Italian graphic comic series (Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea) by Hugo Pratt; ; .

Maria Clara Capitão = pigeons transport letters and diamonds between her and Monte until one of the pigeons walks into Ludo's homemade snare. Feeling sorry for the interrupted message between the lovers, Ludo places two diamonds in its beak then sets it free. A hungry Little Chief (Arnaldo Cruz) spots it and the vial on its leg in a park, roasts it, and squirrels aware the message in his memory and transforms the diamonds into great wealth.

Blood diamonds = for the funding of insurgencies in Angola and elsewhere; instead, Little Chief and Ludo make beneficial use of diamonds, respectively, for land development and for restoration of land to its original owners.

Ludo's "Accident" = the physical and psycological crime against her in youth and the unjustifiable blame about it from others that traumatized her remaining life.

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