Published in the aftermath of Mozambique’s bloody civil war, Mia Couto’s third collection seeks out the places violence could not reach. These stories grapple with questions of what’s been lost and what can be reclaimed, what future exists for a country that broke the yoke of colonialism only to descend into internecine war, what is Mozambican and what is Mozambique.
Stellar ... offers fable-like gems capturing lives hurt and heroic, damaging and enduring ... At a low point, Blind Estrelinho 'remained on the side of the road, like a balled-up handkerchief soaked with sadness,' and such language stuns throughout. A woman deserted by her husband, a problem child rushing to rescue her father―these are some of Couto's poignant stories ... Highly recommended.
Reminiscent of centuries-old legends told and retold from one generation to the next. They read like stories designed to preserve a culture’s history, traditions, and way of life ... Instead of attempting to resurrect memories of all that was destroyed, they explore mystical kingdoms accessible only to those who, through the loss of all they held most dear, discovered that life and death’s greatest treasures are invincible ... Nothingness weaves through these stories as if nothing could be more substantial or meaningful ... Even the nothingness of linguistic voids are used to their best advantage. When an ideal word or phrase fails to exist in the English language, this void becomes a laboratory where words are cajoled into serving functions not normally within their job descriptions.
Couto evokes a quality of lingering sadness and dramatizes his characters’ searches for something beyond. His descriptions of landscapes and people have the power and mystery of the best style of folklore. The strength of his characters, whether he’s portraying an old math professor exploring love, a cross-dressing neighbor, or a businessman creating a happy communal space as a gift to God‚ is most apparent in how with few words their varied lives become relatable. Becker’s translation conveys Couto’s precise use of language to capture the innately elusive nature of human experience.