SERPENT'S TAIL £10.99 (231PP) £9.89 (FREE P&P) FROM 0870 079 8897
A River Called Time, by Mia Couto trans David Brookshaw
War and peace in a house of the spirits
Friday 11 July 2008
Mia Couto from Mozambique has witnessed his country's tumultous struggle for independence, the drama of revolution, and a protracted civil war as a journalist and editor, a poet and novelist, and an environmental biologist. His novels bind national history to ancestral mythology. They are a vindication of how oral legends can be received in any language.
A River Called Time is the account of the death of an elder and the life of a spreading family, relayed from every vantage point, including that of the corpse. Time is not chronological but coincidental; objects possess individuals, as do spellbound states. Ancestors inhabit the between-world where the unborn, stillborn and zombies, like less-than-dead grandfather Dito Mariano, hold sway.
The principal narrative voice is that of grandson Mariano, recalled from his studies to bury his forefather. In an attempt to heal the raw wounds of civil war, the home is called Nyumba-Kaye, "house" in the languages of north and south. Mariano's mission appears to be reconciliation between branches of the family tree, where not even Old Man Mariano turns out to be quite the relative or corpse young Mariano assumed.
The two Marianos' voices alternate. Messages to the future appear in the form of letters and apparitions, each one bearing a fresh instruction. The need to combat the cupidity of Uncle Ultimio – hellbent on "progress" by converting Nyumba-Kaye into a luxury island hotel – is straightforward enough. Above all, the demands are to enter the life of the house itself, with its garret of ghosts and its roof open to the cosmos.
The story of the home is told in desperate cries, seductive whispers and childish laughter. The novel has much to teach about patriarchy and change in a pre-industrial, post- revolutionary society. It shares, with the best fiction, mystery and revelation. A River called Time transports the reader to an island in which past, present and future co-exist, and the dead retain a vociferous presence.
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Indiana Jones sequel confirmed by Lucasfilm - but will Harrison Ford return to the franchise?
How the Other Half Eat, Channel 4 - TV review: Swapping food trolleys shows how food and class are closely connected
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils