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A General Theory of Oblivion (2012)

by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Interesting idea but a boring read
By sally tarbox on 18 April 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
According to the foreword, this is a fictionalized version of a true event: one Ludovica Mano had shut herself away from the world in her Luanda home for 28 years, ever since the communist revolution.
In short chapters, Agualusa describes her life and gives poetic 'quotes' from her diary - and cuts in with short accounts of others' lives too - an investigative reporter, a fearsome interrogator, local thugs, a long-lost daughter, a diamond-filled pigeon, a performing hippo ... All these disparate tales come together, and I guess they give a patchwork impression of life in Angola.
But I got really bored, struggled to recall who was who and was glad to reach the end. ( )
  starbox | Apr 17, 2017 |
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-read it, not because the book is a masterpiece (far from it), but because I was curious to know how Daniel Hahn had been able to render the Portuguese into English. And so on with the task of reading both editions in parallel. When I got to the 3rd chapter, something jarred my reading of the English edition. I'll transcribe the text from the Portuguese edition first:
 
“Monte regressou ao carro. Os soldados empurraram os portugueses até ao muro. Afastaram-se alguns metros. Um deles tirou uma pistola da cintura e, num gesto quase distraído, quase de enfado, apontou-a e disparou três vezes. Jeremias Carrasco ficou estendido de costas. Viu aves a voarem no céu alto. Reparou numa inscrição, a tinta vermelha, no muro manchado de sangue, picado de balas:
O luto continua.”
 
If you're interested in literature in translation and the above text does not make you uncomfortable, read on. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
"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. If nobody cries, the soul goes down to hell. If there are enough tears, and they are sufficiently heartfelt, it rises up to heaven. Ludo believed this. Or wanted to believe this. That was what she told Sabalu:
'People who are missed by other people, those are the ones who go to Paradise. Paradise is the space we occupy in other people's hearts.'"

Set in Angola, primarily during the years following the revolution and independence, the author builds this novel on the true story of a woman who cemented herself into her apartment and lived there alone and isolated from the chaotic world for decades. The characters in the story tend to appear briefly and in shadow, then to emerge in a later chapter with name, identity, place-in-the-world, and a richer version of their story. This works beautifully. Ludo, our agoraphobic woman, is but one narrator as she writes her thoughts and feelings across the walls of her apartment, as she reaches for connection with a feral monkey, and as she shares a deep sense of belonging (and conversation) with her dog, Phantom. The backdrop of the revolution in all its bloody progression provides an effective foil for Ludo's paradoxical numbness and deep compassion for the world's innocents. I feel like I got so much from this novel and I feel that it well deserves a second read. I know I missed so many threads and nuances. Highly recommended. This is a beautiful novel. ( )
1 vote EBT1002 | May 26, 2016 |
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 him the story of a Portuguese woman who bricked herself in, in 1975, just days before Independence, terrified by the way events were progressing.

. . .

Ludo’s diaries, poems, and reflections helped me to reconstruct the tragedies she lived through. They helped me, I believe, to understand her. In the pages that follow, I have made use of much of her first-hand account."

He concludes his Foreword, however, with these two sentences: "What you will read is, however, fiction. Pure fiction." He also thanks Christiana Nóvoa for writing Ludo's poems.

I favor the idea that Ludo was real. In his argument for why A General Theory of Oblivion should win this year's Best Translated Book Award ("BTBA"), Shelf Awareness's international literature editor George Carroll seems to lean toward the other conclusion. Regardless of which one of us is correct, we do agree on one point: A General Theory of Oblivion should win, if not the BTBA, then the Man Booker International Prize, for which it has also been longlisted.

This is one of those books where I find it difficult to explain exactly why I loved it. Is the writing beautiful? Yes. Is the plot fascinating? Yes. Does it bring to life a time and place about which I am woefully uneducated? Yes. But I can think of a number of other books equally beautiful, fascinating, and informative which have not had the same impact on me. In his review for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, David Wiley comes close to explaining my reaction when he observes that "this highly artificial novel" nevertheless manages to create "a profoundly satisfying and merciful sense of human family." At bottom, though, I think that Ludo - with her ability to survive alone for almost 30 years because she has her books and her dog - simply felt so familiar to me that she just captured my heart. Whether Agualusa fleshed out a real woman or created her from whole cloth ultimately doesn't matter; either way, his achievement is remarkable.

I received a free copy of A General Theory of Oblivion through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  BrandieC | Apr 14, 2016 |
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 full of humanity. ( )
  poingu | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Ludovica Fernandes Mano died in Luanda at the Sagrada Esperanca Clinic, in the early hours of 5 October, 2010.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0914671316, Paperback)

As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo's life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers. 
A General Theory of Oblivion is a perfectly crafted, wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 18 Jul 2015 15:07:28 -0400)

"As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo's life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers. A General Theory of Oblivion is a perfectly crafted, wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable"--… (more)

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