Extractos de Entrevistas (4)
To label simple achievements as virtues may seem disingenuous, but considering how many notable contemporary novels revel in the obscure, the ambiguous and the downright underbaked, Agualusa's latest work, as translated by Daniel Hahn, is a triumph. (...) Daniel Hahn's translation reads with the soft cadence for which his translation of Creole (2002) was so admired. Only the title disappoints; it is a far cry from O Vendedor de Passados and the French translation, Le Marchand de passés.
Nora Mahony - Times Literary Supplement
José Agualusa's characters are charming and his beguiling narrative style is well translated. This prize-winning novel is rewarding and original with a fine sense of humour.
Max Porter - The Telegraph
(...)The narrative voice is assured and attractive, and the nature of the narrator fits smoothly into the themes of the novel. When the gecko dwells on what memory is, how it slips and slides, we can choose to view this as a commentary on Angolas past, and the past of Angolans as represented by the well-defined set of characters.(
Agualusa deserves praise for recasting certains elements of his countrys recent history into a tale, devoid of sentimentality, told by a well-attuned narrator.
Jeff Bursey - The Canadian Review of Books
While it has been said that every Angolan is a poet, I dare say this has been offered more in derision than in deference. But José Eduardo Agualusa is indeed a poet, in the broadly expansive Latino definition of the word (
) The beauty of this book is that it is one of ideas without all the leaden heaviness characteristic of that type. Its real triumph is its ability to distil the abstract world into the recognisable without making it mundane and the weighty into the airy without making it frivolous. Certainly one of the best three or so books I have read this year.
Percy Zvomuya - Mail & Guardian online
(...)In this tale of dreams, memories, the real, the unreal, and the surreal, nothing is quiet as it seems. In a book of lyrical intensity, deftly written, the storys parts shift, fall, and shift again, like coloured glass within a kaleidoscope, the characters adapting chameleon-like to their various backgrouns(...)
This book is part thriller, part mystical and always thought-provoking. Not a traditional summer holiday blockbuster but well worth seeking out.
The winner of this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is an unusual and charming novel. What is unusual is that the narrator of all but the last chapter is a lizard a chameleon. This sounds whimsical, all the more so when you realise that he was a human being in an earlier life. Don't be put
off by this. He is an agreeable and intelligent narrator and the fact that he is a lizard scarcely impinges.(...) Actually, the choice of such a narrator is not merely whimsical or capricious, because the novel, which is both a comedy and a mystery, has as its central theme the fluidity of memory and identity.(...)
But it is not all comedy, even though the tone is always light and elegant.
The central story starts as comedy, admittedly, before turning into a tale of political intrigue, betrayal and murder.(...)
I confess I began this little novel with misgivings, but found it delightful, even entrancing. Agualusa has a lively imagination but his fancy never crosses the border to become fantasy. The book is suffused with charm, but the charm never cloys. It is written with a fine economy, yet is full of riches. It is light as air and yet rooted in reality.(...)
Allan Massie - The Scotsman
)To tell the truth, I am not confidently sure why the narrator is a lizard. If there is a symbolic point, it eludes me. But that is actually a strength of the novel, its not being shackled to an interpretation. From a storytelling perspective, it's very useful: Ventura treats him as a pet, and confides in him; and, being able to climb over any surface, even inverted ones, the gecko can observe anything he wishes. In short, an ideal narrator.(
This is a story which tips its hat discreetly to a worldwide literary tradition. (Buchmann: book man.) There are references to Eça de Queiroz, Richard Burton, JM Coetzee, Montaigne; the epigraph is from Borges. But the references are lightly sprinkled, and if the thought occurs that we are being gently led to believe that The Book of Chameleons is a reflection on literary fabrication, actual events force us to think differently. Metafictional it might at times seem, but when we are brought up against a reminder of Angola's relatively recent bloody past, and its consequences, we are reminded that Agualusa is doing more than just playing games with us.
However, the game is part of the point. At one point, we are asked to 'name a profession any profession that doesn't sometimes have recourse to lying, a profession in which a man who only tells the truth would be welcomed.' It was at around this point that I began to realise that a single reading of the book wasn't going to be enough to tease out its subtleties. It starts to loop in and around itself in a most pleasing fashion: and that it does it with such subtlety and economy the book is a scant 180 pages long is an indication of its virtue.(
Nicholas Lezard - The Guardian
The Book of Chameleons may come as a surprise and a delight to readers who imagine that novels grappling with the troubled and often tragic experience of Africans in the post-colonial period always have to be sombre and brutal affairs. Agualusa dances, and laughs, on the edge of tears. The Book of Chameleons is indeed 'well-spoken'. It is a beautiful fiction. It has grace, agility, wit, a lovely inventiveness. And a vital factor the translation by Daniel Hahn is well-spoken too. It gives pleasure. The sentences move with grace, alive to the quickly shifting feelings and perspectives of the story.
David Constantine - The Independent
The Book of Chameleons is a poetic, beguiling meditation on truth and storytelling as Agualusa teases the reader into following the narrative into labyrinths and down dark alleys. It is entirely fitting, in a book dealing with the mutability of truth and ambiguity of identity that the plot morphs effortlessly across genre boundaries, from the dreamscapes of magical realism to a gripping political thriller and even, in the unexpected but wholly satisfying climax, a murder mystery.
O Vendedor de Passados is a work filled with beautiful constructions, images exquisite in their metaphorical disturbances. It is a tale of modern life conducted within the confines of imagined worlds, of indifferent communities, of individuals striving to be remembered for the lies and forgotten for the truths.
Richard Bartlett - African Review of Books
Felix Ventura has the sort of job that you find only in whimsical fiction he invents new pasts for people whose family history doesnt live up to their aspirations. This leads to thoughtful and amusing riffs about history, memory and the way in which the past can leak into the present. At what point does made-up stuff become true?
Kate Saunders - The Times