Mia Couto: Jesusalém (Brazil: Antes de nascer o mundo) (Tuner of Silences)

tuner

The latest addition to my website is Mia Couto‘s Jesusalém (Brazil: Antes de nascer o mundo) (Tuner of Silences). As with his other books, this book is set in Mozambique during the war. Though not specified, it is presumably the Mozambican Civil War. Silvestre Vitalício, (whose his real name is Mateus Ventura) leaves the city with his family – his two sons, his brother-in-law and his servant – after the traumatic death of his wife. To everyone’s surprise they are running into the war, not from it, but they find a deserted encampment in an abandoned game reserve and settle there. Silvestre christens its Jesusalém in Portuguese, translated as Jezoosalem in English. The story is narrated by Mwanito, the youngest son, who is now eleven but was three when they left. He has no recollection of ever having seen a woman and is christened tuner of silences by his father as his only vocation is silence. Silvestre is determined that they are are the only people left in the world. There are no other people and even God has left. Things change dramatically, when a woman, a white Portuguese woman called Marta, appears, brought in by Aproximado, Silvestre’s brother-in-law, who, unlike the others, maintains some contact with the real world. When the war ends, it is time to go back, as the reserve has been sold to a private concern. Silvestre, however, is still struggling with his demons while the others try to adapt to the real world and, more or less, succeed. It is a fine though unusual story, focussing on Couto’s theme of war and the horrible effects it has on ordinary people but also on the themes of struggling to live together, when in isolation, and adapting to changing circumstances when the world is not in a state of normality.

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2 Comments

  1. Silvestre christens its Jesusalém in Portuguese, translated as Jezoosalem in English.

    That’s like, yeah, whatever.

    I hope at some point the translator explained that Jesusalém is a pun on the city of Jerusalem: Jesus + Além (beyond; afterlife) so that the place they live in can be interpreted as being beyond, away from Jesus, or where Jesus can’t reach, emphasizing the civilizational isolation Ventura wishes for his children.

  2. very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.

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