Mia Couto: O Bebedor de horizonte (The Drinker of Horizons)

The latest addition to my website is Mia Couto‘s O Bebedor de horizonte (The Drinker of Horizons). This is the final book in his Sands of the Emperor trilogy about Portugal’s colonial war in Mozambique in the nineteenth century. In this book, the Portuguese under Captain Joaquim Augusto Mouzinho de Albuquerque have defeated the Gaza Empire under Gungunhana. Gungunhana, seven of his three hundred wives, a rival African chief, Zixaxa, and three of his wives , various others, and Imani the Portuguese-speaking heroine of the trilogy, are being sent off into exile (primarily in the Azores). Their journey both down the Limpopo and then by sea to Lisbon is fraught with problems, while we also follow the correspondence between Imani and her lover and father of her child, Sergeant de Melo. Rivalries between the various groups and the behaviour of the Portuguese, both on the boat as well as in Africa, now that they are in control, are all key to the story. Couto is relatively sympathetic towards the Africans, while recognising that they could be just as cruel towards their fellow Africans as the Portuguese. Overall, the trilogy is an excellent account of a colonial war, little known outside Portugal and Mozambique.

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