Whenever there is very intense unrest in the world around you, where people kill each other for fun, it is often with no specific message to convey. The only reason these revolutionists, so they call themselves, go gag about the bullets is to prove that they have a control even in such chaotic conditions. In this situation, what do you do as a single young lady?
Week 15 read is a shortlisted book for 2016 Man Booker International Prize.
Title: A Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa (translated by Daniel Hahn)
She is still very young, staying in the apartment of his sister and brother-in-law, when Angolia ‘enjoyed’ the independence from Portugal occupation. What was supposed to be a happy independence years, turned to be chaotic circumstances for almost 26 years due to the outbreak of civil war.
What Ludovica (Ludo) does in the backdrop of Angolian independence was something miraculous.
Ludo keeps herself locked in the apartment – by bricking herself inside it. Yes, you read it right. She doesn’t give up easily as see gets the knowledge of the world around her through radio and the view from her balcony. She writes on the wall with charcoal about what she sees and listens from behind the closed wall.
She might not even be aware that the transcription could be the most valuable history notes even though the the reliability of the content be questioned. You are generally assumed to be not in good mental health and your perception will be believed to have taken over your understanding of the world around.
This is where José Eduardo Agualusa’s work shifts from being a struggle story to a legend. The brilliance of Agualusa’s stories were translated with equal eloquence by Daniel Hahn. All the stories could have been lost in the dark closed rooms of history had they not been narrated by a struggling female striving for survival. This is where the justification of title comes.
The bond between the story and narrator is a tricky one, most of the times. When the story does the talking, the narrator could just relax back and let the words flow. But, there would be that awkward phase of the story where narrator needs to pull himself up – that is how some of the brilliant stories were written. Jose Eduardo Agualusa’s work is where the narrator lays back but Daniel Hahn’s work is where narrator pulls himself up.
As Ludo tries to comprehend the essence of her letters brings your memories back from the oblivion sounding like George Orwell in ‘1984’ –
“I write feeling my way through the letter. An odd experience, as I cannot read what I have written. Therefore, I am not writing for myself.
For whom am I writing?”
But you know “Ludo, my dear, we are very happy now”
Side note: The book has got some of the brilliant chapter titles such as:
Our Sky is your Floor
The days slide by as if they were Liquid
The subtle architecture of Chance
A Pigeon called love and
How, to Quote Marx: All that is Solid Melts into Air.
It creates a strange sense of determination to be a writer yourself, just so that your story stands by the test of time and never had to fear oblivion.