THE LOVES OF JOAO VENCIO by José Luandino Vieira


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Novella about a small-time African hustler jailed for trying to kill his girlfriend--by the Portuguese-born Vieira, who was raised in an Angola shantytown. Mulatto Joao Vencio has been called a "bush viper," "sexopath," and "ingenerate malefactor"--all unfair, he thinks. Yes, he tried to kill his night-black Bailundo girl--after catching her in bed with the cornmeal merchant he calls a "white chimp"--but she obviously still loves him, visiting him in jail and bringing tasty treats. "Glistening girl," he says, "it's me that shines her body" and goes on, in a monologue, to explain his life: shantytown social divisions and mores; the childhood sweetheart from Cape Verde with whom he blinded birds; his crush on the long-suffering wife of the white doctor; his affair with a schoolboy friend with long golden curls; the horrifying and senseless death of Ninito, the hard-working "constant good example at home." The original text was written in an amalgam of Portuguese, Kimbundu, and street slang; the lively, colloquial English translation gets its African flavor from metaphor, as when Joao looks at his life as beads of different colors that form a single necklace. A brief celebration of race-mixing sensuality, spicy stews, violence, the ocean, and the behavior codes of poor folks, reminiscent of the work of Brazil's Jorge Amado. If Vieira here offers less developed fiction than Amado, he's also less sentimental and more of a poet. The poor white shantytown setting introduces a little known African subculture.

ISBN: 15-146390-5
Publisher: Harcourt
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