Água Viva by Clarice Lispector (tr. Stefan Tobler)

a nutshell: forget plot/character, this is a 1973 “brain tempest” (Água Viva was intended to convey ~a thing that bubbles~) from one of Brazil’s most celebrated authors

a line: “I know that my gaze must be that of a primitive person surrendered completely to the world, primitive like the gods who only allow the broad strokes of good and evil and don’t want to know about good tangled up like hair in evil, evil that is good”

an image: two words. cat’s placenta | two bonus words. soft oyster

a thought: there are many lofty thoughts aired in this philosonovella (yes I just made up that word) but the one that stopped me in my tracks was one simple remark by Lispector – animals don’t laugh

a fact: the famous singer Cazuza read this book 111 times


want to read Água Viva? visit here

The First Wife by Paulina Chiziane (tr. David Brookshaw)

a nutshell: the first Mozambican woman to have a published novel, Chiziane weaves a captivating story of Rami’s bold struggle for dignity & solidarity among the rivals to her husband’s affection

a line“We women engender existence, but we ourselves don’t exist.”

an image: Rami recalls her grandfather’s habit of getting drunk and going off to take out his anger by playing his “drum”, that is, beating up his wife; such shocking images occur quite casually often in the novel

a thought: the narratorial voice sometimes adopts a quasi-philosophical tone and often made me pause to think about what has just been said, but Rami never pretends to have definitive answers to the complications & injustices of the overwhelmingly patriarchal society – spoiler: men don’t come off well in this novel, ever

a fact: among the wives are many distinctive personalities, but one thing that crops up repeatedly is Mozambique’s north-south cultural divide – one example (of many) is how the south keeps to a patrilineal system, while children in the north take their mother’s name


want to read The First Wife? visit here

Now and at the Hour of Our Death by Susana Moreira Marques (tr. Julia Sanches)

a nutshell: in rural north-eastern Portugal, alongside a palliative care team, Moreira Marques meets families as they face up to losing a loved one – recording their emotions and histories

a line: “Grass as tall as children, on the roadside, dancing. In the horizon, hills meeting like lovers. All this in the deepest purple, seconds after the sun sets.”

an image: one conversation in which a daughter recounts long, lonely drives to visit her bedridden father had me in tears – particularly when she berates herself for things left unsaid

a thought: I was also strongly moved by the value that Moreira Marques attaches to not leaving history to be written ‘by the rich’, leading her to sit until sunset with an elderly couple, Senhor João and Senhora Maria, so they could speak tenderly of all they had lived as well as to speak of death

a fact: to write this the author travelled to Trás-os-Montes – which translates as ‘Behind the Mountains’ – and among the individuals she gets to know are several with strikingly self-sufficient lifestyles, growing their own produce both here and during their past in colonised Angola


want to read Now and at the Hour of Our Death? visit here