Editors: Grant Hamilton & David Huddart
Extent: 248 pp
Publication: September 2016
Publisher: James Currey
Already well-established in the Lusophone world, Mia Couto is increasingly acknowledged as a major voice in World literature. Winner of the Camões Prize for Literature in 2013, the most prestigious literary prize honouring Lusophone writers, he was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2014, and in 2015 was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. Yet, despite this high profile there are very few full-length critical studies in English about his writing.
Mia Couto is known for his imaginative re-working of Portuguese, making it distinctively Mozambican in character. This book brings together some of the key scholars of his work such as Phillip Rothwell, Luís Madureira, and his long-time English translator David Brookshaw. Contributors examine not only his early works, which were written in the context of the 16-year post-independence civil war in Mozambique, but also the wide span of Couto’s contemporary writing as a novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist. There are contributions on his work in ecology, theatre and journalism, as well as on translation and Mozambican nationalist politics. Most importantly the contributors engage with the significance of Couto’s writing to contemporary discussions of African literature, Lusophone studies and World literature.
The essays here illuminate the work of Mia Couto in an effort to move beyond the easy categories so often applied to his work, in particular that of magic realist. The texts here demonstrate the need for Western audiences and critics, in particular, to reinvent the lexicon we use to discuss Couto’s work in the same way he has reinvented Portuguese: they show in great detail the way in which the writer’s poetic prose extends far beyond aesthetic considerations in service of a larger project so often misunderstood by readers and critics alike. This is a welcome aide to understanding one of today’s most important writers. Eric M. B. Becker, translator of Mia Couto and editor of Words without Border