Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ondjaki's Good Morning Comrades

Good reviews keep coming in for backlist titles, as well as news that others are forthcoming -- including a review of our Kapuscinski in Rain Taxi. This time Australian Damian Kelleher, a prominent Australian blogger and reviewer, weighs in on Ondjaki's Good Morning Comrades, the second title in our Biblioasis translation series. This book did not get the attention it deserved, as we did not have the appropriate US distribution in place and had little reputation south of the border as a literary press. that has changed somewhat over the last 18 months, which has resulted, it seems in a few of our backlist titles getting a bit of additional attention.

Damian writes of Comrades:

Good Morning Comrades is short, and it refrains from seeking too much closure. Life goes on, though life has changed, and Ndalu accepts this, though he doesn't like it much. Much of the flippant, charmingly positive boy remains by the end of the novel, though his personality has now become tempered with the truths he has realised. Stephen Henighan, who translated Good Morning Comrades from the Portuguese, provides a brief overview of Angola's troubled history since gaining independence, which provides an excellent postscript to Ondjaki's novel. On a second read-through, many of Ndalu's offhand comments become clearer, and the sad shape of Angola begins to coalesce.

Ondjaki's debut novel is very strong, thanks in large part to the charisma of its narrator. Ndalu is very much the sort of young boy you would expect to become a writer, or reporter, or academic, or even politician. He is, in short, an intellectual, a curious boy who will, we hope, become an even more curious man. Ondjaki himself is an astonishingly productive author, having written nine novels and directed a documentary about Luanda, his home city, the capital of Angola, and the setting of Good Morning Comrades – and this all from a man barely into his thirties. Good Morning Comrades is a charming novel, subtle in its examination of the political difficulties of a small, poorly known African nation. Well recommended.

For the whole review, please go here.

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