Cape Verde: Do We Ever Really Know Anyone?

I find it sad that there are many countries in this world with so few printed books, translated into English. Most of us should expand our horizon and explore literature from new (book) countries to us. The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo by Germano Almeida has been translated to surprisingly many languages, which gives me hope. Hopefully people read these rare jewels.

Senhor da Silva Araújo or Napumoceno, is an importer-exporter, or rather was an importer-exporter, a businessman. This novella tells us the story of his life backwards, since the book is about his will and testament, which means the book starts with his death. His will is 387 pages long, and the people listening to the will been read out loud, learn a lot about Napumoceno.

What people did not know about him was that he fathered a daughter. He wasn’t supposed to be the father of this girl, and the mother vanished from his life. He acknowledged his daughter to the extent of sending her mother a monthly allowance.

His biggest business accomplishment was that instead of ordering 1000 umbrellas, he ordered 10 000 by mistake. It basically never rained, so he realized he’d made a big mistake. However, life works in mysterious ways. Surprisingly it started raining in Cape Verde against all odds, just when he gets his umbrellas.

His friends and people who knew him found him a bit dull. The will changed their perception of him, at least to some extent. Everyone knew that he bought a new suit every two years. What they did not know was his daily routines. In a way this was my favourite part of the book. At times the book was as dullish as Napumoceno’s life seemed to be while he was alive and kicking, but towards the end of the book it gives some small colourful details added to his grayish life.

Napumoceno wanted to be a good man, well, who doesn’t to begin with, but he had his fair share of shady deals. It is however hard to judge him. Everybody knew him, he had a good reputation, but he was a loner. He was an orphan, and he never married. We can never really know what goes on in another person’s mind, but at least Napumoceno had a chance of letting everyone know who he was, because listening to his almost 400 pages long will been read out loud on a hot day will give the people you knew an insight to the life of a real character.

I am always eager to learn about countries and cultures, but this book only gave a little glimpse of life on Cape Verde. However, I did warm up to the main character towards the end. I am happy that me as a reader did not have to listen to the whole will been read out loud, that I only got to read the story behind it. This book makes me think about how little we actually know about some people in our lives. If you can lead a life like this on a small African island, imagine what you can do in a big Western city? No wonder everyone seems surprised when their neighbour flips, or someone you went to school with becomes a school shooter… I do believe in people having the right to living their own life without anyone knowing their business, but for the sake of our world, your country, your neighbourhood, your own circle of friends, how far are we willing to take this?

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