Mozambique: Civil War and Magical Realism

Back to one of the main themes in global literature: war. Another as devastating theme is almost as universal: colonialism. Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto is set in the civil war era in Mozambique. After Portugal’s rule is over, the fight for who will rule over Mozambique lasted for about 15 years.

An older man, Tuahir, and a young boy, Muidinga, flees the refugee camp and stays in an abandoned bus. They find a notebook written by a now deceased man. They read the notes and the story unfolds. The book starts of quite nicely, the prose flows in an intriguing way, and then… my two least favourite literary words: magical realism.

Violence is always present, lingering in the background, but it is not taking an actual part of the story. It seems like Tuahir and Muidinga are the only two people in a misty haze in the middle of a war thorn country. They are dislocated in a world, country, and book in a way that the story has to be read, not heard.

The book has gotten ravishing reviews, won prices, and even been named as one of the 12 best African books of the twentieth century. I have a feeling the readers are either mesmerized or confused by the book. There are aspect of the book I enjoy. The beginning is promising, and the book catches my interest.  It is always heartbreaking to read about civil war, or war in general, and how it affects ordinary peoples’ lives. What I cannot stand is magical realism. It is simply the one genre I detest. Sadly, the book is mostly magical realism.

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