In a crumbling apartment block in the Angolan city of Luanda, families work, laugh, scheme, and get by. In the middle of it all is the melancholic Odonato, nostalgic for the country of his youth and searching for his lost son. As his hope drains away and as the city outside his doors changes beyond all recognition, Odo-nato’s flesh becomes transparent and his body increasingly weightless.
A captivating blend of magical realism, scathing political satire, tender comedy, and literary experimentation, Transparent City offers a gripping and joyful portrait of urban Africa quite unlike any before yet published in English, and places Ondjaki, indisputably, among the continent’s most accomplished writers.
Ondjaki was born in Luanda, Angola in 1977. He is the author of five novels, four short-story collections, and numerous books of poems and stories for children. He has also made a documentary film, May Cherries Grow, about his native city. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
In 2008 Ondjaki was awarded the Grinzane for Africa Prize in the category of Best Young Writer. In 2012 The Guardian named him one of its “Top Five African Writers.” Transpar-ent City won the 2013 José Saramago Prize in Portugal, and, in France, the 2015 Prix Trans-fuge for Best African Novel and a 2016 Prix Littérature-Monde from the St. Malo World Literature Festival.
Praise for Transparent City
"Vibrant...Ondjaki is experimentally bold, and his prose shifts through a kaledioscope of registers, from the poetic to the political, the erotic to the absurd...Stephen Henighan's thoughtful translation has an energetic lyricism and is alive to the echoes and vestiges of the African languages that imbue Ondjaki's text...The novel begins and ends with a raging inferno, and yet it is as full of hope, appetite and libidinal energy as it is of grief and mourning." —Times Literary Supplement
"darkly pretty...peppered with poetry...These disparate stories are woven into a beautiful narrative that touches on government corruption, the privatization of water, the dangers of extracting oil for wealth, and the bastardization of religion for profit.. The novel reads like a love song to a tortured, desperately messed-up city that is undergoing remarkable transformations."—Publishers Weekly
"A lively and invigorating novel...With Transparent City, Ondjaki takes his place among the great fabulists of the past century...so rich in heart, and so startlingly fresh in structure and delivery, [he] has gifted us with a contemporary masterpiece." —Toronto Star
"The prose in which Ondjaki tells this story is deftly stylized, suggesting the hazy interconnections between the cast of this sprawling, stunning work. Over time, the plot threads begin to converge, and both the miraculous and the absurdist aspects take on tragic qualities as the novel reaches its stunning conclusion." —Words Without Borders
Praise for Ondjaki
“Ondjaki delivers playful magical realism with delightful defiance.” —The Barnes & Noble Review
“As with Ondjaki’s other novels—including Bom dis camaradas (2001; Good Morning Comrades) and Os Transparentes (2012)—this is a strangely deceptive read. Although the narrative often feels rather whimsical, Angola’s long history of colonialism and conflict, its various foreign allies and enemies, and the extraordinary suffering of its population, are menacingly present . . . a brave and highly political work.” —Times Literary Supplement
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