A Radio France-Culture/Telemrama Best Work of Fiction
Finalist for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize
Winner of the Neustadt Prize
Winner of the 2013 Camoes Prize
Mwanito was eleven when he saw a woman for the first time, and the sight so surprised him he burst into tears.
Mwanito has been living in a former big-game park for eight years. The only people he knows are his father, his brother, an uncle, and a servant. He’s been told that the rest of the world is dead, that all roads are sad, that they wait for an apology from God. In the place his father calls Jezoosalem, Mwanito has been told that crying and praying are the same thing. Both, it seems, are forbidden.
The eighth novel by the internationally bestselling Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences is the story of Mwanito’s struggle to reconstruct a family history that his father is unable to discuss. With the young woman’s arrival in Jezoosalem, however, the silence of the past quickly breaks down, and both his father’s story and the world are heard once more.
The Tuner of Silences has been published to acclaim in more than half a dozen countries. Now in its first English translation, this story of an African boy’s quest for the truth endures as a magical, humanizing confrontation between one child and the legacy of war.
Praise for The Tuner of Silences
“The Tuner of Silences [published in English in 2013] is a wonderful book – it’s poetic, incorporating poetry into the chapters, and it also describes a kind of post-apocalyptic world that’s both very grim and strangely beautiful.”—Edwin Frank, founder and editor of New York Review Books
“Quite unlike anything else I have read from Africa.””—Doris Lessing
“By meshing the richness of African beliefs . . . into the Western framework of the novel, he creates a mysterious and surreal epic.”—Henning Mankell
“Subtle and elegant.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Mia Couto, long regarded as one of the leading writers in Mozambique, has now been recognized as one of the greatest living writers in the Portuguese language … The Tuner of Silences cracks open a welcoming window onto a vast world of literary pleasures that has for too long remained under the radar in the English-speaking world.”—Philip Graham, The Millions
“Lovers of African literature may find resonance here between Couto’s writing and J.M. Coetzee’s new novel, The Childhood of Jesus. Both turn away from the present to reflect on the ethics of our interactions with others and the parameters of our internal worlds. While Couto’s work is ultimately more joyful, The Tuner of Silences remains a sad novel of poetic brilliance – haunting in its human landscape.”—The Independent
“David Brookshaw’s lyrical translation of Mia Couto’s Portuguese lull[s] us into a hypnotized semi-acceptance of [an] impossible universe … Couto’s narrative tone, at once deadpan and beguiling, and his virtuoso management of time, place him alongside the best Latin American magic realists.”—Times Literary Supplement
““Mia Couto is trying to lift the yoke of colonialism from a culture by reinvigorating its language. A master of Portuguese prose, he wants to lift that burden one word, one sentence, and one narrative at a time, and in this endeavor he has few if any peers.”—Robert Con Davis-Undiano, Executive Director, World Literature Today
“Some critics have called Mia Couto ‘the smuggler writer,’ a sort of Robin Hood of words who steals meanings to make them available in every tongue, forcing apparently separate worlds to communicate. Within his novels, each line is like a small poem.”—Gabriella Ghermandi
“A fine portrait of grief and loss … and a strange fever-dream that jolts in and out of fantasy.”—The Globe & Mail
“Couto’s powerful, haunting, kaleidoscopic mythopoesis dramatizes the grievous, crumbling, post-nuclear family, forever on the run from its inevitable breakdown, with nowhere to go in a barbed-wire world where beauty provokes violence … a chthonic pietà carved from gnarled, screaming, ironwood stumps.”—The Review of Contemporary Fiction
“To understand what makes António “Mia” Emílio Leite Couto special — even extraordinary — we have to loosen our grip on the binary that distinguishes between “the West” and “Africa.” Couto is “white” without not being African, and as an “African” writer he’s one of the most important figures in a global Lusophone literature that stretches across three continents. The Tuner of Silences is an instantly recognizable part of this oeuvre … We begin with the magic, with fantasy, with the impossible, and we steadily discover, in the end, that it never really was, that it always was what we were trying to pretend it wasn’t. There is no magic. There is only reality.”—The New Inquiry
“Couto is the author of six novels, six short story collections, and numerous other books, which have been published in more than twenty countries. His fable-like short stories, rooted in animist culture and an irreverent disregard for the conventions of formal literary Portuguese, celebrate African oral storytelling … Such white writers as Nadine Gordimer or J. M. Coetzee in neighbouring South Africa remain more observers than participants in the African culture that surrounds them, but Couto’s work, drenched in traditional African conceptions of time, ancestry, and belonging to the land, is widely read in Mozambique, and seen as representative of the country’s hybridized African culture.”—The Walrus
“Starkly poetic … a novel of damaged souls in a damaged country, The Tuner of Silences is an eloquent tale of loss.” —M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review
“Couto’s language is rich, fertile, and often full of riddles that turn reality, as we know it, on its head. His stories straddle African and European worlds, and his preoccupations range across issues of race and identity, national culture and legacies of the country’s civil war … translated into shimmering prose by David Brookshaw, The Tuner of Silences is a true tour-de-force of modern African writing … Couto’s literary cosmos is unforgettable.” —Anderson Tepper, Words Without Borders
“A phenomenal book … a paragon of contemporary African literature … some of the most beautiful and moving prose being written today.”—The Coffin Factory
“The biggest event in international literature this season could easily be the unexpected and magnificent novel of the Mozambican Mia Couto…. The fascination exerted by this novel, which one cannot put down, resides in its many resonances. The reader is immersed in the concrete, sensual, even comic nature of the universe into which he ushers us. Mia Couto has made his way discreetly in France as a short story writer and poet. Now we know that he is a very great novelist.”—L’Humanité (Paris)
“The language floats in a zone where existence becomes a paste of voices and silence. Couto’s ghosts have huge hearts but fine ears.”—Libération (Paris)