Winner of the 2013 Jose Saramago Prize
An Africa39/Unesco City of LIterature 2014 African Writer Under 40
A Guardian Top Five African Writer 2012
Winner of the Grinzane Prize for Best Young Writer 2010
By the beaches of Luanda, the Soviets are building a grand mausoleum in honour of the Comrade President. Granmas are whispering: houses, they say, will be dexploded, and everyone will have to leave. With the help of his friends Charlita and Pi (whom everyone calls 3.14), and with assistance from Dr. Rafael KnockKnock, the Comrade Gas Jockey, the amorous Gudafterov, crazy Sea Foam, and a ghost, our young hero must decide exactly how much trouble he’s willing to face to keep his Granma safe in Bishop’s Beach.
Energetic and colourful, impish and playful, Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret is a charming coming-of-age story from the next rising star in African literature.
Praise for Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret
“Angolan author Ondjaki has found an appropriate balance between knowing and not-knowing, sweetness and cruelty with his young narrator … In language laced with Cuban Spanish and Russian-accented English, the story is informed by its political context but still manages to evoke that magical form of thinking that children in particular possess.”—Globe and Mail
“Ondjaki delivers playful magical realism with delightful defiance.”—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
“Remarkable … at once a coming-of-age novel, rousing adventure, and lyrical experiment … It is no surprise that this energetic and endearing novel is the work of a writer of such stunning accomplishment as Ondjaki, at his best when he is writing the frenetic wonderment of children, even as they contend with the deadly realities of war and political power. The result is ebullient, cinematic, and downright magical.”—Words Without Borders
“A profound novel, perhaps a definitive one of collapsing Soviet power and influence in 1980s Africa … it’s not surprising that it has won literary prizes both as adult fiction and as best young adult novel … a very mature work, well aware of a darker world around it, but careful in what shadows it throws on these pages.”—M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review
“A devilishly simple-yet-sturdy tale of childhood and revolution … Ondjaki’s writing, full of humanity, vivacity, and character, is a whimsical breath of fresh air … His is a voice the entire world should have the pleasure to experience.”—Numéro Cinq
“Much of why I read international literature is that it’s an opportunity to learn about different parts of the world, the politics and cultures of places I’ve never been. Often, things turn dark and tumultuous (the waking nightmares of so many Latin American authors, from so many disparate, ravaged countries, come to mind). This itself is what makes Ondjaki’s Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret so appealing—and surprising. This tale of an African country under Soviet rule is the opposite of so many politically driven novels, a story made noteworthy by its sense of humor and playfulness. Told as a coming-of-age story and a childhood adventure (think The Goonies, but in Angola, maybe), Granma Nineteen is serious literature, in tune with the world it’s molded by, but—unlike so, so many books—honestly fun. It’s joyous and whimsical and wonderfully effortless, aspects that seem unfortunately rare these days, but definitely welcome.”—Justin Souther, Malaprop’s (Asheville, NC)
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