I have just finished reading the absolutely delightful, humorous and sweet:book, Bom Dia Camaradas [Good Morning Comrades] by Angolan author Ondjaki. This is not his first book, but it is the first of his books to come across my table. And what a gratifying surprise!
This is a book of a young man's memories of his teens. Actually is just the memories of a couple of months of his school days. They happen to be also the last days of the Angolan war, which here is seen within the context by his family's routine and the normal adventures of a young teenager's school days. He and his family are well placed in the middle class. And what we learn is how the middle class coped with the war, as well as their hopes for the future.
The story is framed by the arrival and departure of his aunt, who living in Portugal, spends several weeks visiting her family in Luanda. This visit gives Ondjaki a great way of describing Luanda, Angola and people's habits through the eyes and questions not only of the outsider, but through the constant surprise our young man feels when he compares her answers with what he knows to be "real life," that is, life as lived by those in Luanda. These interchanges between nephew and aunt are often humorous and occasionally hilarious, for we are able to see from both sides the amazement and disbelief at how the others live.
Ondjaki is also very skilled in representing the "nothing"-talk of young teens, who are constantly improving on reality not to miss a good tale. He was also very succinct and deft at demonstrating how in a period of crisis, any tale can be believable, and can make people act in the most extreme ways. All of this Ondjaki does while keeping a light tone, a colloquial dialogue in a smart teenager' mouth.
The book is a fast read. It's short, only 146 pages. But it's so charming I wanted to know more and more, I wanted to continue to follow this family's activities. It also has all the characteristics of a book that will become a classic for young readers, anywhere in the world.
For those of us who read it in Portuguese and are not from Angola, there is an extra prize: a wonderful discovery of a language that has acquired an African vocabulary that sings in the ears of Portuguese and certainly Brazilian readers. There is a glossary at the end of the book, but I did not find the need to consult it. I preferred to let the words establish their meaning for themselves.
This is a book I recommend. Pleasant reading and lots of information on Angola.
I will recommend this to my book club. It is that good!