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Good Morning Comrades (Biblioasis International Translation Series) Paperback – 11 Apr 2008
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"Good Morning Comrades is a charming novel, subtle in its examination of the political difficulties of a small, poorly known African nation. Well recommended."—Damian Kelleher
About the Author
Ondjaki: Ondjaki was born in Angola in 1977. He studied sociology in Lisbon and attended film school in New York. He is the author of three novels and three short story collections, in addition to two collections of poems and a book for children. Ondjaki's novels and stories have been translated into English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. His novel The Whistler appeared in English from Aflame Books in the U.K. He lives in Luanda and has made a documentary film about his native city.Stephen Henighan: Stephen Henighan's books include Lost Province: Adventures in a Moldovan Family, A Grave in the Air, The Streets of Winter and A Report on the Afterlife of Culture. A nominee for the Governor General of Canada's Literary Award, he teaches at the University of Guelph, Ontario.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The Good: Ondjaki’s writing is wonderful: he conveys very tongue-in-cheek moments subtly, provides a convincing voice for the young Ndalu, and paints an evocative scene of Angola.
The Bad: While I think this book provided exactly what it needed to give the reader a glimpse, that is what it is: a glimpse. It’s a short book, just over 100 pages, without much detail about the individual characters, their history, their motivations. As a result, the characters are only made three-dimensional through their voices. None of this is bad, but it does make the reader feel less committed to the story, in general.
Note: the "some violence" is not very vivid or descripted. I thought it would be important to state that while there is not much violence depicted, fighting/death is implied and described, but to a very minimal standard. If you are worried about the aspect of violence as a deterrent, don't be.
Seeing the world through the eyes of a growing boy, daily life, however, is preoccupied with school, games, friends and family. The parades, the power struggles between the regime and its opponents are noted but not understood and have little bearing on the daily life of the children. Their naïveté protects them from getting into trouble; they don't ask questions; the world is fine as it is. When, for example, Ndalu is chosen to make a May Day speech on the radio and his own prepared text is replaced by another text for him to read, he doesn't question this decision. Nor does he question the privileges of his own family in comparison to the poverty of others in his class. They are all together and support (as well as tease) each other. He does wonder, though, why his aunt, visiting from Portugal, does not know anything about ration cards and could, at home, buy as much chocolate as she liked.
The school features prominently in the novel, in particular classes with the Cuban teachers. They are often the subject of the children's discussions. Still, over time they develop a real affection for them – without questioning why they are there in the first place – and when they (like most other Cubans in the country at the time) leave Angola they are sad to see them leave. Their departure coincided with the year end of the last school year. The young people will be scattered into different directions and, for the first time, Ndalu experiences personal loss, sadness and insecurity about what the future will hold. The Cuban teachers leave the students with their philosophy: "…children really are the flower of humanity."
Good Morning Comrades is a simple, yet vividly told story. The reader easily connects with Ndalu and his friends. Below the surface, Ondjaki touches on many issues that the young country and its people had to deal with. Stephen Henighan's very informative Afterword is highly recommended reading as it places the novel in its historical context and greatly contributes to a deeper understanding of its importance in the literary treatment of Angola's early years as an independent country that was caught very much in the middle of the Cold War and its competing international interests. [Friederike Knabe]
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