Idioma original: portuguese

Original title: A stranger in Goa

Translation: Claudia Solans

Year of publication: 2000

Valuation: recommendable

Well, we haven’t talked many times about expectations and preconceived ideas! It’s time to go back to them because the first thing I thought when I had them in my hands A stranger in Goaeven knowing that this is a novel, It was in Ryszard Kapuscinki, in his One more day alive and in Commander Farrusco.

It doesn’t seem crazy to me either. After all, the back cover of the book talks about a writer who sets out in search of a legend, of a former guerrilla commander in Angola who could have been an infiltrated Portuguese agent. (Now that I think about it, he could have also talked about Cesárea Tinajero and The Savage Detectives, right?)

Well, the fact is that the novel, or the novel plot itself, is relatively brief. However, and I think this is almost more interesting, the book opens up to other paths and becomes a historical and/or anthropological essay, travel book, thriller, journalistic chronicle, etc. All of the above thanks to a skeptical narrator and the confused memory of a few days in the Indian province (and former Portuguese colony) of Goa in which The real world seems very far away.

I think the main virtue of the book lies in the strange atmosphere in which the author surrounds us. And it is strange in two senses: in the purely physical or sensorial sense and in the social sense. On the one hand, the humid heat, the landscape and its sensuality leave a sticky sensation; on the other, the Catholic churches in the middle of India, the descendants of Portuguese who long for a homeland they have never been to, etc. leave a feeling of disorientation and foreignness that leads us to reflect on identity and memory.

All of this, of course, with the shadow of Plácido Domingo / Commander Maciel hovering over the novel. He is a dark character, constructed from his silences and ellipses, a kind of Portuguese-speaking Colonel Kurz.

I will end by linking this review with that of two other books by Agualusa that have already been reviewed and which have a very different assessment. I will place myself in the equidistant position, in a “recommendable” position in which the “journalistic/essayistic” works as a counterweight to a novelistic plot that remains, in my humble opinion, almost anecdotal.


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