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Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret (Biblioasis International Translation) Paperback – June 10, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


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Praise for Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret

"Ondjaki delivers playful magical realism with delightful defiance."—The 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

"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."—The Globe & Mail

"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)

Praise for Ondjaki

"The first significant writer to emerge from the generation that grew up with the revolution ... Ondjaki’s voice recalls the stories of Luandino Vieira [...] in its boundless energy."—Times Literary Supplement

"Deceptively simple but highly entertaining."—The Guardian

"Bubbling up beneath the often whimsical text are deeply unsettling matters – what the author has called Angola’s ‘deepest wounds’ – that expose a cruel and unyielding political dictatorship. Ondjaki pokes fun at the absurdities of the highly censored state-owned media and at the president, too ... Born in 1977, Ondjaki is less burdened by ideology and party loyalty than several older Angolan writers. He also has an ear for the banter, the gossip and chit-chat that beats at the heart of Luandan life."—Lara Pawson, Former BBC World Service Correspondent to Angola, author of In the Name of the People: Angola's Forgotten Massacre

"Here is, for once, a child-narrator who is not particularly precocious ... a dense, fast mix of many glimpses of Angolan life ... a warm, rich, worthwhile read."—The Complete Review

"Ondjaki, doubtless one of the most remarkable cultural figures to emerge in Angola since the year 2000, has increasingly been the object of critical acclaim."—Fernando Arenas, Lusophone Africa: Beyond Independence

"Ondjaki is a craftsman, and an adept one at that, who has the uncanny ability at once to shock and lull the reader."—Mail & Guardian

"Angolan author Ondjaki casts a spell on the reader [...] sending a message of hope from a country ravaged by decades of strife"—New Internationalist

"Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret by Ondjaki (Biblioasis) is a major feat or translation by Stephen Henighan, who has managed to translate the text from Portugese to English, Sprinkle it with Russian, Spanish and Angolan phrases, preserve the many language-based jokes (and keep them funny), and maintain the momentum of this terrific story." Patty Osborne, Geist

From the Back Cover

From the winner of the Jabuti Prize comes a charming novel about the mysteries of childhood. Who is the man they call Sea Foam, and why did he go crazy studying math? Why is Granma Nineteen consorting with Cubans? What exactly are the Russians building next door? Sparkling and lively, Granma Nineteen is a child's-eye view of Cold War Africa.

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Product Details

  • Series: Biblioasis International Translation (Book 12)
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Biblioasis (June 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1927428653
  • ISBN-13: 978-1927428658
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,579,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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Ondjaki is a masterful story -teller...He holds this account together with ever increasing tension so successfully that he reaches the end with a snap rivaling the fireworks that began conversation with us reader/ listeners.
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Format: Paperback
One of the benefits of literary awards, like the Best Translated Book Award, is it brings obscure works to the reading public, nations such as Angola have their artistic presence put to the English speaking world, stories and cultures other than our own are highlighted to a wider audience, and small independent publishers get to highlight their wares. If I hadn’t made the conscious effort to read the longlist of the 2015 Best Translated Book Award I am pretty sure I would still remain without an Angolan novel being on my world reading map.

Author Ondjaki was born in Luanda, Angola in 1977. The author of five novels, three short story collections, poems and stories for children, he was named in 2012, by “The Guardian”, as one of its “Top Five African Writers” and the following year he was awarded the Jose Sarmago Prize for his novel “Os Transparentes”.

This work was originally published in 2008 and is translated from the Portuguese by Stephen Henighan, an admirable job being done their indeed with numerous made up words, a blend of Russian, Portuguese and slang terms throughout, must have presented its own challenges.

To be honest my knowledge of Angolan history was basically non-existent so the Portuguese influence, Cuban speaking characters, a monument to their first President Agostino Neto, and the Soviet troops all a revelation to me.

The work opens with an epigraph by Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, as did the dark “Last Words From Montmartre” by Qiu Miaojin, her works and influence obviously spreading far and wide, Taiwan and Angola!!

For my full review go to http://messybooker.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/granma-nineteen-and-soviets-secret.html
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