Mia Couto is an author in Mozambique. He has lived there his whole life and lived through the FREMILO war against the Portuguese which led to an independent Mozambique. His stories are usually about African identities. This book will study some of them.
‘THE PRIVATE APOCALYPSE OF UNCLE GEGUE’
“A man’s story is always badly told. That’s because a person never stops being born. Nobody leads one sole life, we are all multiplied into different and ever changeable men.” This is how the story begins. It reminds us that people are always changing. We can become better or worse; it is out choice which.
The Boy who tells the story is staying with his Uncle. One day when his Uncle is asleep a mysterious woman appears. His Uncle warns him that “Women are an endless territory, and when we journey through them, we always get lost.” This happens when the Nephew has a relationship with the lady, called Zabelani. When his uncle discovers she is sent away.
The boy joins the corrupt militia that his Uncle is a member of. They commit illegal activities. The boy asks his Uncle to tell him where Zabelani lives. This is because he is an orphan and she is the only mother he has ever known. When they arrive, her house is burned and she has been taken.
His Uncle feels guilty and commands the Boy to kill him. The Boy is sad, but also feels freed because it affirms his identity as an orphan. This short story is about the importance of family and love. These things are needed in life, especially after a war.
‘THE BLIND FISHERMAN’
The story is about a fisherman. Mazembe the fisherman was trapped at sea. After weeks he was starving and had run out of bait. He cuts out both of his eyes, and with them catches the biggest fish of his life. He rows blindly until he hits land. When he returns “There was weeping and bewilderment. All wanted to see him, no one wanted to look at him.” They admire his achievement, but are disgusted by his appearance.
“Mazembe had returned shorn of that which goes furthest towards making us what we are: the eyes, windows which reveal the light of our soul.” Because he becomes blind he no longer believes in the people and places around him. His wife offers to fish for him, but he things it would be stupid for a woman to fish. To stop her he stays in his boat on the shore all day.
Like this he loses track of everything except the waves. Couto says that “he appeared to be seeking the wholeness of his face among the many generations of waves.” However, the waves cannot speak to him.
This story is about accepting who you are. Couto begins by saying “we live far from ourselves, in distant make-believe. We vanish into concealment. Why do we prefer to live in this inner darkness?” People like Mazembe try to hide who they are because they are scared. It is important to be proud of who you are. This is the only way to lead a happy life.
‘WOMAN OF ME’
‘Woman of Me’ is a short story which happens in a single evening. It is about a man who is looking at woman he is in love with. When he looks at her he starts thinking about life.
He says “all I wanted was to forget me. Lying there like that, the only thing I seemed to lack was death. Not the definitive one that takes us away with it. The other: the season-death”. This is not actual death but a kind of sleep. Winter is a type of death, but because it happens spring can come along. He says that this is “all because of the woman’s voice: it recalled the gentle murmur of a spring, the seduction of a return to times beyond, when there was no before.” Being with this woman reawakens him. She is like Spring, which causes plants to grow again.
When he is with the woman he sees his history and his past. He says that “he sought to turn me into a child, to lead me back to a primitive quiescence.” She makes him discover his childhood innocence. He becomes a better human. It is a moment of rebirth in his life. Being with her left him “unprotected, orphaned.” Being in love is something which has happened through history. By being in love, he is joining his ancestors. He is separated from his parents because his new family will be with his wife. But because of this he can have children and continue the history of his people and family.
He also says that “from the dead, we still go on getting messages, we take kindly to their familiar shadows.” He receives knowledge from the past. However, he can only be a full person in the present. He says that “without me being her, I was incomplete, formed only in the arrogance of halves. In her, I had found not a woman to be mine, but the woman of me, the one who, from now on, would light me in each phase of the moon.” A wife is a part of a husband because a man and woman complete each other. When he is with her he is discovering hidden parts of himself. Mia Couto shows how special love and relationships are. When you are in a happy relationship and treat your partner well, you lose yourself and then find yourself again.
These stories are all about loss of identity. The characters all try to escape from their families and jobs. But when they do this they are also running away from themselves. They show that it is important to be proud of how you are. You should stay with your job and your family and be proud of them. This is the way to a happy life. One day you may be rewarded with love, and have a family of your own.