Mia Couto has written many books of fiction, poetry, and essays. This is a new collection of short fiction, and I mean very short. Many of the pieces were between 1 and 3 pages. I haven’t read any of his other works, although I have one of his more famous books, Confessions of a Lioness, on my shelf at home.
It’s hard for me to put my finger on why I liked Couto’s writing so much. He’s neither flowery nor simplistic, but some perfect medium in between. Every other sentence had me pausing with emotion due to his easy yet powerful statements about the way the world works. I found his writing very striking. For example, “Nothing in this world comes about all of a sudden.” It’s a relatively simple statement, but cast in the light of the story Couto is telling, this line filled me with wonder about the truth of it.
There were several themes through Couto’s stories. Through looking at blindness, Couto talked about the ways in which we see and hear the world. Some of his stories were rather grotesque, but many question the way we interact with our world. How do we interact with others? Couto wrote a story about an old man on his birthday, called Ninety-Three. As you may imagine, he’s turning ninety-three, and he feels as though his family could care more about him and less about partying. He feels unnoticed and underappreciated. Only three lines into the story, Couto writes, “There was no other day throughout the year when they remembered him.” I felt overcome with sorrow over the way we treat others, how we put them into boxes based on their age, or their disability, or their socio-economic class. Everyone finds someone to other based on something about themselves we do not wish to understand, or feel as though we already understand completely.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.