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Q&A with Ondjaki

Photo © Antonio Jorge Goncalves

Transparent City by Ondjaki is out on Thursday 7th October

What inspired your novel Transparent City?

I think it was the city itself, Luanda. I really believe that Luanda uses artists to tell its own history. In the other hand, if you stare at Luanda, it's impossible to resist: you have to live and tell a good tale.

What can readers hope to learn from this book?

I think it's a reflection about the human condition, power and love. Where are we, in time, right now, in terms of human rights? Do we care about 'the other' or 'others'? How short is life?

You are co-owner of a bookshop in Luanda, how did this come about and what prompted you to found your bookshop?

Luanda had and has that specific need, we need books, bookstores and a space for the kids to be in touch with books. At Kiela (our bookshop) you can also play, we have a big backyard or pateo, and we also do mini shows, artists, clowns, theatre play for the kids. That's my main goal: that the kids can spend time close to the books and fantasy.

What do you think is the role of bookshops in the local community?

It's to bring the word 'dream' to our daily life. I think sports and reading are a part of education, and it should not be treated as an option. Everyone should have access to books and sports, not only bread and vaccines. So, bookstores bring people and knowledge together. Also, it's a space for trade, not trading books, but also love and affection.

What would you do if you weren’t a writer?

I would really like to be a pilot, but that's too late. And I still want to teach taiji quan, that's not too late, I guess. And I also would like to learn more about massage. And film documentaries. And do workshops with children, creative writing. That I actually do every once in a while.

What is the best book you read in the last 12 months?

A beautiful book by Angolan author Ana Paula Tavares, called Um rio preso nas mãos, chronicle book, very deep, for this author puts poetry in everything she writes!