Project Description

Camões Prize 1997Pepetela


Pepetela, born in Benguela in 1941, is one of Angola’s leading novelists. Distinguished by his consummate ability to combine personal and political elements within a historical context, he was awarded the Prémio Camões and the Prémio Nacional de Cultura e Artes. He occupied a leading position in the fight against Portugal’s colonialism and was a member of the first government after independence. He wins the Casino da Póvoa do Correntes d’Escritas Literary Prize 2020 with his novel HIS EXCELLENCY, R.I.P. (“Sua Excelência, de Corpo Presente”). The prize consists of 20.000,00 €. Pepetela lives in Luanda.

Pepetela© Jorge Nogueira


His Excellency, R.I.P.

In His Excellency, R.I.P. (“Sua Excelência, de Corpo Presente”) an African dictator lies in a coffin in an enormous hall. He is dead, but sees, hears and thinks. Stretched out, imprisoned in a body without life, but in possession of his intellectual faculties, all he can do to pass the time is recall his life experiences with many of those who come to pay their last respects, among them several relatives, the first lady (and his other wives and mistresses), his numerous children and state dignitaries. In remembering his life, the path that led him to being president and his many years as head of state, he reveals us the meanderings of political power, the nepotism that consumed him and the various abuses allowed to those who supported him. And since he is aware of everything that goes on around him, and it is very difficult for a dictator to stop dictating, His Excellency not only speculates on those present and their political interests, but also tries to guess their thoughts and machinations. For even when dead, he will not leave his succession in the hands of others, instead trying to meddle with the help of his one-eyed spy, who is as faithful to him in death as he was in life.


If the Past Had No Wings

Luanda, 1995: On the run from the horrors of civil war, thirteen-year-old Himba attempts to survive as a street child. After being raped and hurt, a well-intentioned local resident accommodates her and her friend Kassule at a church-run project. But soon Himba decides: You have always to fight for your own well-being. Nearly 20 years later, the growing globalization presents a new challenge for the young Sofia: Can her little restaurant withstand the economic competition? As she uses the death of her business partner to secretly appropriate her share, her greed will cost her the close relationship with her brother: Deeply disappointed by the machinations of Sofia, Diego turns away from his beloved sister. In If the Past Had No Wings (“Se o passado não tivesse asas”) Pepetela presents two strong female characters in two interwoven storylines. But the violence of war and the brutality of the subsequent struggle for survival are not easily shaken off. On the way from street kid to businesswoman, during Luanda’s development from theatre of war to cosmopolitan business centre, the past has grown wings.


If the Past Had No Wings


The Shy One and the Women

Heitor has always been shy, and when his latest girlfriend dumps him, he rents a run-down hut on the outskirts of Luanda to heal his broken heart. Listening to a particular radio programme, Heitor soon becomes addicted to the charming voice of its presenter Marisa. Through fate, they meet and fall in love. But Marisa is married… Featuring quirky and loveable characters, The Shy One and the Women (“O tímido e as mulheres “) is not only a love story but also an entertaining portrait of today’s Luanda.


In the South. The Sombreiro

Set in the heart of Africa at the beginning of the 17th century, Pepetela’s novel In the South. The Sombreiro (“À Sul. O Sombreiro”) is full of adventure, political intrigues and magical elements. While the ruthless governor Cerveira founds the town of Benguela, the black native Carlos Rocha flees to the Savannah and stays with one of Africa’s fiercest warrior tribes to avoid a terrible fate.


In the South. The Sombreiro


The Highlands and the Steppes

The Highlands and the Steppes (“O Planalto e a Estepe “) tells a true story of great passion and suffering, scarred by a love nourished by hope and waiting. When Júlio is sent from Angola to Portugal to study medicine, he gets involved in clandestine communist cells. In Moscow, he falls in love with the Mongolian girl Sarangerel. But politics and tradition conspire against them, and Sarangerel is taken back to Mongolia. Will they ever meet again?


The Highlands and the Steppes


The Predators

After this successful foray into crime fiction, Pepetela returns with the ambitious and powerful novel The Predators (“Os predadores”) that attempts to get to the heart of Angola’s tragic recent history. The novel ostensibly revolves around the character of Vladimiro Caposso, an unscrupulous and opportunistic businessman, charting his rise and fall over the last thirty years. Going back to the last days of Portuguese colonial rule, we find Caposso aged 18, working in a colonist’s grocer’s store.  When the Portuguese leave, he takes over the store and begins his rise to wealth and power first through the heady days of the transition to independence, then becoming a corrupt bureaucrat as Angola joins the Soviet bloc, and onwards as an entrepreneur into the unrestrained capitalism and social upheaval of the 1990s, the civil war ever simmering in the background. The action stretches from tribal herdsmen’s villages seemingly untouched by civilisation, through Luanda’s decaying urban sprawl, to life on campus in the United States for an Angolan exchange student. Caposso is the link that binds these disparate worlds together, his actions impacting on the lives of every one of the characters.

Following the strongly-drawn characters from the shanty towns to the mansions of the nouveau-riche with an engrossing plot, passionately written and keen to explain, there is no more readable introduction to Angola and its recent past.


Jaime Bunda, Secret Agent // Jaime Bunda and the Death of the American

In Jaime Bunda, Secret Agent (“Jaime Bunda, agente secreto”), the author has chosen the fat, unlucky trainee at Luanda’s secret police, as the protagonist of a crime story set in Luanda, where it is easier to find a Kalashnikov than an honest official. Jaime Bunda becomes a credible guide on an anything but touristy trail through the city of Luanda. He appears again in the following novel, Jaime Bunda and the Death of the American (“Jaime Bunda e a morte do americano”). Now he has to clear up the murder of an American engineer. Pepetela pokes fun at the Americans for their seemingly pathological anxiety of terror attacks as well as mocking the antiamericanism of the Angolans. The tensions within this country, which lives in constant political insecurity since its independence, are continuously present in Pepetela’s work.


Mayombe // Kianda’s Desire // The Generation of a Utopia

Pepetela’s career as a writer started during the war for independence, when he wrote his first novel, Mayombe, published in 1980, in which he describes the conflicts in Angola’s fight for liberation. His novels are mainly set against the backdrop of important historical events during almost a century of Angolan history. An essential theme of his work is the greatness and strength of past cultures still existing in modern Angola.

The ironical, merciless portrait of the country’s capital Luanda in Kianda’s Desire (“O desejo de Kianda”) shows a post-colonial Angola worn down and devastated by four decades of colonial and civil war. The Generation of a Utopia (“Geração da utopia”) provides a unique vision of the author’s own generation, its dreams of independence, its fights and victories, despair and hope.


Kianda’s Desire


His Excellency, R.I.P. (”Sua Excelência, de Corpo Presente“)

Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2018, 272 p.
Póvoa do Correntes d’Escritas Literary Prize 2020
Brazil: Kapulana 2020 · India: Jadavpur University Press

If the Past Had No Wings (”Se o passado não tivesse asas“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2016, 384 p.

The Shy One and the Women (“O tímido e as mulheres”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2013, 304 p.
Brazil: Leya 2014

In the South. The Sombreiro (”À Sul. O Sombreiro“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2011, 360 p.
Argentina: UNSAM 2018 · Brazil: Leya 2011 · Colombia: Uniandes 2016

The Highlands and the Steppes (”O planalto e a estepe“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2009, 190 p.
Brazil: Leya 2009 · Estonia: Loomingu Raamatukogu 2013

O quase fim do mundo
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2008, 384 p.
Brazil: Leya 2008, Kapulana 2019

O Terrorista de Berkeley, Califórnia
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2007, 115 p.
Colombia: Taller de Edicion Rocca 2018 · Cuba: Arte y Literatura 2012 · Mexico: Elefanta

The Predators (”Predadores“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2005, 382 p.
Argentina: EUDEBA · Brazil: Leya 2007 · Bulgaria: Five Plus 2009 · France: Éditions du Panthéon 2016 · Italy: Tuga Edizioni 2013 · The Netherlands: De Geus 2008

Jaime Bunda and the Death of the American (“Jaime Bunda e a morte do Americano”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2003, 277 p.
Brazil: Leya 2007 · Cuba: Arte y Literatura 2011 · Sweden: Panta Rei 2016 · Mexico: Elefanta 2018

Jaime Bunda, Secret Agent (”Jaime Bunda, agente secreto“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2001, 312 p.
Brazil: Record 2003, Leya 2007, Kapulana 2022 · Cuba: Arte y Literatura 2010 · Denmark: Hjulet 2002 · France: Buchet Chastel 2005 · German: Unionsverlag 2004, pb 2006 · Italy: Edizioni E/O 2006 · Mexico: Elefanta (several Latin American countries) 2014 · Poland: Claroscuro 2010 · Sweden: Panta Rei 2011 · UK: Aflame 2006

A montanha da água lilás
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2000, 164 p.
Italy: Sette Città

A gloriosa família
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1997, 406 p.
Brazil: Nova Fronteira 1999, Leya 2007 · The Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2001 · Norway: Cappelen 2006 · Spain: Texto Editores 2006

Parable of the Old Tortoise (”Parábola do cágado velho“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1996, 183 p.
Brazil: Nova Fronteira 2005, Leya 2011 · Italy: Besa 2000, 2017, 2021 · Norway: Cappelen 2003 · Spain: Alianza 1999, Al otro lado · Sweden: Tranan 2000

Kianda’s Desire (”O desejo de Kianda“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1995, 119 p.
Brazil: Leya 2007, Kapulana 2021 · Finland: Helsinki University Press 2001 · France: Actes Sud 2002 · Greece: Kritiki 2001 · Israel: Kinneret 2011 · Italy: Lavoro 2010 · The Netherlands: De Geus 2011 · Spain: Alianza 1999 · UK: Heinemann 2002

The Generation of Utopia (“A geração da utopia”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1992, 316 p.
Brazil: Nova Fronteira 2000, Leya 2011 · Canada: Biblioasis forthcoming August 2024 · France: Présence Africaine Éditions 2021 · Italy: Diabasis 2009 · Mexico: Elefanta · Spain: Txalaparta 2003

Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1985, 395 p.
Belgium: Éperonniers 1992, ADEN (French) · Germany: Volk und Welt 1988 · Poland: GlowBooks · UK: Heinemann 1996

The Dog and the People of Luanda (”O Cão e os Caluandas“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1985, 186 p.
Brazil: Leya 2007, Kapulana 2019 · Finland: Like 1991 · Germany: Ed. Südliches Afrika 1986 · Italy: Felici 2015 · Sweden: Tranan 2005

Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1980, 288 p.
Brazil: Leya 2007 · Chile: LOM · Germany: Volk und Welt 1983, Ed. Südliches Afrika 1985 · Italy: Lavoro 1989 (avail.) · Japan: Ryokuchisha 1993 · Spain: Txalaparta 1991, Ed. 62 (Catalan) 2010 · UK: Heinemann 1994

Ngunga’s Adventures (“As Aventuras de Ngunga”)
Lisbon: Edições 70 1977, 128 p., Dom Quixote 2002
Angola: UEA 1977 · Brazil: Ática 1980, Kapulana 2023 · Cuba: Gente Nueva 2010 · Germany: Der Kinderbuch Verlag 1981 · Italy: Casa de Angola na Italia · Poland: Mapa Kultury 2024 · Russia: Khudozhestvenaia 1977 · Spain: Txalaparta 1997 · Spain (Basque): Txalaparta 1966 · Sweden: Afrikagrupperna i Sverige 1983 · South Africa: Mangalani · UK: Writers and Readers Publ. Coop. 1980 · Uruguay: Livros del Artillero 1986

Crónicas com fundo de guerra
Lisbon: Ed. Nelson de Matos 2011, 216 p.

Contos de morte
Lisbon: Ed. Nelson de Matos 2008, 94 p.

A revolta da casa dos ídolos
Lisbon: Edições 70, 1980, 157 p.

Angola entdecken!
Germany: Arachne 2015