cover image The Society of Reluctant Dreamers

The Society of Reluctant Dreamers

José Eduardo Agualusa, trans. from the Portugese by Daniel Hahn. Archipelago, $18 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-93981-048-9

False memories and clairvoyant dreams combine in Agualusa’s sweeping, intricately plotted tale (after A General Theory of Oblivion) of personal and political history in Angola. After criticizing the Angolan government in a Portugese newspaper, middle-aged journalist Daniel Benchimol is fired at the behest of his powerful father-in-law and soon divorced. Set adrift, Daniel checks into a beachside bungalow. While swimming one day, Daniel recovers a waterproof camera containing photographs of a woman who has been appearing in his dreams. She turns out to be Moira Fernandes, a Cape Town artist who takes dreams as her subject. A romance develops between Daniel and Moira after he tracks her down, and she begins working closely with Hélio, a researcher who is developing a technology by which dreams can be recorded and viewed by others. Meanwhile, protests in Angola revive decades-old tensions and build to a violent attempted coup. While the dense and tangled story, rife with diary entries, recounted personal histories, and thinly drawn tertiary characters, is almost too short for its own good, Agualusa manages to pull off a deeply satisfying ending. Readers not well versed in Angolan history will have a hard time, but those with some familiarity will best appreciate Agualusa’s populous, multilayered commentary on the fogs of love and war. (Mar.)