cover image Confessions of the Lioness

Confessions of the Lioness

Mia Couto, trans. from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (208p) ISBN 978-0-374-12923-1

Inspired by real events experienced by prolific author Couto (The Tuner of Silences), this lyrical novel is about the many facets of fear that haunt the people in the tiny village of Kulumani, deep in the bush of Mozambique. There has been a rash of violent deaths, leaving the inhabitants terrified—women are being killed by lions. There are conflicting accounts among the villagers about what has drawn the animals. Some say that the lions are otherworldly creatures, some say that the recent wars have made the lions brave, and still others say that the lions are not the culprit at all. Whatever it is, a local politician hires Archie Bullseye, a hunter by birthright, to come and kill the lions. When he arrives in Kulumani, he’s faced with the bitter suspicion and hostility of a society so isolated that any outside influence is immediately seen as a threat. Mariamar, a young woman whose sister was a victim of the attacks, watches him from afar. She wishes desperately for him to rescue her from a life stifled by the absolute power of her father and chronic illness. The story is told through Archie and Mariamar’s diaries, both lost souls searching from something to save them from a life shaped by trauma. “Pains pass but they don’t disappear,” Mariamar’s mother tells her. “They migrate into us, come to rest somewhere in our being, submerged in the depths of a lake.” Though the plot can get lost in dense dreamlike passages, its depiction of the oppression of women is impossible to shake. Couto weaves a surreal mystery of humanity against nature, men against women, and tradition against modernity. (July)