cover image Our Beautiful Darkness

Our Beautiful Darkness

Ondjaki, trans. from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, illus. by António Jorge Gonçalves. Unruly, $16.95 (126p) ISBN 978-1-59270-410-1

Two teenage paramours navigate a metropolitan blackout’s full duration in this arresting graphic novel by Angola author Ondjaki (Transparent City), illustrated by Portuguese creator Gonçalves as a series of white, chalk-like images on a black background. Via the first-person POV of one of two unnamed characters, the teen reflects on the vastness of the universe and the people within it while pining for their crush’s affection. Rarely interrupted void-like blank space neatly juxtaposes the author’s spare storytelling, which focuses intensely on feelings and specific sensory experiences such as touch and limited sight. The reader is provided only enough visual information to ground them in the moment: a canopy of stars above a darkened skyline, the starlit silhouette of an owl in a tree, a vague interpretation of the eyes of the person the protagonist longs to kiss. Ondjaki’s prose is imbued with a touching sense of existential whimsy: “My eyes closed. I think hers did too. In that riddle of darkness, a kiss had room to happen.” This artful romanticism carries the characters through the darkness—which is sometimes lit by candles or the headlights of passing vehicles—in which they experience laughter, a light show, and at last, an end to their yearning. A translator’s note by Miller-Lachmann (Eyes Open) concludes. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)