By Sofia Jesus
Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa (1960 -) once told me I’m a dreamer. Well, the author and I never actually met or spoke to each other. But as he starts his book A Vida no Céu (Life in the Sky, in English) saying “it is a novel for youths and other dreamers”, I had no choice but to embrace the label – the latter, that is. For few books have made me sigh so much. And smile so much.
Mr Agualusa’s juvenile novel – as some describe it – tells the adventurous story of 16 year-old Carlos Benjamim Tucano, who is a first-person narrator. The boy was born in the Sky, to where survivors of the Flood had moved more than 30 years ago, grouped in hundreds of airships, after “the sea swallowed the earth” and “the temperature at its surface became intolerable”.
“Only one percent of mankind was able to ascend to the skies, escaping hell bellow”, Carlos tells us. But many airships did not resist up there for long, and fell to the sea. Ten years after the Flood, “only some two million people remained among the clouds”.
So, the action takes place in the sky, where groups of airships varying in size can be compared to flying cities and villages. Geopolitical resemblances apart, it is in this wonderfully described scenery we follow Carlos’ adventures in his journey to find his father.
The passionate, beautifully written, yet simple, story, enriched by curious characters, would be enough to get us hooked. But what made me sigh the most – smile the most – was the “very brief philosophical dictionary of the floating world to be used by amateur daydreamers” – as the author describes it – included in the book.
And it was this little dictionary – with a term presented at the beginning of each chapter – that mostly led me to write to you about the book.
Although, according to the author’s official website, A Vida no Céu does not appear to have been translated into other languages – yet, I hope –, I think even those of you who cannot read Portuguese should know about it, regardless of age constraints.
I just thought you daydreamers would like to know about the author’s definition of “life” – “everything that dreams”; or of “journey” – “every movement of getting closer from one person to another. Escape movements are not journeys”.
And since we’re at it, here is how the author defines “night”: “the emptiness there is between the stars. Loneliness can also be a representation of the night – lets say, the emptiness there is between people.”
And I could go on telling you about Agualusa’s “magic” – “Magic is to there be so much sky” –; “sea” – “the sky in a liquid state”; or “cloud” – “water in oneiric state. The alphabet of the sky”. But I think you got an idea already.
This is not the first time a book from Mr Agualusa has made me stop reading it for a second, simply gazing at this words – I’m thinking, for instance, of O Vendedor de Passados (published in English as The Book of Chameleons). But A Vida no Céu, which I read in one single night, simply made me put the book on my lap for several times – a finger marking the page – and physically sigh and smile. But then again, maybe that is just something youths and other dreamers do.
A Vida no Céu
José Eduardo Agualusa
Quetzal – 2013