Q: Have you noticed a difference in how various generations respond to your work? Have your parents and grandparents read your novels?
A: Unfortunately my grandparents are no longer alive. But my parents have always been my first readers. My mother was a Portuguese teacher and to this day is the person who helps me most in revision. I think my novels interest people of all ages. At book fairs when I sign books, most of the people who turn up are younger—mainly women—but there are people of my parents’ generation there too. What’s most interesting is the fact that the majority of fiction readers now—and I imagine this is a universal phenomenon—are women.
Q: You have written seven novels. Why is your sixth novel, The Book of Chameleons, the first to be made available in the United States?
A: The English-language market translates very little. While in most European countries the majority of fiction published comes from other languages, in England or the U.S. it’s only an insignificant amount—less than 2 percent.
Q: What are you currently working on? Does something arise in one project that usually leads you to the next?
A: I’ve started work on a new novel, Luanda, 2020. I’d like to be able to give literary expression to the tropical baroque, to the torrent of characters and stories I’m confronted with every time I open my apartment door in Luanda and dive into the chaos of the streets. Imagining what Luanda might become a dozen years from now is really fun. In this case, there’s a link to my previous novel, As Mulheres do Meu Pai (My Father’s Wives). The narrator is one of the characters from that novel, but now a little older, a little more cynical, and missing an eye.
José Eduardo Agualusa's U.S. debut book is a surprising tale of race, truth, and the transformative power of creativity. Narrated by a gecko, The Book of Chameleons explores issues of identity as purchased pasts and reality collide, leading to a bewildering murder. Read the review.