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Invented Pasts

José Eduardo Agualusa explores collective and individual identity in <i>The Book of Chameleons</i>.

En español | Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa's The Book of Chameleons explores issues of identity as purchased pasts and reality collide.

Not long ago, José Eduardo Agualusa dreamt of an albino who said: "My name is Félix Ventura, and I sell pasts to the nouveaux riches." The next morning, Agualusa began The Book of Chameleons, his sixth novel.

The book's crisp language carries us through interrelated events in the lives of Ventura, two photographers, a bureaucrat, and a vagrant. We soon learn that the narrator is a gecko witnessing Angola's new bourgeoisie as it grapples with freshly purchased pasts.

"Identity is something you construct," says Agualusa. When the real past intrudes, the characters face a bewildering murder.

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