Transparent City

Transparent City
Ondjaki

A work as singular as Transparent City left me with a lot of questions. Foremost among these was where Ondjaki drew his strange prose style from, which abandons all initial capitals and periods.

Whatever its origins, it gives an impression of collage, which fits with the nature of the novel itself: not so much a story as a collection of vignettes relating to life in Angola’s capital, and particularly within one apartment building.

The meaning of transparency is the other major question I was left with. Does Ondjaki mean something like the invisibility of the lower classes — that, as one character puts it, “we’re invisible because we’re poor”? Or is it, as later expressed, that transparency symbolizes a certain authenticity among the people? I think both, and the overlap is probably significant. In the novel it is only one character who is slowly disappearing but he represents a more general cultural erasure, and senses that he suffers “the illness of national malaise.”

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