letters from angola


I have arrived – finally – in Gago Coutinho, after an apocalyptic journey, the kind of journey I never imagined I would make in my entire life: we set off in buses at three o’clock in the morning on the 22nd, to travel from Luanda to Nova Lisboa, through the most marvellous scenery, which by eleven o’clock at night I began to find somewhat wearisome. We reached Nova Lisboa at dawn, where we slept in our seats, and at three o’clock in the afternoon of the 29th (or was it the 23rd?), after 600 km on the bus, they put us on a train to Luso: two days of travelling in fourth-class carriages – that celebrated English invention for the inhabitants of the third world, and which the Benguela railway company has, very Englishly, adopted – in which we formed great mounds of arms and legs, weapons and heads. These carriages are fitted with only three long benches: two running on either side beneath the windows and a double one in the middle, like a line drawn down the centre. Since there were not enough carriages, the scene was indescribable: from every side there emerged limbs that appeared to belong to no particular body. I ended up scratching my head with someone else’s hand. I slept, or pretended to sleep, and ate some canned food – the floor was awash with cans and spilled sauces – that played havoc with my insides. Jews being deported to some Nazi concentration camp.

more from António Lobo Antunes at Granta here.