Around the World in Words: Mozambique

Another neighbour to South Africa, Mozambique is a destination I’ve long wanted to visit. With the promise of spicy prawns and peri peri chicken, washed down with R&R, its cuisine is half the reason.

The allure of Mozambique includes stretches of hot sandy beach and sparkling azure waters. But for me, the appeal is more than the touristy passages of glossy brochures; it’s in what these waters contain.

Mozambican waters are one of the last locations where you will find the dugong, a marine mammal also known as a sea cow. I can’t even remember what drew me to this species,  but once I learnt about it, I fell in love and had an even greater urge to visit our neighbour’s shores, on the off-chance (very off-chance, because they’re so rare and threatened) that I might spot one.

But the closest I’ve come to Mozambique is a colleague at work. He was part of my team while I worked on Big Brother Africa, and we have since started working together again – most notably on the announcement of Comic Con Africa.

Just as I’ve never been to Mozambique, so I have never read any of their literature. I found Neighbours: The Story of a Murder, by Lília Momplé, in a secondhand bookstore. African literature is difficult enough to come by in these stores, as most of the books that get unloaded onto these shelves are outdated dusty tomes of colonial history. If you’re lucky, you might find a grimy guidebook or two in the travel section.

Neighours is a crime drama combined with a character study. While filling in the details of her characters, Momplé simultaneously keeps the pace tight and the tension high, while proferring insight into Mozambican sociopolitics and religion. Slicing her story into segments of time, we wait with bated breath for the murder of the title, drawing ever closer into the lives of the neighbours.

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