Ludovica grows up in fear of what might come out of the sky. She feels, whenever braving the great unroofed, ‘fragile and vulnerable, like a turtle whose shell had been torn off’. What ill fortune, then, that she lives in the sky. With her sister and brother-in-law she inhabits the ‘huge apartment on the top floor of one of the most luxurious buildings in Luanda’. Two days before Angolan independence in November 1975, the couple do not return home; men, who believe that there is a stash of diamonds in the apartment, arrive with crowbars and insist that Ludo ‘fetch the stones’. She shoots one of them instead. His pals leg it. She gives him water. She sings to him. She buries him on the terrace. Then she builds a wall across the hallway. Ludo stays there, bricked into a penthouse, for the next thirty years.
Quarantine is fertile territory for certain novelists, but behind A General Theory of Oblivion is the conviction that where there is a tangle of happenings there is a book. So