Bay of Tigers: A Journey Through War-Torn Angola by Pedro Rosa Mendes, Clifford Landers (trans) - review by Aidan Hartley

Aidan Hartley

Waifs and Strays

Bay of Tigers: A Journey Through War-Torn Angola


Grant Books 323pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

ONE CHAPTER OF Bay of Tigers describes the demise of learning at Lubango's School of Letters in Angola. In the 1970s, &er independence from Portugal and in the early stages of the civil war between Jonas Savimbi's UNITA and the Communist-backed MPLA government, the university was a hotbed of international socialism, a hangout for ETA, Tuparnaros, the Italian Red Brigade and other 'liberation movements'. Onto this scene came Josefina, a Bakongo student of such beauty that she had an effect like that of Zuleika Dobson on the town. She was housed in a university hall of residence in a district famous for its blue-flowered jacarandas. But the dean, who was one of those smitten by Josefina, had the trees all cut down 'lest thev be used bv suitors to climb into the voung: woman's'room'. ~ose& fell in love with a student 'of th; Mbundu (a tribe associated with UNITA), which so enraged the Bakongo that they resorted to witchcraft The MPLA became involved in the ensuing furore, which coincided with the bloody purges that followed Jose Eduardo Dos Santos's assumption of Angola's dictatorship.

Pedro Rosa Mendes doesn't tell us what happened to Josefina in the 'Dadaist hurricane' that then gripped the university. What he does tell is how the authorities victimised anybody who was half sane, until the key academics, many of them white Angolan idealists, were run out of town, leaving behind

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