CAPE VERDE (*)

Chiqhuinio — Baltasar Lopes da Silva (1947)

Setting: Cape Verde

What it’s about: The poverty a boy sees around him as he grows up, and his failure to improve his impoverished society before migrating. Some stoic moments stand out, particularly the carnival-like scene out of an early Fellini film about rural Italy and the fado-like singing that provides temporary solace from grinding poverty. Chiqhuinio and his fellow students unsuccessfully try to challenge the status quo with a newspaper and setting up a union. Eventually an uncle persuades him to leave:

“Do you want to spend your life eeking out an existence on this rocky landscape, selling sugar and oil from a shack?”

Why you should read it: Strong depictions of peasants impoverished by drought, urban workers impoverished by economic decline, and the seedier sides of island life.

Photo credit: flickr/Beatrice Tiberi

The most poignant scenes sees a collier on the dock watching ships passing, hoping one will come in to be refuelled. But they pass by, leaving his children to beg, and his hope sinks lower. He hangs his head and returns to a house with no money, no food, and the rent due. Because she managed to beg some food:

“Hunger is not written on her face today.”

You’ll like this if you liked: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.

My rating: * (It’s only available in German or Portuguese but you are not missing anything. There are powerful moments but too much filler.)

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