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Translated by Catriona Parry


“on isolation, companion of tenderness”

time goes by;

the wind slowgoingly

sharpening stones.

the sea’s same roar

reaches the breast

and cries out

sometimes it is beautiful

the sea

with its cry;

sometimes life

is beautiful

with its time

that cries out.


“on tenderness, companion of isolation”

there was a toy box

that was full of many nothings.

how do we play with all these nothings?

and what if the nothings spill over with sounds?

and what if the sounds of nothing

fill up with places?

there was a toy box

that was filled with melodies.

after hearing the melodies

and the silence

came the game of inventing boxes.

the first empty box I invented

when glimpsed

would set smiles free.

the last box, almost empty,

had no bottom:

it was useful for gathering friendships and friends.


Ondjaki was born in Luanda. A prosaist and a poet, he co-directed a documentary about the city of Luanda (“Oxalá cresçam Pitangas – histórias de Luanda”, 2006). He's a member of the Angolan Writers Union and of the Association for Protection of Snipe Anonymity. Some of his books have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Serbian and Swedish. He was awarded the prémio José Saramago in 2013 with his novel Os Transparentes.

Born in Leeds, Catriona is now a PhD student at the University of Oxford. Her PhD research focusses on contemporary cinema from Angola and Portugal. She previously studied Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Cambridge, and a Masters in Comparative Literature at Birkbeck in London.

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