The Book of Chameleons- José Eduardo Agualusa


“I think what I do is really an advanced kind of literature,” he told me conspiratorially.” I create plots, I invent characters, but rather than keeping them trapped in a book I give them life, launching them out into reality.”– José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books written by African writers and I am impressed by the wide range of subject matter and also the different writing styles I’ve encountered. I took a break from reading African lit a few years ago because I became so tired of the doom and gloom coming from a continent I know has so much more to offer. It’s always nice when a book by an African author, or a book set in Africa, dwells on different subject matter.

This was an interesting book written by an Angolan author, with a gecko as a narrator,  a gecko who had been a man in a previous life. The very eloquent gecko lives in the house of  Felix Ventura, an albino man who invents people’s pasts for them, to the point where they become very believable. The gecko sees and hears all, and  remembers his past life, which he dreams about. He communicates with Felix through his dreams.

The book definitely dwells on lies a lot. What is real? What isn’t?

“Literature is the only chance for a true liar to attain any sort of social acceptance.”

“”Lies, he explained,” are everywhere. Even nature herself lies. What is camouflage, for instance, but a lie?””

The writing style is definitely magical realism with a Latin American feel to it. it’s a quick, poetic read,  not complex at all. Despite the fact that it was set in Angola, I didn’t learn much about Angola.

I wonder why a gecko though? What’s the significance? The only thing I could think of is how geckos are everywhere in Africa. My aunt used to tell me that geckos don’t care about social class because they can be found in both mansions and mud hut .  I really wish I knew why a gecko was chosen as narrator.


2 thoughts on “The Book of Chameleons- José Eduardo Agualusa

  1. Why a gecko? Maybe because a gecko is one of a few animals that does not just scary away at the sight of a human. They seem to size us up when they see us, like they want to take us on. Their eyes seem to see right through us

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