No Words Wasted Sale
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Original Essays | January 12, 2015

    Christopher Scotton: IMG Five Hundred Mountains Destroyed for a @*&%$! Allegory!



    I found a hole in the perimeter fence on a Sunday when the haul trucks were idle and I could work my way up the shoulder of mountain undetected.... Continue »
    1. $18.20 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

      The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

      Chris Scotton 9781455551927

    spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$13.99
New Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
available for shipping or prepaid pickup only
Available for In-store Pickup
in 7 to 12 days
Qty Store Section
25 Remote Warehouse Literature- A to Z

More copies of this ISBN

The Book of Chameleons

by

The Book of Chameleons Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Setting the scene
"This is quite evidently an Angolan novel,"Agualusa says in the preceding interview. How important do you think the setting is to this story? Does it have a particularly African flavor, or is the setting just incidental?

Narrative voice
One of the more unusual and daring aspects of The Book of Chameleons is that its narrative voice is the voice of a gecko - so does it work? Is the effect troubling? Sympathetic?

Themes
"This is clearly a book about memory and its traps, and about the construction of identities,"Agualusa says; but what do you feel he has to say about them? Is he just exploring, or is he trying to make a particular point?

Dreams
The narrative is interspersed with dreams, and with memories of past lives. Does all this work? What does it add? In the interview Agualusa explains where the details of the gecko's past life have come from. Does knowing this help you?

Translation
There has long been a difference between two schools of translation - one believing that a translation should be invisible, another that it should be conspicuous (that is, you should always be aware you're reading a translation). What do you make of the translation of The Book of Chameleons?

Influence
Agualusa has outlined his influences as the Latin American writers García Márquez,Vargas Llosa, Borges, Fonseca and Amado. Does this book remind you of anything else you've read?

Genre
The book is a murder mystery, and also a love story; it is fantasy and also political realism; one review described it as "part thriller, part mystical," another simply as "genre-dissolving." Do you see this difficulty in pinning it down as a strength or a weakness? Does that make it harder to engage with properly, or all the more interesting for it?

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Stacia V, October 21, 2014 (view all comments by Stacia V)
A complete delight. I'm charmed.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Trevor Donaldson, March 10, 2009 (view all comments by Trevor Donaldson)
Aqualusa weaves a tale of relaxed subterfuge and false identity, with the dream states of a household gecko. The reader can kick back with Felix Bendito, an Albino who creates pasts for his customers. These customers in turn pay him a good sum for his services. The dreams of the household gecko are neither frightening nor dull, but full of colors and imagery of things past and present. This is a very colorful and easy to read novel that is both short, sweet, and tinged with mystery.
On the negative, the book was full of blank pages that could have been filled or consolidated making me feel as if the publisher was attempting to fatten the book for sales.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 12 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781416573517
Author:
Agualusa, Jose Eduardo
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Translator:
Hahn, Daniel
Author:
sa, Jose Eduardo
Author:
Hahn, Daniel
Author:
Agualu
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Memory
Subject:
Fraud
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20080631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
8.44 x 5.5 in 8.715 oz

Other books you might like

  1. The Good Thief: A Novel
    Used Trade Paper $3.50
  2. Lush Life
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  3. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Used Hardcover $4.50
  4. The Elegance of the Hedgehog
    Used Trade Paper $6.50
  5. Camera (French Literature)
    Used Trade Paper $8.00
  6. The White Tiger
    Used Trade Paper $4.95

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General

The Book of Chameleons New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$13.99 In Stock
Product details 192 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9781416573517 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

José Eduardo Agualusa is Angolan and writes in Portuguese. Though he has authored nearly a dozen works, The Book of Chameleons is the first to be published in the United States. It was awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007, and has as its origins a short story Agualusa wrote for a Portuguese newspaper.

The Book of Chameleons is a deceptively savvy piece of fiction. Simplistically told, this is the imaginative tale of Felix Ventura, a man who, by trade, sells individuals an entirely new past, replete with established genealogies and forged credentials. The story is narrated by Eulalio, a gecko whose entire life has been spent within (upon) the walls of Ventura's home. Eulalio's observations propel the story forward, yet he, too, is at the mercy of both chance and consequence. The Book of Chameleons explores identity, memory, and change, as well as Angola's anguished history. The prose is fluid and well-conceived; a rather concise book, Agualusa seemingly enjoyed writing it. Clever mystery, literary thriller, political parable, this book could be classified as many a different genre, yet it successfully defies and exceeds them all.

Agualusa, in an interview, has said about The Book of Chameleons:

This book is a tribute to Borges. It's a game I hope Borges would have appreciated. At the same time, it's a sort of settling-up of accounts. I love Borges as a writer, but think that as a man there was always something about him that was closed and obtuse, reactionary even, and he not infrequently expressed opinions that were misogynistic or racist. His relations with women were very complicated — it's believed that he died a virgin. Now, in my book Borges is reincarnated in Luanda in the body of a gecko. The gecko's memories correspond to fragments of Borges's real-life story. Somehow I wanted to give Borges a second chance — in my book he makes the most of his opportunities.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Lovers of stylish literary fiction will rejoice at this charming tale by Angolan writer Agualusa. The elegantly translated story is narrated by a house gecko named Eullio, who in brief, vignette-like chapters, reminisces on his life (and past life) and observes the home of Flix Ventura, an albino Angolan who makes his living selling fabricated aristocratic pasts to newly successful citizens of the war-torn former Portuguese colony. Photojournalist Jos Buchmann pushes Flix's occupation into harsh reality when Jos looks into the past Flix has created for him, and the story shudders to a climax when Flix's allegedly fictitious history collides with reality. Eullio is a lovable narrator, alternately sardonic and wistful; his dreams are filled with regret and powerlessness. Flix is an equally sympathetic subject, complicated by his loneliness, his fondness for prostitutes, his insistence on the honor of his trade despite its scalawag nature, and a late-blooming sweet love story. The novel's themes of identity, truth and happiness are nicely handled and span both the political and the personal. It's very touching, in a refined way. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Cross J. M. Coetzee with Gabriel García Márquez and you've got José Eduardo Agualusa, Portugal's next candidate for the Nobel Prize."
"Review" by , "A subtle beguiling story of shifting identities."
"Review" by , "A work of fierce originality."
"Review" by , "A book as brisk as a thriller and as hot and alarming as the most powerful kind of dream."
spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.