The Society of Reluctant Dreamers


Translated from by

Published: 3/24/20





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Book Description

José Eduardo Agualusa’s restless protagonist, Daniel Benchimol, spends his dreaming hours interviewing revolutionaries and writers. In this treacherous sleepscape, we find the Angolan anti-communist Jonas Savimbi, Muammar Gaddafi, hunched and hiding in a gutter, and Julio Cortázar as a great billowing tree, speaking to Daniel through an alphabet of clouds. He dreams wild dreams of people he’s never met, squinting at them as if submerged in the hazy waters of southern Angola.

When Daniel finds a camera on the beach, he becomes obsessed with the woman in the photos. Moira is a Mozambican artist with a similar preoccupation with her subconscious life – she stages her dreams in her artwork. The two meet, and together they explore the cloudy edges of their nightly visions, tugging at the fringed hem of the real. The Society of Reluctant Dreamers is a delicately crafted glimpse into the aftermath of Angolan independence, a postcard sent to prod the illusion of peace and freedom.

False memories and clairvoyant dreams combine in Agualusa’s sweeping, intricately plotted tale of personal and political history in Angola . . . While the dense and tangled story, rife with diary entries, recounted personal histories, and thinly drawn tertiary characters, is almost too short for its own good, Agualusa manages to pull off a deeply satisfying ending . . . (a) populous, multilayered commentary on the fogs of love and war.
Publishers Weekly

I loved one of the author’s previous novels so much that the idea of skipping this one . . . was inconceivable . . . Agualusa’s prose, as translated by Daniel Hahn from the Portuguese, is wry and lucid and weird . . . Read if you like: Roberto Bolaño, the films of Yorgos Lanthimos, Phil Klay, traveling alone, the simulation hypothesis.
Molly Young, New York Times Book Review

The dreams that Agualusa weaves throughout A Society of Reluctant Dreamers are more than just introspective fantasies; they are a reflection of a timeless worldly conscience, a nagging need for societal change that makes its way around the world . . . [Agualusa] proves that turning dreams into memories is a powerful way to start a revolution.
Cam Lind, Full Stop

For Angolan novelist José Eduardo Agualusa, his country’s history has been a wellspring of both inspiration and ambivalence . . . His latest novel to be translated into English, The Society of Reluctant Dreamers, follows the country’s fortunes into the recent past, which are less violent [than during the Angolan civil war] but hardly peaceful . . . For Agualusa, the uncertain moment offers a perfect context to tell a story steeped in uncertainty, swimming in dreams.
Mark Athitakis, On The Seawall

It’s a winning novel, a fundamental ebullience simmering under the story and then coming out full force . . . An enjoyable read, and interesting glimpse of contemporary Angola.
M.A.Orthofer, The Complete Review

A nimble investigation into the liminal spaces between collective unconscious, lived experience, and political reality, The Society of Reluctant Dreamers is an epistemic jaunt through post-colonial Angola. I enjoyed every moment of this stirring and surreal book.
Katharine Solheim, Pilsen Community Books

Cross J.M. Coetzee with Gabriel García Márquez and you’ve got José Eduardo Agualusa, Portugal’s next candidate for the Nobel Prize.

Alan Kaufman, author of Matches

Without doubt one of the most important Portuguese-language writers of his generation.

António Lobo Antunes

As an inventive Angolan writer whose fiction has won the International Dublin Literary Award and been shortlisted for the International Man Booker, Agualusa consistently treats Angolan history and identity with the lyrical experimentalism and unabashed weirdness of the surrealist . . . Agualusa’s sensitively ambitious creation…persuasively inserts itself between the imaginary and the real.
Jessica Payn, The Arts Desk


Agualusa’s novel is a powerful examination of personal recollection and public upheaval, and a penetrating study of isolation and the cost of freedom.

Malcolm Forbes, The National

Hahn is one of our most experienced translators. Such experience shows in tiny interventions to guide the English reader through the chaos of the Angolan battlefield . . . and in his taking confident ownership of certain descriptive passages, ensuring the music of the original is conveyed along with the meaning . . . a timely homage to the prize of Angolan independence.

The Independent

In collaboration with PEN Transmissions, Granta invites Daniel Hahn to directly respond to an essay he’s translated: “Connecting Worlds, Inventing Worlds” by Agualusa.

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