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Good Morning Comrades! [Paperback]

Ondjaki , Stephen Henighan

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Book Description

Feb. 1 2008
Luanda, Angola, 1990. Ndalu is a normal twelve-year-old boy in an extraordinary time and place. Like his friends, he enjoys laughing at his teachers, avoiding homework and telling tall tales. But Ndalus teachers are Cuban, his homework assignments include writing essays on the role of workers and peasants, and the tall tales he and his friends tell are about a criminal gang called Empty Crate which specializes in attacking schools. Ndalu is mystified by the family servant, Comrade Antnio, who thinks that Angola worked better when it was a colony of Portugal, and by his Aunt Dada, who lives in Portugal and doesnt know what a ration card is. In a charming voice that is completely original, Good Morning Comrades tells the story of a group of friends who create a perfect childhood in a revolutionary socialist country fighting a bitter war. But the world is changing around these children, and like all childhoods, Ndalus cannot last. An internationally acclaimed novel, already published in half a dozen countries, Good Morning Comrades is an unforgettable work of fiction by one of Africas most exciting younger writers.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Biblioasis; 1 edition (Feb. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897231407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897231401
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #303,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Bubbling up beneath the often whimsical text are deeply unsettling matters - what the author has called Angola's 'deepest wounds' - that expose a cruel and unyielding political dictatorship. Ondjaki pokes fun at the absurdities of the highly censored state-owned media and at the president, too ... Born in 1977, Ondjaki is less burdened by ideology and party loyalty than several older Angolan writers. He also has an ear for the banter, the gossip and chit-chat that beats at the heart of Luandan life."
- The I.B. Taurus Blog

About the Author

Nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for When Words Deny the World, Stephen Henighan is also the author of two previous novels, two short story collections and a widely praised travel memoir. He is a frequent contributor to magazines such as Geist (Vancouver), Matrix (Montreal), The Times Literary Supplement (London) and the Bulletin of Spanish Studies (Glasgow). His work has been published in eight countries.

The 30-year-old author has published nine books, which have been translated from the original Portuguese into French, German, Spanish, and Italian. Published simultaneously with another Ondjaki novel, The Whistler, which is appearing in the U.K., Good Morning Comrades marks the author 's first appearance in English. Ondjaki lives in Luanda, Angola.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful memories!!! March 24 2008
By Ladyce West - Published on
I have just finished reading the absolutely delightful, humorous and sweet:book, Bom Dia Camaradas [Good Morning Comrades] by Angolan author Ondjaki. This is not his first book, but it is the first of his books to come across my table. And what a gratifying surprise!

This is a book of a young man's memories of his teens. Actually is just the memories of a couple of months of his school days. They happen to be also the last days of the Angolan war, which here is seen within the context by his family's routine and the normal adventures of a young teenager's school days. He and his family are well placed in the middle class. And what we learn is how the middle class coped with the war, as well as their hopes for the future.

The story is framed by the arrival and departure of his aunt, who living in Portugal, spends several weeks visiting her family in Luanda. This visit gives Ondjaki a great way of describing Luanda, Angola and people's habits through the eyes and questions not only of the outsider, but through the constant surprise our young man feels when he compares her answers with what he knows to be "real life," that is, life as lived by those in Luanda. These interchanges between nephew and aunt are often humorous and occasionally hilarious, for we are able to see from both sides the amazement and disbelief at how the others live.

Ondjaki is also very skilled in representing the "nothing"-talk of young teens, who are constantly improving on reality not to miss a good tale. He was also very succinct and deft at demonstrating how in a period of crisis, any tale can be believable, and can make people act in the most extreme ways. All of this Ondjaki does while keeping a light tone, a colloquial dialogue in a smart teenager' mouth.

The book is a fast read. It's short, only 146 pages. But it's so charming I wanted to know more and more, I wanted to continue to follow this family's activities. It also has all the characteristics of a book that will become a classic for young readers, anywhere in the world.

For those of us who read it in Portuguese and are not from Angola, there is an extra prize: a wonderful discovery of a language that has acquired an African vocabulary that sings in the ears of Portuguese and certainly Brazilian readers. There is a glossary at the end of the book, but I did not find the need to consult it. I preferred to let the words establish their meaning for themselves.

This is a book I recommend. Pleasant reading and lots of information on Angola.
I will recommend this to my book club. It is that good!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "…children really are the flower of humanity." April 26 2014
By Friederike Knabe - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Good Morning Comrades is the delightful debut novel by Angolan author Ondjaki (pen-name for Ndalu de Almeida). Published in 2001 in Portuguese and engagingly translated by Stephen Henighan (2008), it launched Ondjaki's writing career that has brought him recognition and several international literary awards. For this novel, which tells the coming of age story of Ndalu and his school friends, Ondjaki mined his own memories of childhood and experiences while growing up in Luanda (the capital) during the conflicting and difficult times of Angola's early years of independence.

Seeing the world through the eyes of a growing boy, daily life, however, is preoccupied with school, games, friends and family. The parades, the power struggles between the regime and its opponents are noted but not understood and have little bearing on the daily life of the children. Their naïveté protects them from getting into trouble; they don't ask questions; the world is fine as it is. When, for example, Ndalu is chosen to make a May Day speech on the radio and his own prepared text is replaced by another text for him to read, he doesn't question this decision. Nor does he question the privileges of his own family in comparison to the poverty of others in his class. They are all together and support (as well as tease) each other. He does wonder, though, why his aunt, visiting from Portugal, does not know anything about ration cards and could, at home, buy as much chocolate as she liked.

The school features prominently in the novel, in particular classes with the Cuban teachers. They are often the subject of the children's discussions. Still, over time they develop a real affection for them – without questioning why they are there in the first place – and when they (like most other Cubans in the country at the time) leave Angola they are sad to see them leave. Their departure coincided with the year end of the last school year. The young people will be scattered into different directions and, for the first time, Ndalu experiences personal loss, sadness and insecurity about what the future will hold. The Cuban teachers leave the students with their philosophy: "…children really are the flower of humanity."

Good Morning Comrades is a simple, yet vividly told story. The reader easily connects with Ndalu and his friends. Below the surface, Ondjaki touches on many issues that the young country and its people had to deal with. Stephen Henighan's very informative Afterword is highly recommended reading as it places the novel in its historical context and greatly contributes to a deeper understanding of its importance in the literary treatment of Angola's early years as an independent country that was caught very much in the middle of the Cold War and its competing international interests. [Friederike Knabe]

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