December 2020 print arrivals from Africa (in Portuguese): literature, and the diaries of the first female African president

I was very pleased when back in early December I was asked to come to the Library for one day to help with the processing of newly arrived print books and reader requests. Going back to our beloved UL meant catching up with a few colleagues (from a distance) and also remembering how very satisfactory it is to deal with physical books from a sensory perspective. Touching many diverse books is definitely something I was missing, as my colleague felt too. I also remembered a comment by another -former- colleague: she thought books coming from some of the countries we deal with had distinctive smells.

That day back in the Library I could not distinguish any particular smell other than paper of varying ages, but I was certainly very happy to see books from Portuguese-speaking Africa arriving to enrich our collections. In the gallery below you will see some covers that illustrate a range of literary works published in Angola and Guinea-Bissau. Some of them are poetry works, like Sem intenção, by Rui Jorge Semedo (Guinea-Bissau), Borboleta dos meus vagares, by Denise Kangandala (Angola) and Alma de kaluanda, by Cremilda de Lima (Angola). Others are collections of short stories like O homem que plantava aves, by Gociante Patissa (Angola) and Fora de Jogo (Guinea-Bissau), or collections of folk tales like Tempu di Mininesa (Guinea-Bissau), edited and translated by Teresa Montenegro and Carlos de Morais.

The book that caught my attention however was Os meus três amores: o diário de Carmen Maria de Araújo Pereira.

Carmen Pereira became the first African female president when she led Guinea-Bissau for three days in 1984. Since 1962, she had been a member of the PAIGC (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde) and participated actively in the movements that sought independence of these West African countries from Portugal. By 1966, Carmen Pereira was leading women in an armed and doubly revolutionary struggle, that of independence and gender-equality in the context of a very sexist society. Meanwhile, her political role in the country also developed and she became a representative at the Pan African Women’s Organisation. She was persecuted for her activities and later had to go into exile in Angola and the Soviet Union, where she studied medicine. On her return, from 1975, she was Chair of the National Assembly and also Minister of Health and Social Affairs. In 1984, as president of the National Assembly, she became Guinea-Bissau’s Acting Prime Minister until a new constitution was approved. She held other institutional roles until 1992 and died in 2016.

This autobiographical book was published shortly after her death and was edited by Odete Costa Semedo, an eminent Bissau-Guinean poet and member of the PAIGC. It includes her diaries, interviews and family images and it gives a clear testament to what it meant to be a woman, a revolutionary and a mother during crucial times in Guinea-Bissau’s history.

Clara Panozzo

Further reading:

Rothwell, P., “Carmen Pereira’s Os meus três amores: the voice of militant motherhood in Guinea-Bissau“. In Journal of Romance Studies, Volume 19, Issue: 3, Pages: 511-525.

French-speaking literary prizewinners 2018-2019

Each year, Cambridge University Library acquires French and Francophone books that have won important literary prizes, usually awarded in the autumn, after the “rentrée littéraire”. While the books which have been awarded literary distinctions in 2020 are on order, here are the 2018 and 2019 prizewinners in the French-speaking world:

Comar d’Or: 2018: Les lendemains d’hier : roman by Ali Bécheur C205.d.3961; 2019: Jugurtha: un contre-portrait by Rafik Darragi C206.d.4272

Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française: 2018: L’été des quatre rois : juillet-août 1830 : roman by Camille Pascal C206.d.4319; 2019: Civilizations : roman by Laurent Binet C206.d.2438

Grand Prix du Roman Métis: 2018: Des ailes au loin : roman by Jadd Hilal C206.d.4269; 2019: Salina : les trois exils : roman by Laurent Gaudé C215.c.5760

Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde: 2018 Là où les chiens aboient par la queue by Estelle-Sarah Bulle C206.d.4347; (no 2019 winner) Continue reading

Further to the previous post – the writing on the postcards

Having charitably taken our retired head of department for a walk yesterday, I was rather taken aback when he showed his gratitude by saying that the saddest part of his 2020 Christmas had been the brevity of my blog post about the Russian Christmas cards. He then suggested that I hadn’t transcribed the writing not because I lacked the time but because I couldn’t read it.  Well, hats off to him for pressing the right buttons. Continue reading

S Rozhdestvom Khristovym! : the December 2020 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Items from the postcard collection put together by the late Catherine Cooke have featured in previous posts, including a Soviet-era New Year card.  This time, a little group of pre-revolutionary Christmas cards forms the December Slavonic item(s) of the month.

Continue reading

A very merry online Christmas

In previous festive blog posts I have written about carols (complete with video of the Library carols from 2015), St. Nicholas, crib scenes and Christmas cards, always with reference to relevant holdings in the UL. This year I am more limited in what I can highlight as I am unable to visit Rare Books or go up the Tower to view interesting material. However, what I can do is feature items available online (to Cambridge staff and students) which have a Christmas theme.

In the last twenty years or so the history and culture of Christmas celebrations seems to have been an area of research interest for quite a few academics, both here in Europe and in the United States. Here are some titles (newest first) which can be accessed online: Continue reading