Nominated by:

Biblioteca Demonstrativa Maria da Conceição Moreira Salles – Ministério da Cultura, Brasilia, Brazil

Biblioteca Municipal de Oeiras, Portugal

Publisher of nominated edition:

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, USA

Published in the UK by Harvill Secker

Confession of the Lioness

Mia Couto      

Translated from the original Portuguese by David Brookshaw

2017 Shortlist!

Comments from the judges

With his remarkable gift for story-telling, Couto’s novel straddles the material and spiritual worlds in a powerful examination of the aftermath of war. The language is simultaneously lyrical and robust, the subject matter urgent and compelling. David Brookshaw’s translation from the Portuguese is infused with the cadences of the original and transports the reader in time and place as Couto confronts his country’s past and challenges its present.

About the book

A dark, poetic mystery about the tribal women of Kulumani and the lionesses that hunt them.

Told through two haunting interwoven diaries, Mia Couto’s Confession of the Lioness reveals the enigmatic world of Kulumani, an isolated village in Mozambique whose traditions and beliefs are threatened when ghostlike lionesses begin hunting and killing the women who live there. Mariamar, a young woman from the village, finds her life thrown into chaos just as the marksman hired to kill the lionesses, the outsider Archangel Bullseye, arrives in town. Mariamar’s sister was recently killed in one of the attacks, and her father has imprisoned her in his home, where she relives painful memories of past abuse and hopes to be rescued by Archangel. Meanwhile, Archangel attempts to track the lionesses out in the wilderness, but when he begins to suspect there is more to these predators than meets the eye, he slowly starts to lose control of his hands. The hunt grows more and more dangerous, until it’s no safer inside Kulumani than outside it. As the men of Kulumani feel increasingly threatened by the outsider, the forces of modernity upon their culture, and the animal predators closing in, it becomes clear that the lionesses might not be real lionesses at all, but rather spirits conjured by the ancient witchcraft of the women themselves.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Mia Couto, born in Beira, Mozambique, in 1955, is one of the most prominent writers in Portuguese-speaking Africa. After studying medicine and biology in Maputo, he worked as a journalist and headed several Mozambican national newspapers and magazines. Couto has been awarded many important literary prizes, including the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Premio Camões, the Prémio Vergílio Ferreira, the Prémio União Latina de Literaturas Românicas, and others. He lives in Maputo, where he works as a biologist.

Librarians’ Comments

Each character is both antagonist and protagonist in a plot in which the story itself is the main character. Each one witnesses, silent or not, the subtle nuances of a cruel power game where men and beasts resemble. This is a powerful plot yet written in a poetic prose. Its musical rhythm enables the readers to enjoy every piece of it. It is not nice to deal with the pains and burdens the story raises. Nevertheless, this is a compelling writer with a gripping story. Very much worth reading. Couto, recipient of prestigious literary awards throughout the world, once again accomplishes to mesmerize us with his art.

Shortisted for the Man Booker International Prize. Author prizes: Camões Prize for Literature; Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Related Entries