Tuner of Silences, The

By (author): Mia Couto

Translated by: David Brookshaw

“Quite unlike anything else I have read from Africa.”—Doris Lessing

“By meshing the richness of African beliefs . . . into the Western framework of the novel, he creates a mysterious and surreal epic.”—Henning Mankell

Mwanito Vitalício was eleven when he saw a woman for the first time, and the sight so surprised him he burst into tears. Mwanito’s been living in a big-game park for eight years. The only people he knows are his father, his brother, an uncle, and a servant. He’s been told that rest of the world is dead, that all roads are sad, that they wait for an apology from God. In the place his father calls Jezoosalem, Mwanito has been told that crying and praying are the same thing. Both, it seems, are forbidden. The 8th novel by NY Times-acclaimed Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences is the story of Mwanito’s struggle to reconstruct a family history that his father is unable to discuss. With the young woman’s arrival in Jezoosalem, however, the silence of the past quickly breaks down, and both his father’s story and the world are heard once more. The Tuner of Silences was heralded as one of the most important books to be published in France in 2011, and remains a shocking portrait of the intergenerational legacies of war. Available for the first time in English.


Mia Couto

Mia Couto is the author of 25 books. Translated into 20 languages, his novels have been bestsellers in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. David Brookshaw is a professor of Hispanic, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies at the University of Bristol (London), and the General Editor of the HiPLA Monograph Series. He is the translator of six books by Couto, including Sleepwalking Land and The Last Flight of the Flamingo.


Praise for The Tuner of Silences

“Mia Couto’s words help weave the story of Mozambique. Couto’s language is enriched by his country’s idioms, voices—and possibilities.”New York Times

The Tuner of Silences [published in English in 2013] is a wonderful book – it’s poetic, incorporating poetry into the chapters, and it also describes a kind of post-apocalyptic world that’s both very grim and strangely beautiful.”—Edwin Frank, founder and editor of New York Review Books

“Subtle and elegant.”Wall Street Journal

“A fine portrait of grief and loss … and a strange fever-dream that jolts in and out of fantasy.”Globe and Mail

“Remarkable … If his recent Neustadt Prize is any indication, [Couto] is a presumptive Nobel Prize-winning writer that we … should be reading.”National Post

“Mia Couto, long regarded as one of the leading writers in Mozambique, has now been recognized as one of the greatest living writers in the Portuguese language … The Tuner of Silences cracks open a welcoming window onto a vast world of literary pleasures that has for too long remained under the radar in the English-speaking world.”—Philip Graham, The Millions

“Lovers of African literature may find resonance here between Couto’s writing and J.M. Coetzee’s new novel, The Childhood of Jesus. Both turn away from the present to reflect on the ethics of our interactions with others and the parameters of our internal worlds. While Couto’s work is ultimately more joyful, The Tuner of Silences remains a sad novel of poetic brilliance – haunting in its human landscape.”The Independent

“David Brookshaw’s lyrical translation of Mia Couto’s Portuguese lull[s] us into a hypnotized semi-acceptance of [an] impossible universe … Couto’s narrative tone, at once deadpan and beguiling, and his virtuoso management of time, place him alongside the best Latin American magic realists.”Times Literary Supplement

“Mia Couto is trying to lift the yoke of colonialism from a culture by reinvigorating its language. A master of Portuguese prose, he wants to lift that burden one word, one sentence, and one narrative at a time, and in this endeavor he has few if any peers.”—Robert Con Davis-Undiano, Executive Director, World Literature Today

“Couto’s powerful, haunting, kaleidoscopic mythopoesis dramatizes the grievous, crumbling, post-nuclear family, forever on the run from its inevitable breakdown, with nowhere to go in a barbed-wire world where beauty provokes violence … a chthonic pietà carved from gnarled, screaming, ironwood stumps.”The Review of Contemporary Fiction

“To understand what makes António “Mia” Emílio Leite Couto special — even extraordinary — we have to loosen our grip on the binary that distinguishes between “the West” and “Africa.” Couto is “white” without not being African, and as an “African” writer he’s one of the most important figures in a global Lusophone literature that stretches across three continents. The Tuner of Silences is an instantly recognizable part of this oeuvre … We begin with the magic, with fantasy, with the impossible, and we steadily discover, in the end, that it never really was, that it always was what we were trying to pretend it wasn’t. There is no magic. There is only reality.”The New Inquiry

“Couto is the author of six novels, six short story collections, and numerous other books, which have been published in more than twenty countries. His fable-like short stories, rooted in animist culture and an irreverent disregard for the conventions of formal literary Portuguese, celebrate African oral storytelling … Such white writers as Nadine Gordimer or J. M. Coetzee in neighbouring South Africa remain more observers than participants in the African culture that surrounds them, but Couto’s work, drenched in traditional African conceptions of time, ancestry, and belonging to the land, is widely read in Mozambique, and seen as representative of the country’s hybridized African culture.”The Walrus

“Starkly poetic … a novel of damaged souls in a damaged country, The Tuner of Silences is an eloquent tale of loss.” —M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

“Couto’s language is rich, fertile, and often full of riddles that turn reality, as we know it, on its head. His stories straddle African and European worlds, and his preoccupations range across issues of race and identity, national culture and legacies of the country’s civil war … translated into shimmering prose by David Brookshaw, The Tuner of Silences is a true tour-de-force of modern African writing … Couto’s literary cosmos is unforgettable.”Words Without Borders

“A phenomenal book … a paragon of contemporary African literature … some of the most beautiful and moving prose being written today.”The Coffin Factory

“The biggest event in international literature this season could easily be the unexpected and magnificent novel of the Mozambican Mia Couto…. The fascination exerted by this novel, which one cannot put down, resides in its many resonances. The reader is immersed in the concrete, sensual, even comic nature of the universe into which he ushers us. Mia Couto has made his way discreetly in France as a short story writer and poet. Now we know that he is a very great novelist.”L’Humanité (Paris)

“The language floats in a zone where existence becomes a paste of voices and silence. Couto’s ghosts have huge hearts but fine ears.”Libération (Paris)

“Quite unlike anything else I have read from Africa.”—Doris Lessing

“By meshing the richness of African beliefs . . . into the Western framework of the novel, he creates a mysterious and surreal epic.”—Henning Mankell

“Some critics have called Mia Couto ‘the smuggler writer,’ a sort of Robin Hood of words who steals meanings to make them available in every tongue, forcing apparently separate worlds to communicate. Within his novels, each line is like a small poem.”—Gabriella Ghermandi


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232 Pages
8.25in * 5.26in * .68in


September 11, 2012





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By (author): Mia Couto

Translated by: David Brookshaw