Last Flight Of The Flamingo

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2005-05-01
  • Publisher: Consortium Book Sales & Dist
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The civil war in Mozambique has ended but still the local soldiers are being hit by the landmines which litter the ground. When United Nations peacekeepers begin to suffer too, a high-level delegation visits the village of Tizangara, to initiate an investigation. Alongside representatives of central government and UN officials is an Italian, Massimo Risi, who has been charged with the business of finding out what happened. Risi's interpreter has collated information for posterity based on taped interviews, letters and witness accounts, documents which form the backbone of this book as he narrates it.Mia Couto is adept at depicting the ways in which his fellow citizens interpret global influences from an African perspective, absorbing them and transforming them in the process. It is this, along with his use of oral storytelling techniques and playful attitude towards language, that give Couto's work its originality and flair.

Table of Contents

1 A large sexual organ on the loose
2 The mission of inquiry
3 A scaly woman
4 Introducing the teller of the tale
5 Temporina's explanation
6 The administrator's first epistle
7 A spiked drink (Godwilling's talk)
8 The phallic fan
9 The swoon
10 The first bursts 85(8)
11 The first culprit 93(10)
12 Father dreaming before the unflowing river 103(12)
13 The dimwit's demise 115(6)
14 The witchdoctor Andorinho's talk 121(6)
15 The tamarind tree 127(7)
16 The return of the nation's heroes 134(5)
17 The bird in the crocodile's mouth 139(7)
18 The manuscript voice of Sulplicio 146(5)
19 The revelations 151(10)
20 The ancestors' estranged children 161(7)
Last chapter: A land swallowed up by the earth 168


The Last Flight of the Flamingo by Mia CoutoLeadtext: We sat there for hours swapping pleasantries, and merely passing the time. Making the miracle of our being there on the edge of the forest linger a while longer. By now, it was beginning to get late, and she advised me:_Go back to the town, so many things are going to happen._Before you go, mother, remind me about the story of the flamingo._Ah! It's such an old story __Tell it to me, mother. It's for the journey. I feel such a need for a journey._Then sit down, my son. I_ll tell it to you. But promise me one thing first: never follow in the tracks of those men you were watching a little while ago._I promise.Then she murmured the story to me. I repeated it word for word, copying her tired voice. She recounted: there was a place where time hadn_t invented night. It was always day. Until the flamingo said:_Today, I shall make my last flight!The other birds, taken unawares, were devastated. But in spite of their sadness, they didn_t cry. A bird's sadness hasn_t invented tears. People say: the tears of birds are kept up there where the rain never falls.At the flamingo's warning, all the birds gathered together. There would be an assembly to discuss the matter. While they were waiting for the flamingo, the sound of chirping could be heard hovering in the air. Were such words credible? They might be, or then again they might not. Whatever the case, they all asked themselves:_But where is he going to fly to?_To some spot where there's no place.The long-legged creature arrived at last, and explained that there were two skies, one facing this way, and possible to fly in, and the other, the sky with all the stars, and inappropriate for flight. He wanted to cross that frontier._Why such a journey devoid of return?The flamingo made little of his intended act:_Ah! Although it's far, it's not distant.Then, he went in among the shady trees of the mangrove. There he lingered. He only reappeared when the patience of the others was ageing fast. The winged creatures gathered in the marshland clearing. And they all gazed at the flamingo as if, only then, they were becoming aware of all his beauty. He advanced proudly, haughtily controlling his height. The others stood in a line to bid him farewell. One of them tried to make him go back on his word._Please don_t go!_I must go!The ostrich intervened and told him:_Look at me: I who have never flown carry my wings like two distant yearnings. And yet my steps have only encountered happiness._I can_t. I_ve grown tired of living in one body.And he had spoken. He wanted to go where there was no shade nor map. Where everything is light while never becoming day. In that other world he would sleep, sleep like a desert, forget that he could fly, turn his back on the art of landing on the earth's surface._I don_t want to come to land anymore. I just want to come to rest.And he gazed upwards. The sky looked low, unassuming. But its blue was so intense that it was reflected in the eyes of the animals.Then the flamingo launched himself, bow and arrow stiffened in his body. And off he flew like the chosen one, elegant, shedding his weight. Seen in flight like that, it was as if the sky had gained a vertebra and the cloud, out there ahead, was merely the soul of a bird. One could say even more: that it was light itself that was in flight. And with each flap of its wings, the bird was slowly turning the sky's transparent pages. One more beat of its feathers and suddenly it looked to everyone as if the horizon were growing red. It turned from blue to darker tones, reds and mauves. Everything changing as if ablaze. Thus was the first sunset born. When the flamingo was lost from sight, night descended upon the earth for the first time.That was the end of the story. In the darkness, my mother's voice faded away. I looked at the sunset and saw the birds carrying the sun, pushing the day to elsewhere and beyond.That was my last night in the bushland hideout. The next morning, I returned to town, like someone returning to his own body after sleep.

Excerpted from The Last Flight of the Flamingo by Mia Couto
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