Mia Couto


© Daniel Mordzinszki



Mia Couto, born in Beira/Mozambique in 1955, is among the most prominent writers in Portuguese-speaking Africa. After studying medicine and biology in Maputo, he worked as a journalist. Besides writing, he is now a biologist and teaches at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. In 2013, Mia Couto was awarded the Camões Prize for Literature 2013 and the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature 2014. He was among the six finalists of the Man Booker International Prize 2015 with his body of work and 2017 his novel A confissão da leoa was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award. His books have been published in over 30 countries.


Have a look at the author’s homepage:




A Espada e a Azagaia (“The Sword and the Spear”) tells of the gradual demise of the kingdom of Gaza in Mozambique. After the attack on his quarters, the defeated sergeant Germano de Melo needs to be taken to hospital. The only one within reach is along the river Inhambane, so Imani goes on an arduous river journey with her father and brother. Meanwhile war rages around of them: the Portuguese occupiers and the king of Gaza’s warriors fight fierce battles with swords and spears, until the arrival of the machine gun ensures European supremacy. Germano wants to start a new life with the young Imani, but the Portuguese military have other plans for the injured soldier. Imani's father also has different plans for his daughter: as one of Ngungunyane's wives, she would be close enough to the tyrant to avenge the destruction of their village...

With poetic beauty, Mia Couto points to the futility of war and the boundaries of cultures that are apparently foreign to each other; boundaries which entire societies, but also families and lovers, conceive as simultaneously in decline, and yet still existent.



One of the richest and most important authors in Africa.

Henning Mankell


It is not possible to catch the wind with a sieve.




Mulheres de cinza (“Women of Ashes”) is the first book in a fascinating trilogy about the last of southern Mozambique’s emperors, Ngungunyane.

As punishment, the military sergeant Germano de Melo is posted to the African village of Nkokolani to oversee the Portuguese conquest of Ngungunyane’s empire. There he encounters Imani, a 15-year-old girl who helps him with her language skills, and a people torn between two sides: while Imani‘s brother Mwanatu is fighting for the Portuguese crown, Dubula has chosen Ngungunyane. Slowly and with all their differences, Imani and Germano are drawn to each other. But in a country haunted by men and war, the only hope for a woman is to remain unnoticed, as if made of shadows and ashes.

In his characteristically beautiful prose and alternating between the voices of Inami and Germano, Mia Couto gives us a vivid and unsettling account of a Mozambique at war at the end of the 19th century.



A confissão da leoa (“Confession of the Lioness”) tells the captivating story of the hunter Arcanjo, who is sent to an African village haunted by man-eating lions. There he slowly discovers the darkest secrets of its inhabitants, victims of brutality and inhuman traditions. Based on true facts and written in atmospheric language, A confissão da leoa skilfully interweaves the enthralling stories of Arcanjo

and his former lover Mariamar, constantly surprising the reader with unexpected twists and turns.


Have a look at an English extract on bookanista here!


Fiction brings us closer to the truth here than mere facts ever could.

The Guardian


Somber and masterfully wrought. . . an intoxicating dance of hunter and hunted.

Los Angeles Times


Its earthy wisdom and shimmering magic will make you want to discover more of Couto’s work.

Vanity Fair


Myths, magic, tradition and reality intersect to the extent that it becomes difficult to tell them apart.

Denver Post


Beautifully narrated!


A story in which anything can be true, even dreams.



It’s as if the reader is surrounded by a spell. The word-magician stands before us.

Neues Deutschland


Mia Couto’s work is among those that really count.

La Quinzaine


The captivating chronicle of a village, whose language unfolds with great suggestive power.

Deutschlandradio Kultur


Jesusalém tells the fascinating story of a family whose lives were shaped by a deeply hidden tragedy. Mwanito and his father Silvestre live far removed from civilization when suddenly a woman appears to disturb their peaceful world, bringing them back to the city. There, Mwanito finally finds out how his mother died and what drove his father to insanity and into the wilderness. A powerful story about oblivion and how we deal with pain and guilt. The novel has been longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2015.


A kind of magic realism with African roots that will enthral the reader.

El País, Babelia


Another demonstration of how the musicality and the poetry of Mia Couto’s warm words are the perfect camouflage for addressing major issues.

Os Meus Livros



In Venenos de Deus, Remédios do Diabo (“God's Poison, Devil's Relief”) three inhabitants of Vila Cacimba, a small village in Mozambique, are the protagonists: Bartolomeu Sozinho, a retired mechanic, his mulatto wife Munda, and Alfredo Suaecelência, the local authority a vain, corrupt administrator who has been friends with Bartolomeu since childhood and is in constant competition with him. Sidónio Rosa, a Portuguese doctor and aid worker with the task of dealing with an epidemic of meningitis in Vila Cacimba, is a witness to this conflict, which is loaded with sexual tension. Gradually, Sidónio comes to recognise the secrets and contradictions of the African village.

In reality, Sidónio Rosa came to the village in search of Deolinda, who he had met and fallen in love with in Portugal. She is Bartolomeu and Munda's daughter, allegedly away on a trip. Again and again, Sidónio walks the path from the village's only boarding house, to the couple's home to visit Bartolomeu, who is suffering from severe diabetes. He becomes a kind of mediator between the old couple, who argue and fight although they still love each other. The couple tell him they are only in contact with their daughter by letter, but it later transpires that she died during the abortion of Suaecelência's child. The administrator maintains she died of AIDS. The competition between Bartolomeu and the village head is to do with politics and also with love, as Bartolomeu has reason to suspect that his wife is also Suaecelência's lover.

All the protagonists are caught up in a web of contradictions  even Sidónio, who claims to be a doctor but has not yet finished his medical degree and ought not to be treating patients. In African narrative tradition, the truth is just as important as its many variations. This book is a beautiful illustration of how people weave illusions around themselves so that they do not have to die.


O outro pé da sereia (“The Sirene’s other Foot”) is set in Mozambique in the year 2002. Mwadia Malunga and her husband, the shepherd Zero Madzero, discover a statue of the Virgin Mary. Mwadia is keen to bring the statue to Vila Longe, her place of birth, to keep it in a secure place. She is delighted to return to the village where she was born. The reader becomes acquainted with Mwadias mother, her stepfather, Lázaro the Curandeiro, the inhabitants of Vila Longe and finally, an Afro-American from the United States, allegedly on a quest for his lost African roots along with his Brazilian wife.

On pages of ever-shifting tone and colour, narratives of the present alternate with stories from the past. The statue of the Virgin Mary that Mwadia would find over four hundred years later, was transported on a ship from Goa to Mozambique in 1560, by the Jesuit missionary Dom Gonçalo da Silveira. It was his gift for the ruler of the mythical realm of Monomotapa and was to convert the people to Christianity. On the ship, which also carries slaves, he is accompanied by the young priest Manuel Antunes, who in the course of the crossing speaks out against the inhumane handling of the slaves. A lively picture emerges from colonial times up to the present day. And it would not be a book by Mia Couto if the author were not to capture the magical, mythical world of Mozambique with the all musicality of his language, linking the daily lives of his country’s people in past and present.


As in O último voo do Flamingo (“The last Flight of the Flamingo”) or Um rio chamado tempo, uma casa chamada terra (“A River called Time, a House called Earth”) the author continues using his very own, uniquely melodic language to describe a world deeply marked by traditional forms yet caught up in the process of constant change in present-day Mozambique.


Terra sonâmbula (“The sleep-walking Country”), his first novel, was praised by the critics as one of the best novels in the Portuguese language to have appeared in recent years. In 2002 the Jury Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century” selected Terra sonâmbula among the top twelve. Its scenario is the battle for survival in the civil war in Mozambique. Similar to the magical realism of Latin America, in this novel and in A varanda do Frangipani (“Under the Frangipani Tree”) Couto conjures up the nightmare of an omnipresent threat in a way which combines historical truth with individual dreams and living collective myths.


After his first volume of poems Couto published several short story collections and novels. He describes everyday life in Mozambique, a country whose people are among the world’s poorest and most maltreated after three decades of civil war. In the process of doing so, Couto integrates elements of his country’s oral tradition and his prose, which is of great musicality, succeeds in creating surreal-ghostly atmospheres out of a concrete link with reality.






Trilogy “As areias do imperador” (“The sands of the Emperor”)

O bebedor de horizontes

Lisbon: Caminho 2017, 384 p.

Brazil: Companhia das Letras, forthcoming 2018


A espada e a azagaia

Lisbon: Caminho 2016, 462 p.

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2016 France: Métailié German: Unionsverlag


Mulheres de cinza

Lisbon: Caminho 2015, 408 p.

English translation available

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2015 France: Métailié German: Unionsverlag 2017 Netherlands: Querido 2016 US: Farrar, Straus & Giroux



A confissão da leoa

Lisbon: Caminho 2012, 270 p.

Shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2017

Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2015

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2012, 2015 Catalan: Periscopi 2016 China: PenguinFrance: Métailié 2014 German: Unionsverlag 2014; pb. 2016 Hungary: Európa Italy: Sellerio 2014 Netherlands: Querido 2017 Spain: Alfaguara 2016 UK: Harvill Secker 2015 US: Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2015, Picador 2016


Jesusalém, Lisbon: Caminho 2009, 294 p.

Longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2015

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2009 Canada: Biblioasis 2013 China: Citic France: Métailié 2011 Germany: Wunderhorn 2014 Italy: Sellerio 2015 Serbia: Geopoetika 2013Spain: Alfaguara 2012 Sweden: Leopard 2015 UK/US: Biblioasis 2013


Venenos de Deus, Remédios do Diabo, Lisbon: Caminho 2008, 188 p.

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2008 France: Métailié 2013 Italy: Voland 2011 Mexico: Almadía 2010 Russia: Inostrannaya Literatura 2012 Spain: Txalaparta 2011


O outro pé da sereia, Lisbon: Caminho 2006, 382 p.

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2006 Spain: El Cobre 2009 Sweden: Leopard 2010


Um rio chamado tempo, uma casa chamada terra, Lisbon: Caminho 2002, 262 p.

Argentina: UNSAM 2016 Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2003 France: Albin Michel 2008 Italy: Guanda 2005 Serbia: Geopoetika 2011 Spain (Catalan): Ediciones 62 2009 UK: Serpent’s Tail 2008


O último voo do flamingo, Lisbon: Caminho 2000, 225 p.

Feature film released in 2010

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2005 Finland: Like 2001 France: Chandeigne 2009 Greece: Dardanos Netherlands: Van Gennep 2007 Poland: PIW 2005 Romania: Art Slovenia: Beletrina 2005 Spain: Alfaguara 2002 Sweden: Ordfront 2002 UK: Serpent’s Tail 2004


A varanda do Frangipani, Lisbon: Caminho 1996, 154 p.

Andorra: Limits 1998 (Catalan rights) Brazil: Companhia das Letras Croatia: V.B.Z. 2003 Cuba: Arte y Literatura 2009 Finland: Like 2006 France: Albin Michel 2000 German: Alexander Fest 2000, pb Unionsverlag 2007 Italy: Guanda 2002 Mexico: Elefanta 2014 Norway: Aschehoug 1999 Poland: Bertelsmann Media 2009 Romania: Art 2008Sweden: Ordfront 1997 UK: Serpent’s Tail 2001, pb 2008


Terra sonâmbula, Lisbon: Caminho 1992, 220 p.

Feature Film, Pandora 2006

Brazil: Nova Fronteira 1993 Catalan: Periscopi China: Citic Croatia: V.B.Z. 2005Czech Republic: BB Art Publishers 2003 Denmark: Hjulet 2000 France: Albin Michel 1994 (avail.) German: dipa 1994, pb Unionsverlag 2014 Greece: Aiora 2003 Israel: Carmel 2004 Italy: Guanda 1999, pb 2002 Macedonia: Ars Lamina Netherlands: Ambo Anthos 1996, Van Gennep 2008 Norway: Aschehoug 1994 Poland: Karakter 2010 Slovenia: Beletrina Spain: Alfaguara 1998 Sweden: Ordfront 1995, pb 1999 UK: Serpent’s Tail 2006 Ukraine: Calvaria Uruguay: Banda Oriental




O fio das missangas, Lisbon: Caminho 2004, 148 p.

Bulgaria: Janet 45 France: Chandeigne 2010 Italy: Quarup 2011 Poland: Inst. of Iberian and Ibero-American Studies 2008 Spain: Le Tour 87


Na berma de nenhuma estrada, Lisbon: Caminho 2001, 184 p.

Bulgaria: Janet 45


Vinte e Zinco, Lisbon: Caminho 1999, 142 p.

France: Albin Michel 2003 Italy: Urogallo 2013


Contos do nascer da terra, Lisbon: Caminho 1997, 245 p.


Estórias abensonhadas

Lisbon: Caminho, 1994, 186 p.

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant 2014 for the English translation

Brazil: Nova Fronteira 1996 Canada: Biblioasis France: Albin Michel 1996, Chandeigne 2016 Poland: Inst. of Iberian and Ibero-American Studies 2008


Cronicando, Lisbon: Caminho, 1991, 193 p.

Chile: LOM 2005 (Latin American rights) France: Albin Michel 1996 Italy: IBIS 1998 Spain: Txalaparta 1996, 2011


Cada homem é uma raça, Lisbon: Caminho 1990, 181 p.

Brazil: Nova Frontiera 1998 Estonia: Loomingu Raamatukogu 2015 France: Albin Michel 1996 Italy: IBIS (avail.)Poland: Inst. of Iberian and Ibero-American Studies 2008 South Africa: Penguin Books 2010 Spain: Alfaguara UK: Heinemann 1993


A Princesa Russa

(included in the volume of stories Cada homem é uma raça)

Film rights under option


Vozes anoitecidas, Lisbon: Caminho 1986, 169 p.

Belgium: Houtekiet (Dutch) 1996 France: Albin Michel 1996 Italy: Lavoro 1989 (avail.) South Africa: Penguin Books 2010 Spain: Txalaparta 2001 UK: Heinemann 1990



Short Prose:

Pensageiro frequente

Lisbon: Caminho 2010, 136 p.

Canada:            Biblioasis 2015


E se Obama fosse africano? e outras interinvenções, Lisbon: Caminho 2009, 216 p.

Canada: Biblioasis France: Chandeigne 2010 US: Biblioasis 2015


Pensatempos. Textos de opinão, Lisbon: Caminho 2005, 157 p

Canada: Biblioasis US: Biblioasis 2015





Tradutor de Chuvas, Lisbon: Caminho 2011, 120 p.


Raiz de Orvalho, Lisbon: Caminho 1999, 99 p.

Spain: CEDMA 2009



Children’s books:

Mar me quer, Ill. by João Nasi Pereira

Lisbon: Caminho 2000, 72 p.


A chuva pasmada, Ill. by Danuta Wojciechowska,

Lisbon: Caminho 2004, 74 p.

Argentina: Puerto de Palos 2017 France: Chandeigne 2014


Picture books:

O beijo da palavrinha, Ill. by Danuta Wojciechowska,

Lisbon: Caminho 2008, 29 p.

Brazil: Língua Geral 2006


O gato e o escuro, Ill. by Danuta Wojciechowska,

Lisbon: Caminho 2001

Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2008 France: Chandeigne 2003