Shadows of Your Black Memory
Distributed for Swan Isle Press
Set during the last years of Spanish rule in Equatorial Guinea, Shadows of Your Black Memory presents the voice of a young African man reflecting on his childhood. Through the idealistic eyes of the nameless protagonist, Donato Ndongo portrays the cultural conflicts between Africa and Spain, ancestral worship competing with Catholicism, and tradition giving way to modernity. The backdrop of a nation moving toward a troubled independence parallels the young man’s internal struggle to define his own identity.
Now in paperback, Shadows of Your Black Memory masterfully exposes the cultural fissures of Ndongo’s native land. “Spanish Guinea” is a heated, sensual landscape with exotic animals and trees, ancient rituals, ghosts, saints, and sinners. We come to know the narrator’s extended family, the people of his village, merchants, sorcerers, and Catholic priests; we see them critically at times, even humorously, yet always with compassion and a magical dignity. Michael Ugarte’s sensitive translation captures the spirit of the original Spanish prose and makes Ndongo’s powerful, gripping tale available to English-speaking readers for the first time.
“An Afro-Hispanic Bildungsroman or an exercise in literary syncretism. . . . Donato Ndongo's Shadows of Your Black Memory challenges the reader firmly but gently to reflect on his or her own education, the translation and transmission of his or her own cultural values, in a world that is increasingly intermixed and increasingly still in need of human care. Ugarte's translation constitutes a small but important step in . . . bringing a compelling work of African literature written in Spanish into a larger international frame.”
“Ugarte’s text brilliantly captures the tone and cadence of the original novel and renders a thoughtful and compassionate narrative that readers will undoubtedly cherish. Shadows of Your Black Memory is a must-read for anyone truly interested in the study of Hispanic literature.”
“This accomplished novel describes the love of something mercilessly elusive—a magical and transitory space floating between the past and the future, an eternal present. . . . Originally written in Spanish, Donato Ndongo's remarkable and strikingly original novel appears now in a subtle and elegant translation by Michael Ugarte, which does full justice to the dreamily poetic nature of the narrative.”
“Shadows of Your Black Memory is a sensual, impressionistic, seemingly autobiographical novel about a young boy growing up on the mainland of what was then the colony of Spanish Guinea. Much of it concerns his struggle between the conflicting demands of the Catholic priests who teach him and the traditional beliefs of his people. . . . The translation reads smoothly and pungently.”