In Couto’s superb novel, a disturbed father tries to isolate his sons from life and learning by taking them to a remote place and denying them any access to writing.   The older brother teaches the younger one in secret, always at risk of dire punishment.  As a new world, and new dimensions of time, opens up to him, he starts to understand why his father so fears the power of reading and writing. 

In Jezoosalem, no books were admitted, nor notebooks, or anything at all associated with writing. 

 

– Aren’t you scared we’ll get caught, Ntunzi!

 

– You should be scared of not knowing anything.  After reading, I’m going to teach you how to write. 

 

Scribbling in the sand of the yard with a little piece of kindling wood, I was fascinated, and felt the world was being reborn, like the savannah after the rains.   I gradually came to understand Silvestre’s prohibitions: writing was a bridge between past and future times, time that had never existed in me.  

Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)), p. 37-38

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