Read The World — Transparent City — Ondjaki (Angola)

Jo Reason
3 min readFeb 14, 2022


Blurb from

In a crumbling apartment block in the Angolan city of Luanda, families work, laugh, scheme, and get by. In the middle of it all is the melancholic Odonato, nostalgic for the country of his youth and searching for his lost son. As his hope drains away and as the city outside his doors changes beyond all recognition, Odonato’s flesh becomes transparent and his body increasingly weightless.

A captivating blend of magical realism, scathing political satire, tender comedy, and literary experimentation, Transparent City offers a gripping and joyful portrait of urban Africa quite unlike any before yet published in English, and places Ondjaki, indisputably, among the continent’s most accomplished writers.

Quote: “The truth is even sadder, Baba: we’re not transparent because we don’t eat… we’re transparent because we are poor”. My Review

Welcome to my journey around the world through books. Today we are visiting Angola, with the book Transparent City from Ondjaki.

I wanted to like this more than I actually did, but even though it is a very powerful book with a powerful message, I didn’t enjoy it.

There are lots of characters, lots of dialogue and I think this would be better read in its original language, Portuguese, rather than the translated version to English. The names of the characters would have been better left in Portuguese rather than translated. These characters are very colourful people, mainly living in an apartment block, leading their day to day lives, with hardships and sadness.

Odonato is the main character but the city, the capital of Angola, Luanda also has a big part.

My favourite characters were the Seashell salesman and the mailman. Although the mailman does exaggerate a little with his desire for a motorbike to help him in his job, that is exactly what this book is about, social classes and the huge difference between those with means and those without.

The good parts for me were the outdoor cinema and the details with the poor rooster from the next door building.

But the writing is messy. If you have actually gotten this far reading this review, one of the interesting facts is that the novel is written without punctuation marks, no full stops, no capital letters, except for the names, no chapters or breaks, and even though this seems confusing, it is not too hard to follow along. But this book does open your eyes to inequality of life and corruption in the country of Angola, and also many other countries in the world, written in a hidden and confusing way.

I liked the fact that the cover of the book has the same colours as the national flag.

I am giving this book 3 stars.

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Originally published at on February 14, 2022.



Jo Reason

Photographer and web designer from the UK but living in Ecuador, spending as much time as I can reading and reviewing books. Stock photography of Ecuador