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Informal Lives and Strategies of Survival on Mozambique’s Margins: João Paulo Borges Coelho’s As Duas Sombras do Rio


This article seeks to make a contribution to the literary criticism regarding the fiction of João Paulo Borges Coelho. It will show how his novel As Duas Sombras do Rio creates innovative forms to depict the harsh realities experienced by the Mozambican people. My approach includes the concept of marginality within literary theory and it moves toward an interdisciplinary treatment of marginality in Mozambique. Here societal marginality may be understood as that “by and large reflected in the underlying social conditions of people” (Gurung and Kollmair, 2005). These conditions are represented by poor living options (lack of resources, skills, and job opportunities), reduced or restricted participation in public decision-making, less use of public space, lower sense of community, and low self-esteem” (Gurung and Kollmair, 2005). In Mozambique, one cannot think of just one margin in relation to a center, but of several margins. The problem of marginality surfaces as variegated and complex, not only because the country’s borders are a result of colonialism—self-identical ethnic groups live on different sides of the national border—but they are also an outcome of the colonial and civil war. Thus, we should consider that internal margins compose urban and rural spaces as much as postcolonial margins. All of these forms of marginality are defined by survival and resistance.

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