Mia Couto

Mia Couto

The mentor

Published in 2016

One of Africa’s foremost writers and a recognized master of the Portuguese language, Mia Couto integrates creative language with elements of local oral tradition to craft evocative poetry, short stories and novels. Born in Mozambique to Portuguese immigrants, both passionate storytellers, Couto had already published poems at age 14, before beginning medical studies. He later switched to biology, receiving his degree from Mozambique’s Eduardo Mondlane University. During the 1970s and early ’80s, he worked as a journalist at leading newspapers and headed the state-run AIM (Information Agency of Mozambique) news agency. Couto’s literary career began in 1980 with the release of his poems in an anthology. Three years later, he published his first poetry collection, Raiz de Orvalho. He then turned to short stories. In 1992, he published his much-acclaimed first novel, Terra Sonâmbula (Sleepwalking Land). Widely considered among the best African books of the 20th century, it won the Camões Prize for Literature in 2013 and the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, one of the world’s most important literary awards. “He is an author who addresses not just his country, but the entire world, all human beings,” said Neustadt nominator, Italo-Ethiopian author Gabriella Ghermandi. Overall, Couto has written more than 30 books, published in more than 20 countries in various languages, with those in English garnering a large following. Among Couto’s latest works are two novels, Jesusalém (The Tuner of Silences, 2009), which was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2015), and A Confissão da Leoa (Confession of the Lioness, 2012). “The search for identity is the main issue in all of my books,” says Couto, who was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize 2015 for his body of work. Couto also works as an environmental biologist in Mozambique.