The Mozambican Modern Ghost Story (1866–2006)

The Genealogy of a Genre

by Peter J. Maurits (Author)
©2022 Monographs XIV, 218 Pages


This is the first book to analyse the Mozambican modern ghost story, establishing the genre’s unique characteristics, situating it in a transnational context, and distinguishing it from other supernatural traditions. The study discusses why it emerged in different historical moments in Mozambican literature and how it was adapted in the process.
Relying on a combination of short and close readings, this book offers a large scope spanning almost two centuries. It examines works of prominent and less prominent Mozambican authors – including Campos de Oliveira, Orlando Mendes, Mia Couto, Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa, and Paulina Chiziane – to discuss the relation of the Mozambican modern ghost story to colonial capitalism, the neoliberalism of the 1980s, and the globalization and world-literature debates of the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1 Thesis and terms
  • Chapter 2 The modern ghost story
  • Chapter 3 Emergence of the Mozambican modern ghost story
  • Chapter 4 The Mozambican modern ghost story
  • Chapter 5 Re-emergence of the Mozambican modern ghost story
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

←viii | ix→


This book will argue that a Mozambican modern ghost story exists and that it registers primitive accumulation. It shows how literary form – a genre – can alter when it moves, temporally and spatially, through the world-literary system, and reacts with different forms and raw materials. In conducting this study, several complexities relative to periodization, selection, categories and scope were encountered. It is important to highlight them here to clarify why certain choices were made. For its periodization, this study uses the colonialism–post-independence–civil war–post-civil-war timeline. Levy has argued, because Mozambique has ‘undergone dizzying cycles of back-and-forth institutional changes in political and economic orders since independence’ – and, it can be added, before independence – that such a relatively ‘clear periodization’ of Mozambican history is possible (Levy 113). Yet as Arrighi writes, periodizing ‘risks doing violence to reality’ because the structure it provides is ‘imposed’ on history (Arrighi 30). Nevertheless, as Arrighi also suggests, the clarifying potential may outweigh such violence.

The selection of this book’s primary corpus relied on an attempt to read all Mozambican literary works, in order to see if modern ghost story forms, in different guises, exist, and to understand possible relations between those guises. Practically, this meant traveling to different libraries and reading all the available books. Such an approach is bound to fail because even a ‘small literature’ as the Mozambican one is large and, evidently, it is not possible to access those works that were lost or never published. It even proved difficult, for different reasons, to access some of the works that have been preserved. Moreover, even if all works could have been accessed – and, indeed, even all the works that were accessed – they cannot possibly be addressed in a book of this size, and certainly not all at length. Thus, throughout this study, as Mozambican literature proliferates and works get longer and more complex – transitioning from poetry to the short story to the novel as dominant form – this book will rely on fewer and fewer works ←ix | x→to make its case. Chapter 4 attempts to mediate this using short readings but Chapter 5 only uses Mia Couto’s complex 2006 novel O Outro Pé da Sereia. In anticipation of criticisms hereof, I can only show comprehension.

Most of the authors discussed in this book are men and Couto’s work is overwhelmingly present. If the selection method addressed above is indiscriminate, then this must say something about what Mozambican authors get to be published, which works get access to circulation and which do not and about who engages with the form at stake in this book. These dynamics, however, lie beyond the scope of this book.

The category of ‘Mozambican’ is problematic because it is neither homogeneous nor straightforward. Even in 1996, Chabal wrote ‘Mozambique is not yet a country in any meaningful sense of the word’ (79). Much has changed since then, but, in 2020, the differences between rural and urban areas are still significant. For example, scholars have argued consistently that Mozambican literary production is predominantly located in the urban centres in the south of the country – and particularly in the capital, Maputo, where most political elites are also located. Many, if not most of the authors that write modern ghost stories as discussed in this book, belong to the ‘south’ in some way or other and belong, not seldom, to the assimilado class, which may have helped them in studying abroad and tap into other literary ecologies more easily. As this book is being written, fundamentalist cells are operating in the north of Mozambique (particularly in Mocimboa da Praia). Analysts have begun to claim the success of these cells lies, in part, in the same neglect of the north by the (political elites in the) south that formed the conditions of the civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. Hence, even if this is a book about the Mozambican modern ghost story, ‘Mozambican’ may address a different region or group than that specifier could imply.

Finally, scope. This book has five chapters, starting in the nineteenth and ending in the twenty-first century. The first chapter discusses the main thesis and unpacks the central terms – how are modernity, register, primitive accumulation and the modern ghost story understood in this book. The second chapter shows how Walter Scott shaped a modern ghost story genre in the nineteenth century – which registered the financial crisis of 1825 – and how it remained prominent. The third chapter analyses Campos ←x | xi→de Oliveira’s 1866 poem ‘Uma Visão’ [An Apparition] and Orlando Mendes’ 1965 Portagem [Toll] as respectively a Gothic predecessor and as an early version of the Mozambican modern ghost story. It argues that Portagem registered primitive accumulation of the Mozambican labour market in the nineteenth century. Chapter 4 demonstrates that in the 1980s, a more explicitly Mozambican modern ghost story registered Mozambique’s capitalist restoration of that period. The main case study, Couto’s ‘A História dos Aparecidos’ [‘The Tale of two Apparitions’], is followed by short readings of several Mozambican modern ghost stories. Chapter 5 claims that the Mozambican modern ghost story re-emerged in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and registered primitive accumulation as mediated by the globalization and world-literature debates. Using the example of Couto’s O Outro Pé da Sereia (2006), it shows how genre traditions are modified in this period by drawing on narrative strategies of globalization.

With a scope of these proportions, some aspects are emphasized and others will inevitably get lost. This unsettling thought is eased only by the awareness of all the outstanding work being done on Mozambican literature. This book aims to be a minor contribution to the field.

←xii | xiii→


This study was initially conducted as doctoral research in the context of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) research and training group, ‘Globalization and Literature: Representations, Transformations, Interventions’, at the University of Munich (LMU). Robert Stockhammer led this group and Tobias Döring was its co-speaker and part of the thesis committee. Their support made this book possible, and I am grateful for it. My colleagues and friends in the research group, as well as my ‘confriends’ in Lusophone studies, advised me on numerous occasions, and I am thankful to them. I thank Nathaniel Ngomane, for making me feel at home in Maputo and its libraries, and Livia Apa, whom I have never met but who introduced me to the work of Aníbal Aleluia. Andrés Romero Jodar generously read an early version of the thesis, and Babs Paz consistently provided the much-needed structure to continue the project, even after the PhD period. Natalya Bekhta and Gero Guttzeit edited an earlier version of Chapter 2 for the journal Anglistik, and their advice improved the text considerably. Vera Peixoto generously helped me out with some translation problems I had. Hrvoje Tutek and Jernej Habjan changed the way I understand literature. Their friendship and knowledge helped make this book into what it is today. Paulo de Medeiros has supported me from the day I entered university. The direction he provided, even long after both of us had left Utrecht University, has decisively determined the work I have done and am doing. I cannot thank him enough. While revising this book, I started working at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, where Heike Paul, Katharina Gerund and Stephen Koetzing welcomed me even before I joined their department. I learned much from them, and this book is better than it was because of them. I am forever indebted to Bani L. Dodor and Iris U. S. Divé for their tolerance, patience and comradeship.

Of course, all flaws are my own, and I look forward to learning from them.

←xiii | xiv→

Chapter 2 is an expansion and modification of my previous publication. Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH granted me non-exclusive permission to reprint it here. The initial bibliographical reference is: Maurits, Peter J., ‘(Haunted) Cosmopolitan Spaces: World-Literature, the Modern Ghost Story, and the Structure of Debt’, in Heinz Antor and Julia Hoydis (eds), Anglistik: International Journal of English Studies 30/3 (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2019), 57–72.

←xiv | 1→

Chapter 1

Thesis and terms

Notable of literary works in which the supernatural plays a central role is that scholars often approach them differently when they are produced by African authors. This is understandable in part because of the necessity to historicize but may lead to confusions. ‘Madhaianhoca’, the opening story of Aníbal Aleluia’s short story collection Contos do Fantástico (2011 [1988]), illustrates this well. Its narrator recalls the bloody Battle of Chicungussa and articulates that, in the present of the story, the battle’s beating drums and rattling maracas are still heard at the site of the conflict, because those who died return to dominate those they conquered and to take revenge on those who mistreated them in life.

Two characters, Portuguese settler colonialists called administrator and secretary, are sceptical of the supernatural phenomenon and a ‘régulo’ [local leader] invites them on a trip to witness it for themselves (16). During the trip, the administrator asks the secretary if he believes the stories to be true and the latter answers denigratingly that


XIV, 218
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (February)
Mozambique modern ghost story world-literature primitive accumulation Peter J. Maurits The Mozambican Modern Ghost Story (1866–2006)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2022. XIV, 218 pp.

Biographical notes

Peter J. Maurits (Author)

Peter J. Maurits is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. His primary research interests are the way in which literary forms, and particularly genres, move through the world-literary system and change in the process. He has written about postcolonial Europe, the British and Mozambican modern ghost story, and futurism, and he is currently working on a book about African science fiction.


Title: The Mozambican Modern Ghost Story (1866–2006)
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