New Internationalist

The Whistler

April 2008

This beautifully crafted fable by Angolan author Ondjaki casts a spell on the reader that resonates far beyond its brief span, sending a message of hope from a country ravaged by decades of strife.

The book is set in an unnamed, dirt-poor village where the action takes place over the course of one week. A stranger wanders into the village and takes up residence in the church. He begins to whistle, a sound so unprecedented and so enchanting that it moves those who hear it – not only humans but also the local pigeons and donkeys – to transports of delight.

Throughout the week, gossip spreads around the village that something out of the ordinary is planned for that Sunday’s Mass. As the ceremony approaches, excitement mounts and, on the day itself, the Whistler’s tunes send the congregation into ecstatic celebrations which culminate in a mass orgy involving the whole village, including some very unfortunate chickens!

The Whistler is a shout of joy in the face of unimaginable adversity and its message is both deeply humane and universal.


This column was published in the April 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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The Whistler Fact File
Product information by Ondjaki, translated from the Portuguese by Richard Bartlett
Star rating3
Product link
Product number Aflame Books, ISBN 9780955233975

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This article was originally published in issue 410

New Internationalist Magazine issue 410
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