Role-playing and masks in As vistas do Dr. Valdez by João Paulo Borges Coelho

Mónica Ganhão


In the novel As Visitas do Dr. Valdez, by João Paulo Borges COELHO, role-playing and masks (literal or figurative) are central topics, connected to power or submission within social relationships, during the transition between the colonial regime and independence in Mozambique. They serve several purposes in the story, such as to invoke the past and insert it into the rapidly changing present – through the mask of Dr. Valdez concocted by Vicente -; to momentarily extend a political and social order that is progressively wearing away – through the authoritative mask of Sá Caetana - ; or to introduce without violence the essence of change into former colonial relationships, which predicts the end of the colonial way of living.

Sá Caetana, coming from a colonizing family, uses a traditional authoritative attitude towards Vicente that she does not wish to see subverted; a mask which she cannot forgo. Vicente, on the other hand, is divided between the submissive and obedient memory of his father, Cosme Paulino, who was a servant to the family, and the new callings of independence and decolonization. This role-playing and these masks lead the characters into a dead-lock without solution: the simultaneous impossibility of keeping up the role-playing or of dismantling it entirely. In this proposal, we aim to analyse how, in the story, wearing a certain social mask is both part of the colonial past and of the decolonized present and future, and how these masks represent an impediment to the creation of real and emotional connections.


power; colonial regime; independence; role-playing; masks

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