In the late 1800s, a kind of early nationalist movement emerged among the small, relatively well-educated African elite in Luanda, who founded some newspapers and magazines. However, it is only in the interwar period that we see the first contributions to any actual literature; mention may be made of H. Raposo, who in 1927 published the novel Ana e Kalunga, os filhos do mar (Ana and Kalunga, the sons of the sea) in Portugal.
It was not until the 1950s that a literary culture emerged, among some young intellectuals who called themselves “the native sons of Angola.” They started several magazines that had a fairly short life, e.g. Cultura (1957–61). Among the best known of these authors was Agostinho Neto (1922–79), who became Angola’s first president, Viriato da Cruz (1928–73) and António Jacinto (b. 1924). Their literary activities were closely linked to the political, which had their center of gravity in the liberation movement MPLA, and they worked under difficult conditions of oppression and censorship, especially after the armed liberation struggle began in 1961.
The most important literary genre was poetry, and central themes were the longing for identity and the sense of being a stranger in a colonial society. This came among other things. expressed in narrative poems about life in the African neighborhoods that surrounded the “white” center of Luanda. Much of the poetry from this period was also a battle cry. Among the foremost poets were Mário António (b. 1934), António Cardoso (b. 1933), Aires de Almeida Santos (b. 1922), Fernando da Costa Andrade (b. 1936), whose most famous work is Caderno dos heróis (The Notebook of Heroes)., 1977), and Arnaldo Santos (b. 1936). The latter was also known for two short stories about life in Luanda, Quinaxixe (1965, the name of a district) and Tempo de munhungo(Time of Dizziness, 1968). However, the most significant of the authors of this generation is José Luandino Vieira (eg. José Vieira Mateus da Graça, b. 1936), with the short story collection Luanda (1964) and the novel A vida verdadeira de Domingos Xavier (Domingos Xavier’s Real Life), written in 1961 but first released in 1974. Vieira was in concentration camp during the liberation war.
After independence in 1975, and before the Civil War seriously erupted, Angola experienced a literary period of prosperity. Much of what was written was political propaganda literature, but significant works were also published that dealt with the country’s history and life in New Angola. One of the foremost among the newer authors is Pepetela (eg. Artur Carlos Mauricio Pestana dos Santos, b. 1941), who has gained an international reputation through several novels. However, the Civil War caused a serious setback for the entire cultural life.