Very strange novella, and I don't know why it won the awards and plaudits that it did. Am I the boy declaring the emperor has no clothes, or have I missed the point? Either way, I wouldn't recommend spending your own money on it. This should probably be either 1* or 4*, but as I don't know which, I'm compromising on 2*.
It is about truth and lies, dreams and reality, memory, predestination, fitting in, and the difference between having a dream and making one, but it's more superficial than that makes it sound.
It's set in Angola, and is about, Felix, an albino bibliophile with mild OCD whose business is to "Guarantee your children a better past... I invent dreams for people, I am not a forger." Some chapters (they are typically only a page or two) tell of José Buchmann acquiring a new past, and others are "dreams". Felix says his job is "an advanced kind of literature... I create plots, I invent characters, but rather than keeping them trapped in a book I give them life, launching them into reality".
Felix isn't the only one changing the past and creating new futures: his teacher was "moved by the helplessness of certain words. He saw them as down on their luck, abandoned in some desolate place in the language, and he sought to recover them", while his client, Buchmann, comes to believe in his new past more than Felix thought possible and is told, "You invented him... and now he's begun to invent himself".
There are some nice images ("It was as though it were raining night... as though falling from the sky were the thick fragments of that sleepy black ocean through which the stars navigate their course."), and quirky ideas (a castle which had crenelations added to make it look authentic and soon the locals swore it had always had them. "If it were authentic, no one would believe in it."), but the plot meanders until suddenly, the penultimate chapter ties up everything in a mad rush. Very unsatisfying.
For no very obvious reason, much of this story is told by a gecko
, rather than an eponymous chameleon. Granted, there are parallels with people living chameleon-like lives, but if that's the point, why not have a chameleon narrator (maybe it's because "Geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalizations", according to Wikipedia?)?
Lies are OK because they are common in nature, "What is camouflage, for instance, but a lie?" (Back to chameleons, rather than geckos.)