“Confusão is a good word, a synthesis word, an everything word. In Angola it has its own specific sense and is literally untranslatable. To simplify things: Confusão means confusion, a mess, a state of anarchy and disorder. Confusão is a situation created by people, but in the course of creating it they lose control and direction, becoming victims of confusão themselves. There is a sort of fatalism in confusão. A person wants to do something, but it all falls to pieces in his hands; he wants to set something in motion, but some power paralyzes him; he wants to create something, but he produces confusão. Confusão can overwhelm our thinking, and then others will say that the person has confusão in his head. It can steal into our hearts, and then our girls dump us. It can explode in a crowd and sweep through a mass of people—then there is fighting, death, arson. Sometimes confusão takes a more benign form in which it assumes the character of desultory, chaotic but bloodless haggling.
Confusão is a state of absolute disorientation. People who have found themselves on the inside of confusão can’t comprehend what is going on around them or in themselves. Nor can they explain specifically what caused this particular state of confusão. There are carriers who spread confusão, and others must beware, though this is difficult because literally any person can at any moment become a perpetrator of confusão, even against his will. By confusão we also understand our own states of perplexity and helplessness. We see confusão raging around us and can’t do anything to stop it…The best thing is to act slowly and wait. After a while confusão loses energy, weakens, vanishes. We emerge from a state of confusão exhausted, but somehow satisfied that we have managed to survive. We start gathering strength for the next confusão.”
—Ryszard Kapuściński, from Another Day of Life