Portuguese Literature London Reading Group . 1 October – 14 December

And Other Stories has been reading selected books from Portugal and Lusophone Africa twice a year, listening to our network of eminent translators and readers for tips. For Autumn 2012 we’ve got something for everyone – this edition includes: a contemporary novel by João Ricardo Pedro; a very readable epic in verse by one of Portugal’s most acclaimed writers, Gonçalo M. Tavares & a modern classic by José Cardoso Pires.

Do join us in reading the books. You don’t need to read Portuguese as we have English extracts in most cases. Add your comments to the author pages and we’d love to see you at our London meet-up if you can come. Thanks to your discussion online or in person, one or more of these books might make it into English. The main thing for now is the pleasure of a good talk about some hotly tipped books.

Hos it works:

1 – Extracts in English are being added to this website where possible – see the relevant author’s page. You can order the titles online or in person at the European Bookshop (London) and other bookshops. If you have trouble finding a title we may have a copy in the office. Do email reading@andotherstories.org saying which book you would like to read.

2 – Read the excerpts, then comment online via the author pages.

3 – Come to a meet-up (in London) to discuss what has been read. You can be sure of lively, well informed discussion. All texts will be discussed on 14 December , 6:30 – 8 pm; (location tbc) Canning House, 2 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PJ. After 8pm, we will be socialising in the Star Tavern, 6 Belgrave Mews, SWIX 8HT. (Food served until 9pm.) That gives us all from 1 October – 14 December to get lost in these fabulous books.

The Books & Authors:

João Ricardo Pedro was born in 1973 in Reboleira, Amadora. Curious about the Lorentz force, he went on to study electrotechnical engineering at the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon. For more than ten years João worked in telecommunications, never having to apply any of the fascinating Maxwell’s equations.

Joao Ricardo Pedro photo by Miguel Manso

In the spring of 2009, as a consequence of the economic downturn in Portugal, he found himself with more time than he needed in order to fulfil his daily duties. In a surge of pragmatism, he began to write. O Teu Rosto Será o Último is his first novel.

Featured Reading Group Title

O Teu Rosto Será o Último (Yours will be the Last Face I See)

It all begins with a man leaving his house on a cold morning, with a gun in his hand. What moves him will remain unknown almost until the end, or maybe not even then.

After all, it seems that the story of the doctor who took care of him when he was badly hurt, forty years before, Dr Augusto Mendes, might be more important. Or of Dr Augusto’s son António, who did two tours in Africa, corresponding to a girl he had met in a bookshop. Or even of his grandson, Duarte, who one day rode his bike completely naked.

Through apparently autonomous episodes – against the backdrop of the 1974 Revolution – this novel builds the story of a family scarred by the long years of dictatorship, by political repression, by the colonial war.

The grandson Duarte grows up surrounded by these foreign memories – often traumatic, often obscure. Gifted with enormous talent, a precocious and prodigious pianist, he appears to be the one able to restore the family’s lost hopes. But will his art be redemptory, or bring other conflicts? Sample translation coming soon (Download here)

This fascinating novel was awarded with the LeYa Prize in 2011.

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Unanimously considered one of the greatest Portuguese writers of the twentieth century, José Cardoso Pires is seen in some ways as the literary predecessor of José Saramago and António Lobo Antunes. Having published eighteen books throughout his career, his body of work does not fit any specific genre or literary tendency, even though his writing is somewhat connected to the Neo-Realist movement of the 1950s and 1960s. A Marxist throughout his life, his opposition to the Portuguese dictatorship forced him into exile more than once. Born in 1925 in the village of Peso, near Castelo Branco, he died in Lisbon in 1998. O Delfim (The Dauphin) is one of his most important works.

José Cardoso Pires portrait

Featured Reading Group Title

O Delfim (The Dauphin)

The story begins with the return of the Author, after a year’s absence, to Gafeira, a typical (and fictional) Portuguese village. As on his previous visit, the Author has come to do some wildfowl shooting.

On that earlier visit, the Author had met and grown to admire a man known variously as Tomás Manuel da Palma Bravo, the Engineer, the Dauphin and the Infante. He is the last descendant of the Palma Bravo family, a family that has dominated the village for centuries. Despite leading an entirely futile life mainly devoted to drinking and gambling, and paying no attention to the villagers whom he despises as if they were mere serfs, the Dauphin is still resentfully accepted as the ‘lord of the manor’.

When the Author returns to Gafeira a year later, he is immediately informed by gleeful locals of the mysterious deaths of the Dauphin’s wife and servant and of the Engineer’s equally mysterious disappearance. The novel charts the Author’s attempts to solve the crime through the conflicting testimonies of villagers and through his own memories of the previous year and the conversations he had with Tomás. In the end, he realises that he will never fully understand what happened; the ‘evidence’ he garners is merely a collection of fragmentary images obscured by uncertainty, imagination, memory and revenge. The truth of what happened will only ever be known by those who witnessed it – and even then…

The Dauphin was first published in 1968, when Salazar, Portugal’s long-term dictator, suffered a brain haemorrhage that left him paralysed. This existential detective novel paints a vivid portrait of the decadence and oppression that was rife under Salazar, and Cardoso Pires does this with elegance and wit, employing a myriad of different narrative techniques and writing styles. A neglected masterpiece. A sample translated by Margaret Jull Costa is coming soon (downloadable).

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goncalo Tavares image

Gonçalo M. Tavares, a Portuguese writer born in August, 1970 in Luanda, Angola. He published his first work in 2001 and since then has been awarded several important prizes. His books have been published in more than 30 countries and the book Jerusalem has been included in the European edition of 1001 books to read before you die – a guide of the most important novels of all times.

Featured Reading Group Title

Uma Viagem à Índia (A Journey to India)

Uma Viagem à Índia  is featured in our winter 2012 Portuguese reading group. A sample translated by Laura Garmeson is coming soon (downloadable). Read it and comment on it on this page.

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