Do you want to start reading (more) books by Portuguese authors, but don’t know by whom specifically? I have some recommendations for you! Before deciding to write about this topic, I had never reflected on who would make their way onto a list about my favourite Portuguese writers. So, I was surprised to realise that all of them had already passed away. This doesn’t mean that I don’t read and enjoy books by more contemporary Portuguese authors. I just didn’t like all of the books I read by them, as it’s the case of the following four so far.
Eça de Queirós
If you are a fan of classics, then Eça de Queirós (also spelt ‘Queiroz’) may be the author for you. Born in 1845, he wrote some of my favourite Portuguese classics – Os Maias (The Maias) and O Crime do Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro). His books are rich in instances of social criticism and irony. Some of the thoughts he put onto the page are still quite relevant today. In case you want to know more about his work, I wrote a more in-depth feature on him when I first started this blog.
José Saramago is the only Portuguese writer to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature so far. His writing style is pretty recognisable. In the majority of his books, you won’t find any quotation marks. The dialogues and the characters’ thoughts are differentiated from the rest of the text by using a comma followed by a capital letter. But as soon as you get familiar with the style, his books become quite readable and flow really well.
I would recommend start reading José Saramago’s work by As Intermitências da Morte (Death at Intervals), mainly because it’s one of his shortest books, which can be helpful when we are trying to become accustomed to a very specific writing style. However, my favourite book by him is O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis). I also read and enjoyed Ensaio sobre a Cegueira (Blindness) and Memorial do Convento (Baltasar & Blimunda).
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
I’ve been reading the work of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen since I was 10 or 11 years old. She wrote poetry, essays and short stories, both for children and adults. She died in 2004, and her remains were moved to the Portuguese National Pantheon ten years later. I particularly like her poetry. Her acute social conscience is easily perceived, and natural elements serve quite often as symbols of abstract concepts. I can’t recommend you a particular translation, but I know there are some anthologies of her work published in English.
Fernando Pessoa is probably one of the most famous Portuguese authors worldwide, mainly because of the Book of Disquiet, a combination of intimate diary, prose poetry and descriptive narrative. However, it was his poetry that made me fall in love with his work. He created the concept of ‘heteronyms’, which are not ordinary pen names or pseudonyms. They are different ‘voices’ with their own biographies, writing styles, physiques, personalities and independent intellectual lives. My favourite heteronym is Álvaro de Campos.
Have you read books by any of these authors? Tell me in the comments!