‘Quatro Contos Dispersos’ by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

My rating: 4 stars

The four short stories featured in Quatro Contos Dispersos by the Portuguese author Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen were not written with the intention of being published together. Perhaps for that reason, there isn’t a striking link between them. Their only common feature is an engaging writing style.

The tale that stands out the most from the rest is ‘Era uma Vez uma Praia Atlântica’. Set in a small seaside town, it’s chiefly a story about grief. The main character feels utterly real and the prose is not only involving, but also atmospheric. Albeit not as long nor as poignant, ‘O Cego’ is also attention-grabbing. The narrator recalls the events that followed the Carnation Revolution, which put an end to decades of dictatorship in Portugal, and how what was happening influenced the music that a blind man played on the streets.

Although the other two stories are worthy of reading, they are not particularly memorable. ‘O Carrasco’ describes how a small city got ready to witness the execution of a death sentence. It feels like a tale that could be told near a bonfire during winter. Unfortunately, the open ending diminishes its impact. ‘Leitura no Comboio’ has a completely different premise, as it’s about a woman who is reading on a train and is constantly being interrupted by a man asking her if she really enjoys reading. I wish she had just slapped him! I may not have cherished reading this story, but it definitely affected me.

I never regret reading Sophia’s work. This particular edition features charming illustrations by João Caetano, which gracefully complement the text.

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