‘Contos Exemplares’ (‘Exemplary Tales’) by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

My rating: 4 stars

The collection of short stories Contos Exemplares (Exemplary Tales in the English translation) was published for the first time in the 1960s and that is quite noticeable in various of the seven tales. Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, a renowned Portuguese poet, wrote these stories with the intention of mainly focusing on poverty, suffering, and what would need to be changed in order to achieve a fairer society.

In the first short story in this collection, ‘O Jantar do Bispo’, we are introduced to the owner of a great property. He wants to get rid of the new priest of the parish, who speaks about the misery of the poor, as they work all day for meagre wages. In order to achieve his purpose, he is counting on the bishop to support him. Through a compelling prose, this story touches on the issues of poverty, workers’ rights, freedom, democracy and the hypocrisy of some members of the Catholic Church.

Poverty and suffering are, in fact, recurring themes in this collection. They are clearly present not only in ‘O Homem’, but also in ‘Os Três Reis do Oriente’, a story about the Three Wise Men that takes place before the birth of Jesus. They are trying to seek the truth and looking for a better God, who would not only protect the rich, but also the oppressed. There are also mentions to poetry, which is fitting since some sentences have quite a lyrical sound. Continue reading