‘Geografia’ by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

My rating: 4 stars

Poems don’t necessarily ask for the creation of a sense of place. In Geografia by the Portuguese author Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, a significant number of poems, which are organised in sections, focus on particular locations, though. Others, on the other hand, are dedicated to fellow poets, to the writing of poetry and to social issues.

The beaches in Algarve were the source of inspiration for the first group of poems in the collection. The one that stands out the most is ‘Senhora da Rocha’. It can be read as a personification of a place, since it could either be about the beach itself or a woman who doesn’t enjoy her life.

Other locations mentioned in the poems are the Mediterranean and Brazil. Not only are cities in the region of the Mediterranean the main inspiration for various poems, but Sophia also focused on Ancient Gods and myths, such as Elektra and the Minotaur. From the couple of poems about Brazil, the one that caught my interest the most was ‘Poema de Helena Lanari’, which is about the sound of Brazilian Portuguese and its open vowels. There is also a poem about Manuel Bandeira, a Brazilian poet whom she was a fan of in her youth. Continue reading

Books in Portuguese for Language Learners

When we are learning a foreign language, it’s important for us to immerse ourselves in it as much as possible. One way of doing so is by reading books in that language. However, when we are not yet fluent in a foreign language that may seem like a daunting experience, particularly as we may only have heard of books for more proficient readers. An easy option is to read the translation of a book we’re already familiar with. But what if we are looking forward to reading books that have been written by native speakers?

If you have just started learning Portuguese, my first language, or are considering the possibility of learning it, there are four books that I recommend. They were written with a young audience in mind, but they are not too childish. Three of the books were written by Portuguese authors and one by a Brazilian. There are many differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese when it comes to not only pronunciation, but also vocabulary and grammar. So, the nationality of the author is something to bear in mind if you’re only interested in one of the main variants.

 

O Cavaleiro da Dinamarca by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen had Danish ancestry, so it’s not strange that she chose the main character in this short story to be from Denmark. A knight who used to live with his family in a forest decided to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. His journey is the main focus of this tale. Continue reading

Most Owned and Read Authors – Second Update

There’s something special about reading a book by an author whose work we are becoming increasingly familiar with. It doesn’t matter how many books we have read by some authors, we still want to continue to explore their work, compare and contrast, discover similarities or disparities between books. For that reason, there are some authors that are more prevalent than others on our shelves.

I wrote my first ‘Most Owned and Read Authors’ post in 2017. Back then, I still had on my shelves many of the books that I had read as a child and a teenager. I since then gave almost all of them away, as I didn’t plan to read them ever again and had lost that somewhat inexplicable sentimental connection with them. I also started to only keep on my shelves the books that I either loved or enjoyed, plus some that I only found passable but that have some special characteristic to them. Still, as there weren’t many changes on the authors featured on the first update of my most owned and read authors a year later, I decided to stop writing this kind of posts annually.

I have now realised that two authors (Daphne du Maurier and José Saramago) who didn’t even make it onto the list before have since then become significantly prominent. The time has come for a second update! It’s important to recall that these are not necessarily the authors that I have read more books by. But they are in a way the ones that I’ve enjoyed the most books by, either because they have written book series I cherished or because I’m an admirer of their work in general. Continue reading

Last Ten Books Tag

A week ago, I saw the Last Ten Books Tag on Marina Sofia’s blog (I couldn’t unearth who the original creator was) and decided to give it a go, although I don’t tend to do tags very often. I always struggle to come up with answers for numerous of the questions asked on tags for some reason, so forgive me if my replies are not particularly remarkable and insightful.

 

Last book I gave up on

This one is easy! I gave up on War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy early on in January after reading less than ten chapters. In 1805, Anna Pavlovna organised a soirée where various characters discussed not only their lives, but also Napoleon and his political and military movements. I just couldn’t memorise whom any of the characters were or their connections with one another. For that reason, I lost all interest in this massive novel, which I had been meaning to read for years.

 

Last book I reread

After deciding not to finish War and Peace, I figured that it was a good idea to read an old favourite. I reread Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and loved it as much as the first time around. The dystopian society it portrays is well known for its telescreens and being ruled by the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. Winston, the main character, works in the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites past information. His life gets progressively more complicated as he becomes involved with Julia. Continue reading

‘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. Continue reading

Books in Portuguese to Read this Year

Last year, UNESCO proclaimed the 5th of May as the World Portuguese Language Day. Although Portuguese is my mother tongue, I’ve recently been reading more books originally written in English than in Portuguese. There are some books written by lusophone authors that I definitely want to read until the end of the year, however. The list features writers from Portugal, Brazil and Angola.

 

Lillias Fraser by Hélia Correia

Hélia Correia won the Camões Prize (a literary career prize for authors who write in Portuguese) in 2015. Lillias Fraser is a historical fiction book about a Scottish girl who was part of a clan that lost the battle of Culloden against the English. She then ran away and moved to Portugal.

 

O Irmão Alemão (My German Brother) by Chico Buarque

The Brazilian author Chico Buarque is the latest winner of the Camões Prize. This book is a combination of fiction and reality. When he was 22 years old, Buarque discovered that he had a brother in Germany, so he decided to write a book about that. Continue reading

Favourite Books by My Most-Owned Authors

In past years, I wrote a blog post listing all the books that I had on my shelves by my most-owned and read authors. The plan was to publish such a post every year, in order to evaluate if there were any changes. As the differences weren’t that significant from one year to the next, I discarded the idea of doing it annually.

My shelves look slightly different now, since I’ve unhauled not only many books from my childhood, but also more recent ones that I didn’t enjoy that much. However, instead of just listing the titles of the books that I read by my most-owned authors, this time I decided to reveal my favourite book by each of the most prevalent writers on my shelves. The list below features seven authors. Four of them I read and own six books by, the others more than that.

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I read and own eight books by J.K. Rowling. A number that increases to nine when adding the work that she wrote under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. My favourite is still Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the third book in the series, Harry, Hermione and Ron investigate Sirius Black, whom they believe is an ally of Voldemort. It also explores Harry’s family history. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – October 2019

October was not a particularly fruitful month when it comes to favourites. I liked all of the books that I read in their entirety, but I DNFed two books in a row at the beginning of the month. I also didn’t watch many TV series or films. So, this instalment will certainly be much shorter than usual.

I finished reading three books last month – A Espada e a Azagaia by Mia Couto, The Devil’s Footprints by John Burnside and Mar Novo by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Although I enjoyed the three of them almost equally, I decided to choose as my favourite the poetry collection Mar Novo, mainly because I relished analysing some of the poems featured in it more thoroughly, something I hadn’t done in a while. Various poems in this collection have pessimistic undertones and allude to a world of darkness. The sea is used as a symbol for freedom.

More or less two weeks ago, I watched the fifth season of Peaky Blinders. I was not impressed by the first episodes, as they don’t seem to have a clear focus, but adored the last two (5 and 6). This season is set in the 1930s, and the Shelby family becomes embroiled in the rise of Nazism in the UK. Continue reading

‘Mar Novo’ by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

My rating: 4 stars

Pessimism and despair loom large in the majority of the poems that are part of the collection Mar Novo by the Portuguese author Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Originally published in 1958, when Portugal was under a fascist dictatorship, they allude to a world of darkness and terror and to the need to build a new one. As in other of her collections, natural elements are used as metaphors for concepts that could have been censored.

The sea is constantly used as a symbol for freedom, a desirable right that at that point in time she didn’t believe could soon be attained. In ‘Marinheiro sem Mar’, one of my favourite poems in this collection, that symbolism is particularly noticeable. It mentions a sailor without sea, which can be interpreted as a metaphor for a people without freedom. In that world, where the sea had dried up, it was also impossible to find the truth. While this poem has a gloomy undertone, ‘Liberdade’ is more positive. There are references to beaches and waves, elements with no impurities.

One poem that stands out because of its sonority is ‘Porque’. It emphasises the reasons why a specific person, most certainly her husband, is different from the others. She lists what makes him a good man by juxtaposing what others do and he doesn’t. The repetition of “tu não” (“not you”) is powerful. He is brave, honest and stands up for his values, even though it’s dangerous to do so. Her husband, Francisco Sousa Tavares, was an opponent of the fascist regime. Her love and admiration for him is mentioned in other poems as well. Continue reading

Book Haul – September / October 2019

I was not expecting to buy as many books as I did during September and this month. However, after deciding not to finish four novels in the latest months, I was running out of books to read. I usually keep a relatively small number of unread books on my shelves. I tend to only buy new ones once I’ve finished a few of those that I already owned.

So, I acquired nine new books!

 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Set in Paris and in London, it was described by Dickens as his best story. A French aristocrat and a dissolute English lawyer face chaos and fall in love with the same woman. I’m expecting it to delve into a variety of social issues that characterised the 19th century. Continue reading