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History of Portuguese Literature Origins of Portuguese Literature The Portuguese Language Oral Literature Fiction Lyricism
Travel Literature Cantigas de amigo Historiography Doctrinal Prose


Bernardim Ribeiro and Menina e Moça


Bernardim Ribeiro, Menina e Moça

Menina e Moça, a novel written by Bernardim Ribeiro, was printed in three separate editions in the sixteenth century: 1554 (Ferrara, with the title História de Menina e Moça), 1557-58 (Évora, with the title Saudades) and 1559 (Cologne, based on the first edition), with the second edition incorporating a further extension of the story, which is normally accepted as being by the author, up to Chapter 24.

The text represents a convergence of fictional topics, both at the level of literary history (bringing together ingredients from the chivalry novel, the pastoral novel and the sentimental novel) and at the level of its contents (through its conversion into a space for the feminine and mournful meeting between the Girl - who begins the book with a monologue evoking the idea of displacement and a change in life - and a Lady, with whom she discusses tales of unhappy love affairs, interspersed throughout the central plot of the fiction).

Place and change are converted into central poles of a common amorous nostalgia and the fatalism of suffering, which turn the interspersed stories, e.g. Aónia and Bimuarder, Arima and Avalor, into never-ending duplications of the same infinite pain provoked by constant amorous disagreements. Love, nature, change and distance represent the constant semantics of this book, the first in Portuguese literature ever to break free from contemporary fictional conventions and acquire the status of a feminine narrative of loneliness and nostalgia, as well as that of an incisive and meticulous analysis of amorous feelings, in their particular aspects of painful devotion.

While I was still a young girl, I was taken from my mother’s house to somewhere far off. As to what at that time was the cause of my being taken away, while still small, I never did find out. Now I do not place any other cause upon it, except that it seems that it must have been then what it was later. I lived there for as long as was necessary for me not to have lived elsewhere. I was very happy in that region, but I was unfortunate in that in a short space of time there was a change in everything that had been searched for over a long period and would continue to be sought after for a long time in the future as well. It had been a great misadventure that had led me to be sad or, perhaps, an adventure that had caused me to feel joyful. After I had seen so many things exchanged for others and pleasure turned into an even greater sorrow, I reached a state of such sadness that the good that I had had was more of a burden than the evil that I was then experiencing.

Menina e Moça, beginning

© Instituto Camões, 2001