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Contemporary  Authors


How do we decide upon the criteria to be used in defining exactly what represents our time? Do we just accept everything that coexists with us? But, in saying “us”, how do we decide which of us to include, given that our ages are different, and so are our ideas, sensitivities and values? We may perhaps consider that these differences are precisely the distinguishing feature of a time that has not yet been filtered through the systematicity of a historical viewpoint and consider their coexistence to be a sign of variety and richness, or even a sign of the imperfect nature of our approach, and think instead that this sign transmits to us the vibrancy of the incompleteness of everything that lives, and therefore pulsates, lasts and is changed.

Contemporaries writing in Portugal. There are some unquestionable figures on the list, major personalities, writers who are essential references, who remain somewhat aloof from our everyday lives, although they appear from time to time in the press, on TV, or even live next door to us, going to the same beach as us, or, like us, going to the supermarket or cinema. Other less influential names, who write in periodical publications, receive prizes, are younger and more precarious. All of them engaged in making us think about the world and life, causing us to emerge from our situation as passive readers from the outset, although we are absolutely determined about our attitudes and choices, which can only be based on knowledge. Let us, then, attempt to know more about them.

In Arte Poética II, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (b. 1919) writes:

Poetry is my explanation with the universe, my life with things, my participation in the real world, my encounter with voices and images. That is why the poem does not talk about an ideal life but about a concrete life: the angle of a window, the resonance of the streets, cities and rooms, the shadow of the walls, the appearance of faces, the silence, distance and brilliance of the stars, the breathing of the night, the scent of a lime-tree or oregano.

For Sophia, poetry is therefore the encounter of the being with the concreteness of the world, and notice how, in explaining what poetry is for her, unbeknown to her she is already making poetry, communicating her perception of things through the transfiguration of the poetic word.

She has been publishing books since 1944 (also prose fiction, and children’s books such as A Menina do Mar and A Fada Oriana, 1958), and one of her great themes is the sea, shining with the luminosity of its solar knowledge and with its regularity in the reconstruction of movement, or its vital respiration, which it communicates to us, or even its role in the epiphany of the world. In Dia do Mar (1947), she writes in the poem «Navegação»:

Distance derived from distance
Apparition of the world: the land flows
Through the eyes that see it revealed.
And behind this another far off immensity dies.

Very sensitive to the cultural implications of politics and of the feeling of freedom, she sometimes expresses the pettiness of those environments that are suffocated by social oppression. In Livro Sexto (1962), she writes in the poem «Exílio»:

When we do not have the homeland that we have
Lost through silence and renunciation
Even the voice of the sea becomes an exile
And the light surrounding us is like bars.


In Eugénio de Andrade (b. 1923), the poetry of the elements is also very powerful, although it is almost always related to love - the love of nature, beings and the body. Very sensual and literary, plastic and musical, his poetry is conceived as a reworking of the word until the very limits of an extreme nakedness that comes from the world (perceived most acutely) to rediscover in this the chosen being and, in the final analysis, loneliness as an essential refuge. As palavras interditas (1951) has become a cult poem for several generations:

Ships exist, and there exists your face
Leant against the face of ships.
With no destination they float in the cities,
Depart in the wind, return in the rivers.

The words that I send to you are forbidden
even, my love, by the halo of the wheat-fields;
if any were to return, I would no longer even recognise
your name in its clear curves.

Eugénio has the ability to combine the circumstantial and the absolute, to understand in a concrete environment the voice of communication that will lead to poetical writing, an exemplary form of  transfiguration, in a limpid and pure expressiveness that is peculiarly his. In Memória Doutro Rio (1978), he writes in «Com a manhã»:

Coming from the river, hands extremely cool, the hair still with some drops of water. With the morning comes the anonymous breathing of the world. A smell of fresh bread invades the whole yard. Coming from the river: to be raised to the mouth, or to the poem.


António Ramos Rosa (b. 1924) intellectualises (not only in his countless books of poetry, but also in his essays on literary creation and poetic interpretation) the interrelation between the natural elements and culture, but he maintains the full vibrancy of his call for man’s free expression and for his consecration in the labours of the word. This poem became famous in Viagem através duma Nebulosa (1960):


I cannot put off love to another century
I cannot
even though the cry chokes in my throat
even though hate crackles and snaps and burns
under grey mountains and grey mountains
I cannot put off to another century my life
nor my love
nor my cry of freedom

I cannot put off my heart

Later, the austerity of his expression was refined in his poetry, becoming extremely bare at the level of syntax, just as it was luxuriant in its insistence on certain words and in its inexhaustible semantic radiation, almost always dealing with the subject of love relationships and the relationship with writing. In O Incerto Exacto (1982), he writes:

Desire                Surprise
Or wonderment
Not for the same image
but tearing it apart

Only residues or the passing of signs
That tell of the passage of what will be
if it is                   the unpredictable contact
of the dark
inaccessible body in another living body


In fiction, Agustina Bessa-Luís (1922) established her reputation with A Sibila (1954), which creates its very own style for narrating in the novel, using constant shifts in relation to the novel’s central discourse, but avoiding the abstractive tendency that might result from this, through a regionalism rooted in peculiar psychological attitudes and a style centred on the subjectivity of narrative judgements.

Ah, the sweet routine of that life we shared in common, although an extraordinary one of independence and solitary quality! The farm progressed, the women grew older: their hair, which until recently had still been brown, appeared grey and then white; Joaquim completely abandoned his work as a farmer, rarely supervised the boys or chose the cattle and even stopped visiting his lady friend, dry and dark, like a tree-trunk castigated by the storms. He drank his shot of brandy at dawn and this kept him in a benevolent and distracted mood for the whole day; he enjoyed a discreet, almost affable drunkenness, and delicate dreams filled his mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Os Quatro Rios, 1964

In her novel, she develops a concept of time that underlines its quality of internal duration and continuity, which she extends into her more recent fiction, such as A Corte do Norte, 1987, or O Concerto dos Flamengos, 1994.


Also noted for the fictional quality of internal time is Maria Judite de Carvalho [1921-1998], a delightful revelation in her short stories Tanta Gente, Mariana!, 1959, or in the novella As Palavras Poupadas, 1961, in which there emerge characters of a psychological depth with hints of delicate social entanglements, displayed in snippets of the slightest gestures or imperceptible attitudes and judgements:

He gets up from the table. Outside, some clock strikes two. A few moments later, an eternity later, he will get up from the table again. And tomorrow. And then afterwards, And then many years later. Everything dies at night, Claude used to say. But no, life is long, it slips and slides without a break. A succession of events, an endless stream of words uttered and words spared. Mainly these.
As Palavras Poupadas

This narrative concept results in a certain attention to the unravelling of daily time and to the untypical characters to be found in common circumstances, who lead the author to the writing of chronicles (Seta Despedida, 1994) and to her awareness of the fragmentary element which can be made concrete in the short story (Flores ao Telefone, 1968).


Urbano Tavares Rodrigues (1923) has been writing regularly since the 1950s, during which time he has revealed himself to be a talented writer of short stories (Uma Pedrada no Charco, 1958) and a novelist who is sensitive to the state of contemporary society and the evolution of literary writing (e.g. Bastardos do Sol, 1959, and A Hora da Incerteza, 1995). Love, social and political action, the city of Lisbon and the region of the Alentejo are his predominant themes, whose nature and circumstance pursue him with both insistence and dissatisfaction:

For lunch (Adriana is relearning the Alentejo recipes) I have a fabulous soup of purslane with cheese and poached egg. It is my childhood that comes back to me, almost intact, in this taste. My sister’s eyelashes batting furiously, questioning and indignant, when I secretly steal from her plate the delicious piece of ewe’s cheese, which by right, by all the rights in the world, belonged to her. She already has tears in her sweet brown eyes and I am repentant, with my spoon in the air, wanting to restore to her the object of her grief.

A Hora da Incerteza


José Cardoso Pires (1925-1998) was always linked to the fiction of social entanglement, sometimes joining neo-realistic concepts to existentialist ones (O Anjo Ancorado, 1958), and distinguishing himself through his dry, lean style that he manipulated with great sobriety in works ranging from O Hóspede de Job, 1963, to Balada da Praia dos Cães, 1982.

Birds dotted about the branches, the horizon of the sea above the tree-tops and between the sky and the water line a cold frail light making its way into the dusk. An oil-tanker? Elias lingers over his gaze. Giving time to time. Only the next day will he begin the inventory of signs and hunches, continuing to trust as he has always done in the Handcuff Crook. Giving time to time. You catch a murderer more quickly than a dead man, because as they used to say, the dead man gallops on horseback into the soul and the murderer stumbles over fear.

Balada da Praia dos Cães

More recently published works, Alexandra Alpha, 1987, and De Profundis - Valsa lenta, 1997 reveal an incurable fondness for turning the closest and most common reality into fiction, drawing from it, through the perceptiveness of the fiction writer, all its unlikely, exceptional aspects that are inaccessible to the human eye.


José Saramago was born in 1922, although he only began to publish much later in the form of poetry, chronicles and short stories. Indeed, it was only with the novels Levantado do Chão, 1980, and Memorial do Convento, 1982, that he was to achieve a popularity that has continued to grow both nationally and internationally. He fictionalises about particular moments in Portuguese history and culture (O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis, 1944, História do Cerco de Lisboa, 1989) or provides a glimpse of periods of dystopia occurring at the wrong time (Jangada de Pedra, 1986) and in the wrong place (Ensaio sobre a Cegueira, 1995, Todos os Nomes, 1997). All these different fictions show man being forced to revert to a necessary, and not always fortunate, confrontation with his community. His writing has a very particular style that gives special emphasis to long and progressively more elaborate sentences developing through the author’s sense of urgency, not shying away from the role of selecting and judging and thus justifying the idea of literary creation.

Here you are, said the writer. The doctor’s wife asked, May I, without waiting for the reply she picked up the pages of writing, there must have been some twenty of them, cast a glance over the tiny handwriting, over the lines that rose and fell, over the words inscribed on the blankness of the paper, engraved in blindness. I’m passing through, the writer had said, and these were the signs that he was allowing to pass by. The doctor’s wife placed her hand on his shoulder, and his two hands went in search of it and brought it slowly to his lips. Do not lose yourself, do not let yourself be lost, he said, and these were unexpected, enigmatic words, they did not seem to be at all to the point.

Ensaio sobre a Cegueira


Augusto Abelaira (1926), a well-known fiction writer from the 1960s (Cidade das Flores, 1959, As Boas Intenções, 1963), expressed the anxieties of a generation that was in favour of a social and political renewal in a cultural context of increased awareness and responsibility, in which art and literature had a decisive role to play. Bolor, 1968, is a novel showing the breakdown of feelings and the wavering of convictions, written in a profoundly innovative narrative style that its author has subsequently continued to develop, questioning the logic of communication and the succession of time, and, precisely because of this, affirming his loyalty to fundamental values such as love and creativity (O Bosque Harmonioso, 1982, Outrora Agora, 1996).

Now, he (he, Jerónimo) is there on the balcony, thirty years later, enjoying the sun, his eyes on the sea (“la mer, toujours recommencée”). But down below, grey, on the avenue running parallel to the beach, a car pulls up and, quickly turning, without any hesitation, slips in between two cars - an astounding, millimetrical manoeuvre. Jerónimo would have taken much longer to park, carefully assessing the available narrow space - which explains the curiosity with which he is waiting for the hero to appear (is it true that the Chinese, unlike the European, civilisation did not celebrate their warrior heroes, considering them even to be inferior beings? Sparta, the secret model of western civilisation. A hero without a plume on his head, like Hector, the one with the shining helmet. Ring Marta (I forgot to pay the phone bill, the reminder was left on top of the fridge).

 Outrora Agora


Maria Velho da Costa (1938) proved to be a quite dazzling revelation as a novelist with Maina Mendes, 1969, centred around the female figure for whom ancestry, rebelliousness, pleasure, creativity and pain represent the places for the affirmation of being. She continued with this theme in Casas Pardas, 1977, which highlights her polyhedral method of composing texts in different registers, even though she always remains secure and cohesive in her compositional structure, and conveys a most poignant sensibility that gives an even sharper cutting edge to her formal rigorousness (a quality which is also to be seen quite clearly in her later works Missa in Albis, 1988, or Dores, 1995).


Ah, I can tell you that there is a discontentment which contents, tittle-tattle, which can be spoken with fairness and listened to with gravity, there are festivals of discontent and what a boon we have had with this vocation of weeping and wailing, which immediately overcomes us when we’re not on our way anywhere. I even believe that nostalgia is the bitterness of idleness, not of distance. And this struck me yesterday, again, more and more definitely, at the quayside in Alcântara, with the seagulls slumbering like little ducks, perfectly still in the bobbing water, how worthless we are when we have nowhere to go.

Maina Mendes 


Almeida Faria (1943): When still very young, he published two excellent novels, Rumor Branco, 1962, and A Paixão, 1965, which revealed a talent that was confident in the art of narrating, whilst simultaneously introducing the spectacular innovations of discursive disconnectedness and hybrid modalities into novel-writing. His later career has continued in the same vein, underlining his use of intertextual effects (including texts from the worlds of art and communication in general) and a sharp irony that reveals a satirical vocation in the observation of customs and socio-political atmospheres, particularly in the transitional period after the 25 April Revolution (Lusitânia, 1980, O Conquistador, 1990).

Death touched them lightly, with its black wing, with its fine, chilling, cavernous mystery, and so the men saw how alone they were, and how dependent they were upon themselves and their own nothingness; but the danger has passed, or they think that it has passed, and their mouths, until quite recently afflicted with misfortune, immediately join together to release a howl or a sob, the howl of every dog that has escaped from torment and still feels the taste of death above, the sob of relief and also of sadness made by those who have freed themselves from an infinite tunnel.

A Paixão


António Lobo Antunes (1942) was the great revelation of the end of the 1980s, with two hugely successful novels: Memória de Elefante and Os Cus de Judas, written in a lively style and producing prodigious metaphorical effects. These two novels provide a deceptive view of the colonial war and the generation who, against their will, were forced to embody it. Writing on a regular basis since then, he has achieved international recognition and continued to express his sharp critical awareness of the contemporary environment and the national memory of the recent past with Auto dos Danados, 1985, or Manual dos Inquisidores, 1996, or even of the more glorious Portuguese past, in a simultaneous gesture of homage and accusatory and painful lampoon (As Naus, 1988).

It is, in fact, not just the mice who live with us in the attic. We have a zoological garden full of ants, gnats, moths, centipedes, spiders, crickets, woodworms, which I presume live off the same lack of food as we do, without counting the butterflies that crush themselves against the light-bulbs in the summer and are immediately reduced to a dark veneer of dust. And then there are the pigeons. And the doves. And the boats, like slugs, on the Tagus. And the neighbours in their vests, incapable of flying, crucified on the flower-pots of their balconies. And you and me, ever more transparent and thinner, preparing our breakfast of a half a gram of heroin for our morning injection.

Auto dos Danados


Mário Cláudio (1941), who began by establishing himself as a poet and cultivated various literary genres, has been known in particular as a writer of fiction since the publication of Um Verão Assim, 1974, confirming his reputation with Damascena, 1983, and then being recognised as one of the leading figures in contemporary Portuguese fiction on the basis of his Trilogia da Mão (with volumes on Amadeo Souza-Cardoso, Guilhermina Suggia and Rosa Ramalho). His fondness for the literary forms of historical reconstruction, in which he combines his capacity for evoking specific atmospheres with a very personal subjectivity of creative distortion, is accentuated in many of his later works, such as A Quinta das Virtudes, 1990, or As Batalhas do Caia, 1995.

Cândida Branca was the fruit of a certain extremely fleeting and intense romance between a stagecoachman, married and the father of two other girls, and a sweet seller, from the village of Irivo, in the vale of Penafiel. Her parents had seen each other at the feast of Senhora Aparecida, for one long hot, fiery day, of the kind which cause even the wheat-fields to wilt. And in the midst of the ears of wheat, the little girl had been engendered, thereafter growing under the shadow of the sweet seller, who later found a farm boy who was prepared to take her as his consort.

A Quinta das Virtudes


Maria Gabriela Llansol (1931) is a unique figure in contemporary fiction with a gushing, unexpected and original creativity. Writing in her own very personal style, her strong personality first asserted itself in 1957, with the narratives of Os Pregos na Erva, later becoming consolidated with O Livro das Comunidades, 1978, and all her later works, including A Restante Vida, 1978, and Um Beijo Dado mais tarde, 1990, and Lisboaleipzig, 1994 and 1995. Combining expressive subjectivity and a strong liking for myths with lyrical implications, based on a heretical but religious vision of life and the world that was simultaneously sensualistic and naturalistic, her fiction is characterised by the hybrid nature of the registers she uses and the spatial and temporal summoning of different entities. It all, however, results in a cohesiveness that is engendered by her own persistent and unmistakable discursive imprint.

The text is the only way of identifying anyone’s gender and humanity, because, strange poet, a person’s gender is their narrative. Their narrative, or that which the text tells us, in its place. Thus, their gender will be like the place of the text.

When you desire someone, as you desire Infausta, and she desires Johann, it is their scenic place which you desire,
the gestures of the text that they describe in space
and call it
precious companion;
about me, I shall say that I was once sent,
you brought the sentence that you had never read before,
my body uttered it, and you didn’t notice that you had ended up with it written.
                                                            Lisboaleipzig 2


Although somewhat distant in ages, Mário de Carvalho (1944) and Luísa Costa Gomes (1954) are two literary personalities who established their reputations in the 1980s. Their confirmation took place with works published more or less towards the end of the decade, the former with A Paixão do Conde de Fróis, 1986, and the latter with O Pequeno Mundo, in 1988. With a taste for historical and parodic reconstructions, Mário de Carvalho produced a work with a most complex plot with his recent Um Deus Passeando na Brisa da Tarde, 1994, a novel about the dawns and implications of Christianity and the possibility of its being reinterpreted in the present time. With Olhos Verdes, 1994, Luísa Costa Gomes has given us a quite remarkable work of simulation and a criticism of advertising and the media. Both of them use a classical syntactical style of writing, making use of themes drawn from everyday or even ordinary life and distinguishing themselves from other writers by the way in which they instil in their work unexpected nuances and meanings of intense reflective and critical sharpness.(1944)  

Moving at a canter, the two horsemen continued their way across the heath, now very distant from the path, fleeing towards the border. They rode around a circular pine grove, hesitated at the sight of the naked plain, overlooked by the small hill on which the square stood, and set off at a sudden gallop, without any shelter and angling towards Spain. Shortly, they had vanished from sight, leaving as a sign of the path that they were following a cloud of dust that was slowly evaporating from this side.

Mário de Carvalho, A Paixão do Conde de Fróis

His interests were companies, the utilitarians, artistic carpentry and space. Football was something he watched from time to time. He had theories about things and he yearned to share them with others. He explained himself clearly, although he could not be considered always to make sense. What particularly intrigued him was space, the space that permeated everything, the empty air between the desk and the chair, between the face and the hand, between the floor and the ceiling. He said that he was sure that all the empty spaces had a profound meaning.

Luísa Costa Gomes, Olhos Verdes


Many other novelists and poets have enriched our literature and made it difficult to write this synopsis. That is the very nature of contemporaries: an excess in relation to the critic’s eye, an abundance of life and its inexhaustible continuity in relation to the historian’s sieve.

Let us then turn now to poets such as Egito Gonçalves, Nuno Júdice, Vasco Graça Moura, António Franco Alexandre, João Miguel Fernandes Jorge, Paulo Teixeira - and we shall say the same thing about the writers of fiction: Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, Hélia Correia, Alexandre Pinheiro Torres, Eduarda Dionísio and so many others.

It is all of these, in other words the writers that we did not get to talk about and those that we did not even mention by name, who give meaning to what has been written here and cause this synopsis to be incomplete, making us feel how alive and immense literature is, because above all it is about reading and time, and not immobility, nor does it fit completely on any page:

Time could not pass on an island without a place and without shadows.
but with time abolished, history would cease to exist.
in the beginning was the nymph and the silence of the world’s machine.
it was silence in the purest moment of its intelligible glory.

Vasco Graça Moura, Concerto Campestre, 1993

The profound silence of the flowers
is a place of absence. Empty frame
for the flight of birds, a wavering line
of light mist
that reveals nothing of what it perhaps hides.

Egito Gonçalves, E no entanto Move-se, 1995

Epistle to Daedalus

Why did you give your son wings of feathers and wax
if the all-powerful sun on high would undo them?
He did not hear me, from so far away, so I thought that he said:
all our sons are Icaruses who will die in the sea.
Then they return as prodigals to the love between the blood
of those who were and those who are now, sons of sons.

Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão, Epístolas e Memorandos, 1996

I begin where memory hurts.
Old things from the fear of living
terrors of the faces of others
I don’t know. I say this. A spirit of meditation
was born from madness, I never knew of
such things my days were made
of pure sounds broken by pure sounds.

Joaquim Manuel Magalhães, António Palolo, 1978



What noise can still hurt you,
leave you restless and alone with your words?,
What noise can lead you to write like this,
circumspect and arid,
scarce verses?

Luís Filipe Castro Mendes, Modos de Música, 1996


The sea, and over us the branches
of the twilight, and the oars of the sun that
drown in the sea of the horizon.

Nuno Júdice, O Movimento do Mundo, 1996

With the twigs stuck fast the wind draws

on the wall the graph of your breath            With your hands

lost you undo the image waiting

for the wall to open                Will this be the last 

wall of the labyrinth?

Manuel Gusmão, Mapas. O Assombro a Sombra, 1996

  The profound harmony between her and the world - a difficult, unstable harmony, because she had always insisted on living with precision, with an attentiveness that never slackened, even when she was asleep - the precision, for example, with which she subdued or dismantled her dreams, forcing herself to remember them, forcing them to leap through rings of fire, the imagined flowers finally forming a branch, the flowers of the shade, sun, sand, subduing the wind, learning to ride the wind, putting a blue line around the sea, the hard acrobatism of her body, simultaneously loose and geometrical, the difficult innermost exercises, the blindfolded somersaults above a tightrope stretched between the possible and impossible.


Teolinda Gersão, Os Guarda-Chuvas Cintilantes, 1984

Autographed text by Egito Gonçalves


© Instituto Camões, 2001