(The following is a post by Talía Guzmán-González, reference librarian and Luso-Brazilian Specialist, Hispanic Division.)
Portuguese literature is currently experiencing one of its most exciting moments in recent history. This is not a statement one can make lightly, as this is the country that has given us celebrated poets such as Luís de Camões (1540-1580) and his epic “Os Lusíadas” (The Lusiads) (1572), Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) and his heteronyms, as well as the novelists Lídia Jorge (1946-), António Lobo Antunes (1915-), and the 1998 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, José Saramago (1922-2010). The Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress is the gateway to experiencing the amazing world that is Portuguese literature, covering all periods and genres. In addition to books, the Hispanic Division has also compiled an audio collection of Portuguese authors reading from their works as part of the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT).
The first three Portuguese authors to join AHLOT were the poets Adolfo Casais Monteiro (1908-1972), Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919-2004), and Julio Dantas (1876-1962), whose readings were recorded at the Emissora Nacional in Lisbon, on July 14, 1974. Subsequently, other writers have been added to this ever growing collection, among them, Clara Pinto Correia (1960-), José Riço Direitinho (1965-), Natália Correia (1923-1993), João de Barros (1881-1960), and Alberto de Lacerda (1928-2007).
Recently, as the Luso-Brazilian specialist for the Hispanic Division, I had the opportunity to add six more Portuguese voices to this unique collection, and expand the representation of contemporary Portuguese authors.
Teolinda Gersão (1940-) recorded a selection of short stories and an excerpt “A cidade de Ulises” (2011) (City of Ulysses), a novel that combines myth and history as it tells the story of the city of Lisbon through the prism of a love story. Gersão’s literature explores the interior life of women as they define themselves in the midst of the socio-political changes taking place in contemporary Portuguese society.
Ana Luísa Amaral (1956-) gifted the archive with a selection of poetry, including “Testamento” (Testament) from her first book of poetry, “Minha Senhora de quê” (Mistress of What) (1990), and “Kamasutra” from the book, “Inversos” (Collected Poetry 1990-2010) (2010). Patrons can hear a delightful interview in which she talks about her craft and the transformations that her writing experiences until it reaches us in its final book format. In this interview it is clear that her generous spirit is present in her work. For Amaral, “poetry is the most perfect way in which human beings can reflect about our relationship with the world and our relationship with others.” This sentiment was evident in the as yet unpublished poem she read for AHLOT titled, “De sagas e de lendas: pequeníssima fábula contemporânea” (Of sagas and legends: a tiny contemporary fable), a commentary on contemporary issues like immigration and a criticism of the idea of racial purity. Translations of her work include “The Art of Being a Tiger: Selected Poems” (2018).
One of Portugal’s most celebrated and prolific authors, Mario Cláudio (1941-), read from his “Trilogia da mão: Amadeo, Guilhermina, Rosa” (Trilogy of the Hand: Amadeo, Guilhermina, Rosa) (2016), a book that brings together three previously published biographical novels of the Portuguese painter Amadeo de Souza Cardoso (1887-1918), the cellist Guilhermina Suggia (1885-1950), and the ceramist Rosa Ramalho (1888-1977).
In 2005, José Saramago (1922-2010) remarked that Gonçalo M. Tavares’(1970-) novel, “Jerúsalem” (2004), was one of the greatest novels of Western literature and observed that “Gonçalo M. Tavares has no right to write so well being only 35 years old. One feels like smacking him!” (“Gonçalo M. Tavares não tem o direito de escrever tão bem apenas aos 35 anos: dá vontade de lhe bater!”), a statement that has marked every book cover, and been quoted in every interview about Tavares like a stamp affirming his status as a literary genius. Tavares recorded excerpts of “Jerusalém” and “Uma viagem à Índia” (A trip to India) (2010) (2010), a novel modeled after Camões’ “Os Lusíadas” that explores the cultural myths which have shaped Portuguese identity.
At the age of 43, João Tordo (1975-) has published 11 novels, but the quality of his literature has not been compromised by this prolific literary output. A reader of Dostoevsky from an early age, Tordo’s writing has been influenced by the Russian writer, particularly by his novel “Crime and Punishment.” For instance, Tordo similarly employs the literary arch of his novels as a metaphor for a character in search of him or herself. This is evident in his reading of “O luto de Elias Gro” (The Mourning of Elias Gro) (2015) for AHLOT.
Dulce Maria Cardoso (1964-) lived in Angola until she was 11 years old when her family, like many other Portuguese, had to flee to Portugal during the colonial wars. Her novel “O retorno” (The return) (2011) addresses the concept of loss as a result of violent conflict. For the Archive she read the short story “Os anjos por dentro” (Angels On the Inside) from the book “Tudo são histórias de amor” (They’re all love stories)(2014). A translation of the short story, “Angels on the Inside,” can be found in “Best European Fiction: 2013.”
The Hispanic Division’s collections include many more authors who are currently defining the Portuguese literary landscape, and who we hope to include as part of the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in the future.