Project Description

Camões Prize 2004Agustina Bessa-Luís


Agustina Bessa-Luís was born in 1922 near Amarante (in the Douro region) in the North of Portugal. Her childhood and youth were influenced by the Douro river landscape, which she describes repeatedly in her later work. She is one of Portugal’s most outstanding novelists with over fourty published novels. In 2004 she was awarded the most important literary prize of the Portuguese speaking world, the Prémio Camões.

»Prémio Camões 2004«

Agustina Bessa-Luís© Sophie Bassouls Rush


The Sibyl

In 1954 Bessa-Luís became famous with the novel The Sibyl (“A Sibila”) which draws a realistic portrait of the rural population of northern Portugal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Considerable psychological astuteness and analytical acuity make this novel a masterpiece of Portuguese literature. In her novels the sexes are separated by traditional gulfs, though these are frequently traversed. The female figures act according to intuition and stand for preservation and permanence. By contrast, the men are interested in bringing about change and accelerating time. The author’s language and narrative technique are reminiscent of Camilo Castelo Branco, the great nineteenth century Portuguese writer. In addition to sensitively portraying characters, Agustina focuses mainly on social and political change in northern Portugal.


The Sibyl


Abraham’s Valley // The Lands of Risk // Fanny Owen

Several of her novels have been filmed by the Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira: Abraham’s Valley (“Vale Abraão”), The Lands of Risk (“As terras do risco”) as well as Fanny Owen. Agustina Bessa-Luís has also written film scripts (Party) and theatre plays. Between 1986-87 she was editor of the newspaper O Primeiro de Janeiro (Porto). From 1990 to 1993 she directed the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II in Lisbon. Since the 1960s she has been a member of numerous national and international academies and writers’ associations. Her works have been translated into many languages and she has been awarded important literary prizes.


Abraham's Valley


Represented in all languages, except French

Contos impopulares
Lisbon: Guimarães 1951-53, 208 p.
Spain: Alianza 1982

The Sibyl (“A Sibila”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1954, 256 p.
English sample translation available
Feature film produced by Paulo Branco of Leopardo Filmes in 2022
Delfim Guimarães Prize 1953
Eça de Queirós Prize 1954
France: Gallimard 1982 · Germany: Suhrkamp 1987 · Italy: Giunti 1989 · Spain: Alfaguara 1981 · Romania: Univers 1986

Fanny Owen
Lisbon: Guimarães 1979, 224 p.
Film adaptation by Manoel de Oliveira
France: Actes Sud 1988 · Germany: Suhrkamp 1987 · Italy: Besa · Spain: Grijalbo 1988

The Fire Sermon (“O Sermão do Fogo”)
1963, Guimarães 1995 222 p.

The Monastery  (“O Mosteiro”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1980, 296 p.
France: Métailié 1994

The Portuguese Beauty (“A Bela Portuguesa”)
Germany: Radio play adaptation 1991

Mouse Teeth (“Dentes de Rato”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1987, 64 p.
Spain: Alfaguara 1990

The Northern Court (“A Corte do Norte”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1987, 276 p.
France: Métailié 1991

Abraham’s Valley (“Vale Abraão”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1991, 308 p.
Film adaptation by Manoel de Oliveira
Argentina: Edhasa 2022 · Brazil: Planeta 2005 · Brazil: Globo TV 2008 · Greece: Kastaniotis 1996

Immediate Erotic States of Sören Kierkegaard (“Estados Eróticos Imediatos de Sören Kierkegaard”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1992, 96 p.
Denmark: Ørby 1994

The Lands of Risk (“As Terras do Risco”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1994, 288 p.
Film adaptation by Manoel de Oliveira
France: Métailié 1996

A Dog that Dreams (“Um Cão que Sonha”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 1997, 328 p.
France: Métailié 2000

The Night Tour (“A Ronda da Noite”)
Lisbon: Guimarães 2006, 366. p.
English sample translation available

The Uncertainty Principle (“O Princípio da Incerteza”)
Lisbon: Guimarães
Jóia de familia, 2001, 345 p.
France: Métailié 2002
A Alma dos Ricos, 2002, 345 p.
Os Espaços em Branco, 2003

Lisbon Tales
UK: Oxford University Press 2019
The Fiancé (O Noivo), taken from: “Contos Impopulares”
Selected among 10 of the best books set in Portugal by The Guardian, 2020

Take Six: Six Portuguese Women Writers
UK: Dedalus, 2018
(several stories, taken from: “Contos Impopulares”)