FIL Prize in Romance Languages 2020Lídia Jorge
Lídia Jorge was born in Boliqueime, southern Portugal, in 1946. She studied French Literature in Lisbon and spent some years teaching in Angola and Mozambique, during the independence struggle. She now lives in Lisbon. Her first two novels placed her in the avant-garde of contemporary Portuguese literature and since then she has received numerous prestigious awards for her work. In 2013, Lídia Jorge was honoured as one of the “10 greatest literary voices” by the renowned French Magazine Littéraire, and in 2014, she was awarded the Premio Luso-Español de Arte y Cultura. She has been awarded the Vergílio Ferreira Award 2015 for her body of work.
The International Book Fair (FIL) of Guadalajara has granted the renowned FIL Prize in Romance Languages 2020 to Lídia Jorge “because of the magnitude of her work, which portrays the way in which human beings face the great events of history”. The jury also highlighted Jorge’s literary career, “marked by originality and independence of judgement”. The prize honors the author’s lifetime achievement and consists of 150,000 U$. In 2021, Lídia Jorge took up a professorship at the University of Geneva which was followed by the Lídia Jorge Chair created by the UMass Amherst University in Massachussets in 2022.
Have a look at the author’s homepage: > lidiajorge.com
With her new novel Mercy (“Misericórdia”), Jorge has created a memorial to her mother, who died of Covid in a nursing home in April 2020. However, the novel does not focus on the biographical; instead, it lets the elderly woman, who is called Dona Alberti here, speak for herself by recounting her experiences and thoughts in a diary-like manner into a voice recorder. Dona Alberti, who has poor eyesight and can only do a few things by herself, assesses the circumstances and people around her with great clarity, with warmth, but also with critical distance. She wants to bear witness just as the home, which of all things is called Hotel Paraíso, turns into an isolation ward run by anonymous figures in protective suits. She records what is happening around her and supplements her oral report with short notes that condense individual moments into mental images as in a haiku.
But Dona Alberti is not only someone who receives help and mercy. She is merciful towards us who have failed as a society in the pandemic. She does not accuse, but wrestles with death full of fighting spirit until the end. In this beautiful work that does not gloss over anything, one of those who are otherwise only talked about speaks for herself: the book of the hour.
»Mercy, a novel of absolute maturity from the writer.«
Jornal de Letras
»A hymn to empathy and to what makes us human.«
»This is a highly original and very important book that cries out to be translated into English.«
Margaret Jull Costa
»Mercy leads the captivated reader to where we should always be: to the life you live to the end.«
»In our societies we do not exactly have a way of behaving in relation to mercy, nor has mercy attained the necessary strength to emerge as a paradigm of social construction, as an effectively decisive political factor, as a consensual practice and human hermeneutics. We run the risk of becoming, always to a more overwhelming degree, illiterate in relation to mercy. It is against this illiteracy that this important book stands.«
»It’s a novel about old age, the loneliness that the end can bring. But more than that, it’s a hymn to life.«
Correio da Manhã
In Every Sense
In Every Sense (“Em Todos os Sentidos”), a collection of forty-one chronicles that Lídia Jorge read over the course of a year on Rádio Pública, Antena 2, there are chronicles that face the fury of the contemporary world head-on, interpreting its challenges, dangers and simulacra with a sharp critical eye. But the singularity of these pages of intervention comes, above all, from the fact that the author is capable of combining on the same stage of reflection critical thought about reality and subjective discourse of intimate memory, together with a deeply felt gaze. Inside this book there are unforgettable pages about human life.
»A book of journalistic mastery in which the following stands out: the impressionistic brevity raised by the occasion, a newsworthiness that gains reflective strength; a well-seasoned art in the composition and intentionality of journalistic prose; and the power of suggestion and allusion of writing with fictional and poetic features.«
José Viale Moutinho, jury of the Grand Prize for Chronicles and Literary Disperses
»Jorge knows very well how to deal with reflection, not only in the construction of the novel but also in the consideration of the most relevant problems of contemporary life and in the search for an ethical, civic, and existential sense for humanity.«
Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, Rádio Renascença
Lídia Jorge’s novel Estuary (“Estuário”) is located in present-day Lisbon. The main character is Edmundo Galeano, the youngest son of a shipowning family. After a wrong investment decision by the eldest brother, their possessions are reduced to a house at the mouth of the Tagus and two ships at anchor costing money instead of generating it. In vain the father writes letters to the relevant minister, who was once the boyfriend of his daughter. Edmundo returned three months ago from a posting with a refugee organization in Africa. He lost part of his right hand in an accident in Kenya’s Dadaab, the continent’s largest refugee camp. He now tries to learn again to write by copying out lines from the “Ode Marítima” by Fernando Pessoa. He is planning a book about the tremendous suffering he has seen in Africa, but his father’s suicide and the bad luck that hits his family redirect his interest to his own world and the familiar people around him. In the end he can only write about them.
Estuary is a book about the vulnerability of a man, a family, a society and the very equilibrium of the Earth. A novel of great poetic power about the urgent questions of our time.
»I wanted to write the story of a family that resisted adversity, each of them trying to hide their private lives from the other. (…) I wanted this Estuary to be the simile of the place through which the river of stories flows, pausing for a moment on the whiteness of the page before disappearing into oblivion.«
Those We Shall Remember
Those We Shall Remember (“Os Memoráveis”) tells the intriguing story of a number of participants in Portugal’s Carnation Revolution of 1974. When the journalist Ana Maria is asked to make a documentary about this historic event for a US TV channel, she returns to her native Lisbon. Looking for more information in her father’s house, who was also a journalist, she finds a photo of some revolutionaries, taken some time after the event. As she discovers, they all have their own stories to tell, and their personal experiences will change Ana Maria’s perception of her country forever. Written with great psychological subtlety and power of language, Os Memoráveis is a fascinating literary contemplation of Portugal’s arduous road to democracy.
»A hypnotic novel. This woman deserves, as much as the Mozambican Mia Couto, to be the second lusophone writer crowned with the Nobel Prize for Literature.«
»A prose of rare density. Handled with remarkable skill.«
»How long have we been waiting for a book like this!«
»A small masterpiece.«
Jornal de Letras
»A flow of talent and sensitivity.«
The Night of the Singing Women
The Night of the Singing Women (“A Noite das Mulheres Cantoras”) is written with great psychological subtlety and power of language. The student Solange, a member of an all-girl band, witnesses the charismatic lead singer Gisela pressurising young Madalena because she is pregnant, and then covering up her death. Many years will pass before Solange can face up to these events again – and to Gisela, the woman she admired so much back then.
»The author is back with The Night of the Singing Women, a novel where guilt, charisma and memory dictate the characters’ survival.«
Os Meus Livros
We Shall Fight the Shadows
We Shall Fight the Shadows (“Combateremos a Sombra”) is a courageous and political novel about our times and about Portugal in the era of globalisation. It tells the fascinating story of three months in the life of the psychiatrist Osvaldo Campos. In the night of the 31st December 2000, he runs into Rossiana, an assistant radiologist, who has just seen a drug courier die in her clinic when a package burst inside his intestines. The clinic is clearly working together with the drug smugglers. Because she knows too much, she is to be killed, but can hide in the house where Osvaldo works. A love affair develops between her and the psychiatrist.
The immediacy of these events finally shakes Osvaldo awake, and through his patents’ stories and traumas he uncovers a conspiracy trafficking in drugs and human beings, in which important public figures are implicated. Suddenly, the evil gets too much for him. “Lying is connected with death”, he writes in his notebook. He has to act, so he turns to the press. The novel also passes on a message of hope, despite its bleak view of our present.
In the book, Portugal is subjected to a constant downpour. Bridges collapse and the water takes everything with it, including corpses. This apocalyptic vision reflects that of a depressive country, where lethargy and apathy have spread like the floodwater – where, in the author’s words, “the chemists have sold out of sedatives”. The title Combateremos a sombra puts salt in the wound and is an attempt to stir awareness for the injustices which are all too common in Portugal and around the world. With the narrative force we have come to expect, Lídia Jorge invites us to join her in a gripping reading experience.
»The psychological tension leads the reader to a unique vantage point, at the hand of a writer who insists in showing that there is nothing more real than dreams, and nothing more fantastic than reality.«
Armanda Alexandra, OJE
The Wind Whistling in the Cranes
The novel The Wind Whistling in the Cranes (“O Vento Assobiando nas Gruas”) was published in 2002 and has been awarded the prize of the Günter Grass Foundation, ALBATROS, in 2006. Grandmother Regina Leandro has fled from hospital and is later found dead in front of the entrance to the old cannery in Valmares. Milene, the grand-daughter who lived with her, is the only one there to organise her funeral; her other relatives are away on holiday. Milene, a rather simple-minded person, now tries to find the right words to describe their grandmother’s death to the relatives. The Leandro family, Milene’s aunts and uncles, belong to the wealthy upper-class. The old factory – founded in 1908 – is meantime being rented and lived in by a large family from Cabo Verde. Milene, totally exhausted by the events surrounding the death of her grandmother and initially speechless, is cordially welcomed into that family and stays with them over night.
Thus The Wind whistling in the Cranes is set in two worlds: on the one hand, the history of the cannery, Milene’s aunts and their husbands and men friends, her cousins, all intent on insuring that their reputation is not tarnished by the lonely death of the old woman. All kinds of interests have to be defended, political and financial. The factory is to be sold; the site close to the beach is ideally located for a modern building project. On the other hand, there is the family from Cabo Verde, the old Ana Mata, her daughters and grand-children. A shy relationship develops between Ana Mata’s widowed but young grand-son Antonio, a crane-driver and father of two children, and Milene. When the Leandros finally discover this, they are horrified.
The atmosphere in the novel is coloured by Milene’s unprejudiced view of the people and the events. Looked upon by her relatives as the poor childish orphan, in the very restrictedness of her small world and in all her innocence Milene displays great human warmth and courage.
»Jorge delivers a dose of near-contemporary history tempered by a page-turning family saga and romance.«
»A big, satisfying national saga.«
Wall Street Journal
»The novel moves rhythmically.…This is a thrillingly immersive ‘parable about life, about the struggle between rich and poor, between one race and another.’ Even the trees and surrounding landscape — ‘mute figures who, of course, had knowledge and memory’ — have their point of view.«
New York Times Book Review
»Comparisons have already been drawn to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels—and it’s not hard to see why with the book’s distinctive blend of social history and the most intimate of family sagas. But Jorge’s book is very much its own thing, with a razor-sharp postcolonial subtext that asks deeper questions about who we consider the outsider, and why.«
»A triumph of language artist Lídia Jorge.«
»A spellbinding and poetic melody whose power touches and amplifies you long after you have finished reading it.«
»Very impressive indeed.«
»Literary audaciousness and analytic acerbity mark Lídia Jorge’s texts.«
The Painter of Birds
In her novel The Painter of Birds (“O Vale da Paixão”), the author again takes her readers back to the world of her childhood. The scenery this time is the old house Valmares, in a village in the south of Portugal. The house is still inhabited by the patriarch, his son and his wife and grandchildren. The other children have left home, emigrated, built up a new life for themselves far away. The decades pass the old house by, and increasingly tourism encroaches upon the rural, isolated life – a sign too of the fundamental changes in Portuguese society over the past fifty years. In the meantime, the granddaughter weaves a dense image based on her memories and full of longing for her real father, who went off and left her mother as a young man, returning only once, when she was fifteen years old. With the story of this loving relationship between father and daughter, an image also emerges of the uncertain destiny of a house, a family, and “a society that neither knows what it is, nor what it should do with its rural past”, as the author once put it in an interview. As a result, much of what is presented in the book seems undecided. Dark gaps remain, full of silence and mystery. Lidia Jorge has again written a novel of melancholic beauty.
»Portugal can count among its citizens three of the premier novelists writing today: José Saramago, António Lobo Antunes and Lídia Jorge. She writes with a gorgeous economy and an urgent beauty. The Painter of Birds is the work of a master.«
»The Painter of Birds unites the best of Lídia Jorge’s writing, indeed almost the best of Portuguese culture, which is always determined to preserve the past, perhaps nostalgically, but also to conquer the future […] Jorge’s lyrical prose has an inwardness that is both gentle and brutal; here it attains an unusual beauty. The Painter of Birds is certainly one of the best contemporary Portuguese novels.«
The Garden without Limits
The novel The Garden without Limits (“O Jardim sem Limites”) takes place in a big old house somewhere in Lisbon. Julieta Lanuit, her husband and two children own the house and rent the first floor to very different young people. One of them starts narrating the stories of their lives, and like in a puzzle draws a complex picture of their dreams and frustrations, their conformity and revolt, their togetherness and their solitude.
The Murmuring Coast
Like many of her generation, the experience of the colonial war was decisive for Lídia Jorge: “The history of this war has yet to be written”, she commented. In her next novel, The Murmuring Coast (“A Costa dos Murmúrios”), she writes about it from the point of view of a woman. Twenty years after a period spent in Moçambique as the young wife of a war-struck officer, the narrator looks back on those months and all their ambiguity, in an attempt to gain some clarity on Africa. Estranged as they are from reality, the colonial lords still preserve their aspirations and notions and imagine themselves to be secure, although the uprising of the suppressed people intimates the approaching loss of their centuries old dominance in Africa. With this novel Lídia Jorge has written one of the most powerful books on the colonial war.
»With The Murmuring Coast, Lídia Jorge has succeeded in writing one of the most significant contributions to contemporary Portuguese literature.«
»Lídia Jorge has written her most accomplished novel. Without losing her origins in a specific magical realism, she has elaborated a tale that with its voluble structure and its thematic originality places her in the foremost ranks of the narrative renewal the far south of Europe is going through.«
»Lídia Jorge knows how to regain the bareness of a woman’s word to evoke a dirty war with an intensity that is harsh, dull, almost helpless.«
»The Murmuring Coast is not only chock-full of images but also and above all a reflection on the fascination of war, the attraction, the strange gravity that captures the souls of men and leads them astray to place them in the orbit of death.«
Le Figaro Littéraire
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2022, 464 p.
English sample translation by Margaret Jull Costa available
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2018, 214 p.
Brazil: Leya · France: Métailié 2019 · Mexico: Elefanta · Spain: Editorial La Umbría y La Solana 2019
Those We Shall Remember (“Os Memoráveis“)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2014, 352 p.
Albania: Ombra GVG · Brazil: Leya 2022 · China: Haitian Publishing House · France: Métailié 2015 · Italy: Urogallo 2018 · Mexico: Elefanta 2018 · Poland: Świat Książki 2016 · Slovakia: Portugalsky 2021· Spain: Editorial La Umbría y La Solana 2022
The Night of the Singing Women (“A Noite das Mulheres Cantoras”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2011, 317 p.
Brazil: Leya 2012 (avail.) · France: Métailié 2012 · Israel: Hakibbutz 2017 · Italy: Urogallo 2020 · Romania: Univers 2014
We Shall Fight the Shadows (“Combateremos a Sombra”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2007, 484 p.
Brazil: Leya 2014, (avail.) · France: Métailié 2008 · Israel: Hakibbutz 2012
The Wind Whistling in the Cranes (“O Vento Assobiando nas Gruas”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2002, 538 p.
Grande Prémio de Romance 2003
Prémio Correntes d’Escritas 2004
Albatros Literature Prize of the Günter Grass Foundation 2006
Feature film directed by Swiss director Jeanne Waltz, posproduction scheduled for 2022
Brazil: Record 2007 · France: Métailié 2004 · German: Suhrkamp 2005 · Israel: Hakibbutz 2007 · Italy: Urogallo · Serbia: Arhipelag 2011 · Spain: Editorial La Umbría y La Solana· USA: Liveright (Norton & Company) 2022
The Painter of Birds (“O Vale da Paixão”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1998, 241 p.
Brazil: Record 2003 · Bulgaria: Lettera 2021 · Croatia: Hena-Com 2017 · France: Métailié 2000 · Germany: Suhrkamp 2000 · Greece: Polis 2004 · Israel: Hakibbutz 2005 · Italy: Bompiani 2003 · Romania: Editura Art 2008 · Slovenia: Mladinska 2007 · Spain: Seix Barral 2001 · Sweden: Bromberg 2001 · Taiwan: Marco Polo Press 2021 · Thailand: Library House · UK: Harvill 2001 · USA: Harcourt 2001 · Colombia, Chile, Venezuela: Libros del Fuego
The Garden without Limits (“O Jardim sem Limites”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1995, 375 p.
France: Métailié 1998 · Germany: Suhrkamp 1997, pb 1999 · Greece: Polis 2001 · Spain: Alfaguara 1995
A Última Dona
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1992, 337 p.
France: Métailié 1995 · Romania: Editura Art
The Murmuring Coast (“A Costa dos Murmúrios”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1988, 259 p.
Film directed by Margarida Cardoso, 2004
Brazil: Record 2004 · Bulgaria: Five Plus 2011 · China: Horizon Media Company · Colombia: Ediciones Uniandes 2018 · France: Métailié 1989 · Germany: Suhrkamp 1993, pb 1995 · Greece: Polis 2002 · Italy: Giunti 1992 · Mexico: Elefanta 2020 · The Netherlands: Arena 1991 · Spain: Alfaguara 2001, Editorial La Umbría y La Solana 2021 · USA: Univ. of Minnesota Press 1995
News from the City Jungle (“Notícia da Cidade Silvestre”)
1984, Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1994, 354 p.
France: Métailié 1988 · Germany: Suhrkamp 1990, pb 1992 · Spain: Alfaguara 1990
The Pier of the Snacks (“O Cais das Merendas”)
Lisbon: Europa-América 1982; Dom Quixote 1995, 251 p.
The Day of the Miracles (“O Dia dos Prodígios”)
Lisbon: Europa-América 1980; Dom Quixote 1995, 206 p.
France: Métailié 1991 · Germany: Beck & Glückler 1989, Suhrkamp pb 1992 · The Netherlands: de Prom 1996
Love in Lobito Bay (“O Amor em Lobito Bay”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2016, 192 p.
Spain: Editorial La Umbría y La Solana
Praça de Londres
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2008, 98 p.
Denmark: Eva Kvorning 2021 · Italy: Arcolaio · Slovenia: LUD · Colombia, Chile, Venezuela: Libros del Fuego
O Belo Adormecido
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2004, 241 p.
Marido e Outros Contos
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1997, 141 p.
Bulgaria: Five Plus · Denmark: Eva Kvorning 2021 · Germany: die horen 1999 · Slovenia: LUD · Spain: Ed. Xerais 2005 (Galician)
My Dear Bicycle (“A Instrumentalina”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1992, 39 p.
Brazil: Peirópolis · Colombia: Editorial Caballito de Acero 2019 · Czech Republic: Protimluv z.s. (Magazine) 2022 · France: Métailié 1995 · Germany: Suhrkamp 1998, Diogenes 2013 · Italy: Urogallo 2010 · Uruguay: Banda Oriental · USA: Grand Street 1999
Fortæller (Praça de Londres, Marido, Perfume)
Kobenhavn: Eva Kvorning 2021, 80 p.
In Every Sense (“Em Todos os Sentidos”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2020, 264 p.
Grand Prize for Chronicles and Literary Disperses 2022
O Romance do Grande Gatão
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2010, 48 p.
O Grande Voo do Pardal
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2007, 28 p.
O Conto do Nadador
Lisbon: Contexto, 1992
Italy: Urogallo 2019
PARTICIPATION IN ANTHOLOGIES
Autoportrait de l’Europe par ses écrivains
(Story by Lídia Jorge: “Diante do Promontório”)
France: Ed. Grasset et Fasquelle 2022
Zwischen den Büchern
Germany: Weissbooks 2018
Best European Fiction 2018
USA: Dalkey Archive Press 2017
Take Six: Six Portuguese Women Writers
UK: Dedalus, 2018
(several stories, taken from: My Dear Bicycle and Other Stories [“A Instrumentalina e Outros Contos”] and Love in Lobito Bay [“O Amor em Lobito Bay”])