Océanos PrizeLuís Cardoso
Luís Cardoso, born in Cailaco, East Timor, studied forestry in Portugal, where he currently lives and works. He has written the first book to emerge from a first generation of post-colonial Timorese authors living, working, and waiting in the diaspora for their country to be free. With THE PUMPKIN PLANTER (SONATA FOR A FOG) Luís Cardoso wins the first place of the Oceanos Prize 2021.
The Pumpkin Planter
Can the most enchanting of sounds narrate disenchantment? With his novel The Pumpkin Planter (Sonata for a Fog) (“O Plantador de Abóboras (Sonata para uma Neblina)”), Luís Cardoso seems to prove that the intersecting voices of the narratives are like a Swiss army knife, offering in any given moment the exact tool to open whatever is hidden in a painting, in a character’s name, in a figure or historical moment.
A woman waits and paints and therefore thinks. Through her are passing episodes, possibilities, failures, memories, ancestors, animals, countries, men, history. And what remains with her of all this? The woman does not simply collect, but seeks the underlying construction of these gestures. Of a house, for example. And of love, after all and always the greatest of stories. To say what happens in these pages risks reducing the very humanity that the author makes happen. At each step we are moved, we laugh and we reflect.
Timor, that mythical setting, will never be the same again after this journey where the concrete and the mythical, Sancho Panza and Chibanga, the roses and the coffee, the horse and the goose, the colonial empire and the Orient are called on stage to narrate the ways of making the world. Can we be the masters of our seeds? Can the world be a pumpkin?
» Through the metaphor of sowing a pumpkin, the novel seems to propose new and sustainable agricultural practices as a basis for the country‘s development.«
Folha de S.Paulo
»What Luís Cardoso tells us is about a country that was liberated, and whose liberation still bears recent marks that are still vivid, and we therefore sense in his narrative the numerous faces of a people who seek to appease their torments and glimpse a solid future.«
»The Pumpkin Planter is a poetic allegory on the history of East Timor in the last century. The voice of a woman who waited for her ancé for many years, does not forget one or other invective about the present situation of the country.«
»Touching on the issue of memory and of those who have left, the text evokes the classic Pedro Páramo (1955), by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo.«
Quatro cinco um
» The oficial history‘ of Timor was told by those who controlled us, by the Portuguese, the Japanese, and the Indonesians, who spoke of their own bravery. But who speaks of our bravery? We resisted; “we gained our independence. We transmitted our “stories” orally, from generation to generation. Do you understand why it would be dishonest to write otherwise? – says Cardoso, who is proud to help build the Timorese identity in the Portuguese language.«
»It is a novel that also makes us reflect that the story of a character is never solitary – it is a story that carries with it the story of its community, its people and, in this case, the story of a country: East Timor.«
Itamar Vieira Junior, jury member of the Oceanos Prize
Where Do Cats Go When They Die? A Biblical Parable
“I have just arrived on the island where I lived during my childhood, looking for someone.”
The return to Ataúro, land of childhood, “land of never”, is the beginning of this new voyage in reverse by Luís Cardoso; a fast, poetic and emotional novel that traverses the childhood and formative years of the narrator, the diaspora, the struggles, the disillusions, the betrayals, the losses, and the return, meanwhile encountering a host of extraordinary characters. A journey that, of course, runs alongside the history of East Timor, with the fantasy and irony that have always marked the author’s voice and make us sigh for those mysterious lands of terrifying beauty.
»On this journey, Luís Cardoso has built, in Portuguese, a new literature of different worlds and different religions, knowing that “God is much better than everything men have read about Him, with eyes open lokematan or eyes closed takamatan.”«
Frei Bento Domingues, O.P.
»When the mother’s word falls silent, so does that of the narrator and the story ends. It is then time for the reader to begin the challenge of seeking their own answers to this and other enigmas within the story. This is also what literature is for.«
The Last Death of Colonel Santiago
The writer Lucas in The Last Death of Colonel Santiago (“A Última Morte do Coronel Santiago”), left the island a long time ago and lives in Portugal. However, when he travels to his country, he is caught up by the past, since the crimes committed by his ancestors towards the Timorensians have not yet been avenged. Present and past are closely intertwined in this novel, which deals with love, death and the search for the roots of human beings.
Owl Eyes – Cat Eyes
Cardoso’s second novel Owl Eyes – Cat Eyes (“Olhos de Coruja – Olhos de Gato Bravo”) is mainly set in the period of Portuguese colonisation, and highlights the explosive consequences which the “Carnation Revolution” in Portugal had for the small, far-away colony. The novel is imbued with the myths and fables of Timor, to which Luis Cardoso has lent poetic expression.
In 1999, after 24 years of annexation by Indonesia, East Timor opted for independence. Prior to that, until 1975, the country was a Portuguese colony.
Crossing (“Crónica de uma Travessia”) reads like a colonial bildungsroman, but is in fact an autobiographical memoir of childhood and growing up in Timor, and subsequent exile in Lisbon. This particular work sheds light on a little known country over an important, nation-forming period of its history and it portrays a territory that, whatever the weaknesses of the colonial system, was plugged into a Portuguese-speaking cultural world at the time of the events of 1975: from Salazar’s deportees who ended up in Timor, to soldiers from Mozambique and missionaries trained in Macau, to Chinese traders and returning Timorese students from Portugal, all make their appearance or are alluded to in this memory of a land under hostile occupation.
»Beautifully written memoir.«
Several titles represented for Dom Quixote, Portugal
Original editions and rights sold:
The Pumpkin Planter (Sonata for a Fog)
(“O Plantador de Abóboras (Sonata para uma Neblina)”)
Lisbon: Abysmo 2020. 182 p.
Winner of the Oceanos Prize 2021
Brazil: Todavia 2022 · Colombia, Argentina, Mexico: Tragaluz 2022
Where Do Cats Go When They Die? A Biblical Parable
(“Para onde Vão os Gatos quando Morrem? Uma Parábola Bíblica”)
Lisbon: Sextante 2017, 272 p.
The Year Pigafetta Completed His Circumnavigation
(“O Ano em que Pigafetta Completou a Circum-Navegação”)
French sample translation available
Lisbon: Sextante 2012, 256 p.
Italy: Urogallo · Spain: Armaenia
Requiem for a Solitary Navigator
(“Requiem para um Navegador Solitário”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2007, 244 p.
Italy: Urogallo 2010
The Last Death of Colonel Santiago (“A Última Morte do Coronel Santiago”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2003, 293 p.
Sweden: Tranan 2006
Owl Eyes – Cat Eyes (“Olhos de Coruja, Olhos de Gato Bravo”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2001, 159 p.
Sweden: Tranan 2003
Crossing (“Crónica de uma Travessia”)
Lisbon: Dom Quixote 1997, 154 p.
France: Métailié 2000 · Germany: Aufbau 2001 · Greece: Vakxikon · Italy: Feltrinelli Traveller 2002 · The Netherlands: Arbeiderspers 2004 · Sweden: Tranan 2002 · UK: Granta 2000 · USA: Granta 2002