Project Description

Madalena Sá Fernandes Madalena Sá Fernandes

Portugal

Madalena Sá Fernandes was born in Lisbon in 1993. She graduated in languages, literatures and cultures at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and writes literary columns for the newspaper Público. TAKE THE HELM is her first book, and is already in its fourth edition.

© Felipe Ferreira

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Drift

A puzzle book, a scrapbook, a notebook of memories, a collection of notes against the voracity of the present, a eulogy to what matters most in life, a self-questionnaire without definite answers about adulthood and the state of the world – this is Drift (“Deriva”). From nostalgic family holidays to the painful experience of sleeping in a bed with bedbugs; from the slow learning of loneliness to the hatred of wedding parties that seem more like carnivals; from the martyrdom of insomnia to the arduous negotiations between mother and daughters; from the blind navigation of social networks to the conciliatory power of literature; from the rediscovery of therapy to a reunion with a first love: Drift wanders through subjects as diverse and unexpected as the witty or sharp angle that Madalena Sá Fernandes chooses to approach them. A book that confirms the literary resourcefulness of a writer who, looking at herself and her surroundings, gives each reader a kind of reflection in the mirror.

Quotes

Taking the Helm

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Taking the Helm

Taking the Helm (“Leme”) is the autofictional story of a toxic relationship. In her literary debut, Sá Fernandes deals with the domestic violence she herself experienced as a child at the hands of her stepfather Paulo. He moves in with her and her mother when Madalena is just six years old, and he dominates the lives of the two women for twelve years with his controlling behaviour and outbursts of rage. The aggression is directed above all against her mother, who does not succeed in freeing herself from this relationship for a long time. For Madalena this is hard to bear, she experiences the undermining of the pillars that sustain human relationships and the distortion of the roles of parents and children. She has no choice but to settle into loneliness to overcome her fear and anger, to find a place for herself in the family chaos, and to find comfort in small victories in everyday life.
Later, when she herself was already in danger of repeating her mother’s behavioural patterns in her own relationship, she manages to free herself from this downward spiral. After Paulo’s death, Madalena revisits those years in images of her memories, and she writes to free herself from her stepfather for good. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after the separation, which was then treated with medication. Sá Fernandes succeeds in creating a sensitive portrait of a dysfunctional family, an almost astonished look from a child’s perspective at the absurdity and grotesqueness of what happened. This book is a moment of literary glory and a powerful act of self-empowerment to find one’s own way back into life.

Quotes

Taking the Helm

RIGHTS

NOVELS
Taking the Helm (“Leme”)
Lisbon: Companhia das Letras 2023, 168 p.
English sample translation by Daniel Hahn available
Argentina: Metalúcida
(Only rights in Argentina)

CHRONICLES
Drift (“Deriva”)
Lisbon: forthcoming June 2024