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Your Portuguese Writer Calendar – Improving Your Portuguese Reading (Part 2)

Do you want to dive into Portuguese literature but do not know where to start? Look no further because here is your ultimate introduction to some of the finest national authors. You will uncover their works and understand essential aspects of their lives. The impact men and women had and still have extends far beyond the Portuguese-speaking world.

In part 1 of this two-article series, you learned how to improve your Portuguese reading. You explored how valuable reading can be to your language-learning journey. Additionally, you explored the different techniques and strategies you can apply to use written material to boost your overall progress.

Now, discover twelve renowned Portuguese writers and their incredible work. Learn about famous writers from the past that shaped how Portuguese is written and spoken today. Plus, explore more recent and remarkable authors. These are the artists that continue affecting Portuguese-speaking natives and foreigners across the globe.

Explore Portuguese Literature: Your Authors Calendar

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Learn European Portuguese by reading books by native writers
Learn European Portuguese by reading books by native writers

You can discover more about Portuguese literature by exploring its most prominent authors. Here is your yearly reading list with a different writer for every month.

January – Fernando Pessoa

There is no better way to start the year than in the company of Fernando Pessoa. Born Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa in 1888 in Lisbon, he was a brilliant poet. Although he published much of his work while living, he gained further recognition after his death.

  • Mensagem (Message) blends nationalism and mysticism. It is a collection of poems reflecting on Portugal’s past glories and future aspirations. It joins myth and history to evoke a sense of national identity.
  • O Livro do Desassossego (The Book of Disquiet) is a collection of reflective and philosophical musings by one of Pessoa’s heteronyms, Bernardo Soares. It is a profound exploration of existential themes and inner life.
  • O Banqueiro Anarquista (The Anarchist Banker) is a short story of a dialogue in which a banker paradoxically argues for his anarchist beliefs. It presents a satirical critique of ideological hypocrisy and the complexities of political theory.
Fernando Pessoa's Graffiti (Portuguese Poet)
Fernando Pessoa’s Graffiti (Portuguese Poet), by Pedro Ribeiro Simões, licensed under CC BY 2.0

In total, Pessoa used over seventy different names to sign his work. Still, it is unsure all of them were heteronyms with fully developed characters and backstories. He had three main heteronyms with distinct writing styles and a semi-heteronym. These were the ones with which he signed most of his poetry.

Ricardo Reis

Ricardo Reis was a doctor born in Porto in 1887. He self-expatriated to Brazil in 1919 because he supported the monarchy. He admired mythology, defended paganism, and wrote with neo-classical characteristics about life’s ephemerity.

Álvaro de Campos

Álvaro de Campos was born in 1890 in Tavira, a coastal town in southern Portugal. His writing was powerful, often angry or anguished. He’s an industrialist who studied engineering in Scotland.

Alberto Caeiro

Alberto Caeiro was an orphan born in Lisbon in 1889. He had no education besides primary school and no work and lived with his aunt in the countryside. His poems are contemplative, appealing to the senses in a calm, serene way.

February – Maria Velho da Costa

Maria Velho da Costa lived in the Portuguese capital during the 20th and 21st centuries. She received the Camões Prize in 2002. Besides being a celebrated Portuguese writer, she was also a prominent figure in the national feminist movement.

Her works often explored themes of gender, identity, and social justice. Her style was innovative and experimental. Costa was one of the co-authors of Novas Cartas Portuguesas (New Portuguese Letters). This feminist text challenged the Estado Novo regime supported by the Catholic Church and highlighted women’s oppression.

Her poetry book Minha Senhora de Mim further cemented her reputation as a bold and influential voice. Throughout her career, she also created essays and plays that continue to inspire contemporary Portuguese thought and literature. More of her works include:

  • O Mapa Cor de Rosa is a novel that weaves historical and fictional elements. It critiques colonialism and the romanticized views of Portuguese exploration.
  • Lúcialima is a lyrical and introspective novel. It delves into personal and collective memory, exploring themes of identity and belonging through the lives of its characters.

March – José Luís Peixoto

José Luís Peixoto is a contemporary author, poet, and playwright with works translated into over thirty languages. He is famous for his evocative prose and poetic storytelling. His first novel, Nenhum Olhar (Blank Gaze), won the José Saramago Literary Award in 2001.

Peixoto’s work explores themes of rural life, familial relationships, and the passage of time. He often blends realism with lyrical elements. Peixoto has a diverse collection of works, including novels, poetry, and travel writing. He continues to captivate and resonate with readers and other writers in Portugal and internationally. You might like to read:

  • Cemitério de Pianos (The Piano Cemetery) is a novel that showcases Peixoto’s talent for intertwining past and present narratives. It explores the lives of a father and son, including themes of legacy, loss, and the passage of time within the haunting backdrop of a piano workshop.
  • Galveias is a novel named after and set in Galveias, a small Portuguese village, and the author’s hometown. It vividly portrays rural life, capturing the community’s secrets, struggles, and resilience with poetic depth and sensitivity.

April – Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Portuguese poet Sophia de Mello Breyner also authored children’s books, essays, and short stories. Her work became known for its lyrical beauty, clarity, and deep connection to nature and the sea. Several times award-winner, she advocated for human rights during Portugal’s dictatorship.

Parque dos Poetas (Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen), Oeiras
Parque dos Poetas (Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen), Oeiras, by Pedro Ribeiro Simões, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Andresen’s poetry discusses freedom, justice, and the human condition. Some of her works include:

  • O Nome das Coisas is a profound poetry collection emphasizing lyrical precision and philosophical depth. It delves into themes of existence, nature, and human experience.
  • A Fada Oriana is an enchanting children’s story that follows a fairy named Oriana. She learns valuable lessons about responsibility and compassion as she strives to protect the forest and its inhabitants.

May – Marco Neves

If you have followed our content for a while, you have probably heard of language expert Marco Neves. He is one of our favorite modern authors. His books about linguistics and the Portuguese language are accessible and engaging. You can watch our exclusive interview with Marco Neves below.

Interview with a Portuguese Expert

Neves also writes essays and columns and has more than one podcast. His theme is the understanding and appreciation of linguistic diversity and the complexities of translation. His works explore the evolution and quirks of the Portuguese language, making linguistic topics enjoyable for a broad audience.

  • A Incrível História Secreta da Língua Portuguesa is about the fascinating and lesser-known history of the Portuguese language. It reveals its evolution, influences, and unique characteristics in an engaging narrative.
  • Atlas Histórico da Escrita is a comprehensive exploration of the historical development of writing systems worldwide. It highlights the cultural and technological shifts that shaped how humans communicate and record information.
Luís Vaz de Camões
Luís Vaz de Camões, by Carlos Luna, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

June – Luís de Camões

Considered Portugal’s greatest poet, Luís Vaz de Camões lived during the 16th century. His epic poem Os Lusíadas embodies the spirit of the Portuguese Age of Discoveries. It blends classical mythology with Portuguese history and the heroic deeds of famous explorers like Vasco da Gama. His influence extended beyond literature, shaping Portugal’s cultural identity and literary tradition for centuries.

His profound insights into human nature and the country’s culture during that time cemented his legacy as a national poet. His work in lyrical poetry has been compared to that of famous international writers like Shakespeare. In 1988, Portugal and Brazil joined forces to create The Camões Prize, a literary award for original writing in Portuguese.

July – Valter Hugo Mãe

Valter Hugo Mãe is a contemporary Portuguese writer known for his distinctive narrative style and lyrical prose. He is both a versatile and influential voice in modern Portuguese literature. His works often explore themes like identity, solitude, and the human condition. Recognized for pushing literary boundaries, his writing blends realism with fantastical elements.

Valter Hugo Mãe no Fronteiras do Pensamento São Paulo 2016
Valter Hugo Mãe no Fronteiras do Pensamento São Paulo 2016, by Fronteiras do Pensamento, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mãe won the José Saramago Prize with his novel O Remorso de Baltazar Serapião (The Remorse of Baltazar Serapião). This award-winning book has been widely celebrated for its inventive language and deep emotional resonance. In addition to novels, the writer also published poetry and children’s books. Among his works, you will find:

  • A Máquina de Fazer Espanhóis is a poignant exploration of aging and loneliness. This novel delves into the life of an elderly man grappling with the loss of his wife and his identity in a changing world.
  • O Filho de Mil Homens tells a heartwarming tale of belonging and the family search. The plot follows the story of a man who desires a son and the unconventional ways through which he forms his family.
  • O Paraíso São os Outros is a beautifully illustrated novella. It presents a poetic meditation on love and relationships, emphasizing the joy and fulfillment found in the presence of others.

August – José Saramago

Saramago José  1986
Saramago José 1986, by Elisa Cabot, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Nobel Prize winner José Saramago is known for his distinctive narrative style and philosophical explorations. His novels, such as The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, challenge conventions and delve into complex moral and societal issues. During his life, he built a lasting literary legacy and earned international acclaim. His works include:

  • Memorial do Convento is a historical novel that combines magical realism and political commentary.
  • Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira (Blindness) explores the breakdown of society after an epidemic of blindness strikes.
  • O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of The Death of Ricardo Reis) is a novel set in a prewar fascist Lisbon. It blends historical and fictional characters, including one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms, exploring themes of identity and mortality.

September – Eça de Queiroz

Portuguese writer from the 19th century, Eça de Queirós (or Queiroz), was a prominent novelist known for his satirical realism and keen social criticism. His works vividly depict the societal decadence and moral hypocrisy of his time.

He always showed a sharp wit and literary craftsmanship that earned him a reputation as a master of Portuguese literature. His insightful portrayals of human nature and society influenced generations of writers. Considered one of the greatest realist-style writers, his most famous works include:

  • Os Maias (The Maias) is a novel about the decline of a wealthy Portuguese family.
  • O Crime do Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro) criticizes the Portuguese clergy and high society.
  • O Primo Basílio (Cousin Bazilio) analyses a Portuguese bourgeoisie family in the second half of the 19th century. It critiques the romantic entanglements and moral decadence of Portuguese society at the time.

November – Gil Vicente

Gil Vicente was a genius Portuguese playwright and poet who lived during the 15th and 16th centuries. He wrote over 80 plays and is referred to as the “Father of Portuguese drama. A pivotal figure in Renaissance literature, his theatrical work often satirizes the society of his time and its moral dilemmas.

Vicente often used Portuguese vernacular terms and explored social and religious themes. Besides writing, he also directed and acted in his plays. This way, he laid the foundation for Portuguese drama, influencing subsequent playwrights up until today.

  • Auto da Barca do Inferno (The Ship of Hell) is one of Gil Vicente’s most famous works. It is a morality play that satirizes Portuguese society through the allegorical journey of souls to either heaven or hell.
  • Auto da Índia (The Indian Play) is a tragicomedy that explores themes of exploration, adventure, and cultural encounter during the Age of Discoveries. It includes elements of farce with deeper moral undertones.
  • Farsa de Inês Pereira (Farce of Inês Pereira) is a comedic play that humorously critiques social conventions and gender roles. It tells the story of a woman who dreams of marrying a rich man but ends up in a less-than-ideal marriage.
Casa Cesário Verde
Casa Cesário Verde by Canção de Lisboa, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

December – Cesário Verde

Cesário Verde bridged romanticism and modernism through his poetry. Known for his vivid imagery and delicate style, he depicted life in urban and rural Portugal. His poetry often highlighted contrasts between the city and the countryside, the struggles of the working class, and the beauty of nature.

He died at only 31 years old of tuberculosis. He published some of his work while living but suffered heavy criticism from the press. After his death, Silva Pinto, a close friend and fellow writer, compiled a collection of his poems in a book. It is entitled O Livro de Cesário Verde (The Book of Cesário Verde).

Pick Your Favorite Portuguese Writer!

Reading is an incredible way to learn the Portuguese language. Focusing on works by native Portuguese authors will help you dig deeper into the culture and improve your language skills. Part two of this literary series was all about exploring native authors and their incredible works.

From Renaissance plays to poetry, novels, and linguistics, you have a complete reading list to choose from. Have you read any of the books mentioned in this article? Which is your favorite Portuguese author? Comment them below!

What if you want to take the next step in your Portuguese studies? Then, visit our website and sign up for The Journey! It takes you on an adventure through Portuguese landscapes to help you learn the language. You will explore the culture and people as never before and become a confident Portuguese speaker.

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At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learned instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help you master pronunciation, phrase construction, oral understanding, grammar, and all the necessary bits to get you to fluency. And still, the whole thing is presented as an adventure. It’s a course like no other, trust us!

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