Literary notes from Portugal

In Transit

Literary notes from Portugal

Jose Luis Peixoto

One of the literary highlights of the Portuguese Festival that was held in the City was a talk on Portuguese Literature and a reading session with José Luis Peixoto, a young award-winning writer from Lisbon.

On his first visit to India, the author who was awarded  the José Saramago Literary Award in 2001, talked about his recently published novel Blank Gaze which has been critically acclaimed and translated into several languages. “I was born in 1974, the year of the revolution,” he says with a engaging smile. “Portugal has been through several transitions since then. First when there was a change of rule from dictatorship to democracy and secondly when Portugal joined the European Union. This transition is strongly reflected in our contemporary literature, prose and poetry,” he adds.

Blank Gaze is his first novel to be translated into English. It is a surreal tale set in a village in the Portuguese region of Alentejo, against a background of severe rural poverty, woven into a time and space that is essentially Portuguese but also very different.

“I have chosen to tell my story, through the offbeat fictional characters I have created. It is a story of love, death, fatalism, triumph and defeat told through two generations. There are giants, siamese twins and the devil amongst others who inhabit the nameless village where this novel is set,” he explains.

Fascinated by the contrast between India and Portugal, he is also struck by the similarities between the cultures at certain levels. “India is so different from city to city. Goa is easy to relate to. The beaches, the little villages and the laidback pace of life is very relaxing. Delhi was a little more challenging while Bangalore is quite similar to some of the cities in Portugal,” he says.

Besides being a prose writer and a columnist, Jose is also a poet. His writing and his perception of the world around him reflect this strongly. Despite the rather bleak nature of his novel, the remarkable characters he creates make quite an impact on the reader.
“Portugal developed a specific culture while being influenced by various civilisations that have crossed the Mediterranean and the European continent. This is reflected in our present day literature,” he concludes.

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