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“Brutal realism that portrays how humans face the big events of history”

Interview with Lídia Jorge

Legendary Portugese author Lidia Jorge has won countless accolades for her large body of work, including the FIL Prize in Romance Languages 2020 that honors the author’s lifetime achievement and consisted of prize money of $150,000.


The jury praised “the magnitude of her work, which portrays the way in which human beings face the great events of history” and said her career was “marked by originality and independence of judgement”.


“Jorge is considered the most important living novelist of her country,” said jury member Carlos Salinas, who pointed to the “brutal realism” of her work in which she narrates the consequences of Portuguese colonialism.


Jorge’s other top accolades include being honoured as one of the “10 greatest literary voices” by the renowned French magazine Littéraire; being made a France Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres; and in 2021 being designated by the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to serve as a member of the Council of State.


Jorge, who was born in 1946, studied French literature in Lisbon before spending six very influential years in Portugese-speaking Africa, two in Angola and four in Mozambique, during their struggle for independence.


Her book A Costa dos Murmúrios (The Murmuring Coast) – published in China by the Horizon Media Company – draws upon those experiences and confirmed the author’s status as one of the leading figures in modern Portuguese literature.


In the story, using touches of her brand of magic realism, she writes from the point of view of a woman who looks back on her time living in Mozambique in an attempt to gain some clarity on the evolving situation in Africa.


Lacking perspective and a grasp of reality, the colonial lords still preserve their aspirations and notions and imagine themselves to be secure, although the uprising of the suppressed people suggests the approaching loss of their centuries old dominance in Africa.


“With The Murmuring Coast, Lídia Jorge has succeeded in writing one of the most significant contributions to contemporary Portuguese literature,” wrote the German newspaper FAZ, while the French daily newspaper Le Monde said “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.”


Another of Jorge’s literary triumphs that has also been published in Chinese translation, this time by Haitian Publishing House, is Those We Shall Remember (“Os Memoráveis”).


This classic novel tells the intriguing story of a number of participants in Portugal’s Carnation Revolution of 1974. When journalist Ana Maria is asked to make a documentary about this 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.


In praise of Os Memoráveis, Jornal de Letras called it “a small masterpiece” while Télérama said it was “prose of rare density. Handled with remarkable skill.”


Spanish newspaper Le Figaro wrote that Os Memoráveis was “a hypnotic novel” and concluded quite simply that “this woman deserves… the Nobel Prize for Literature.”