Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Camões Prize

And it's all his fault

I don’t know about you, but I’m still under that procrastinating effect of the festive season. It takes time and effort to go back to the routine of writing long-winded blog posts about fictional Satanists. So I’ve been taking it easy with frivolities. Lists are always good and easy, so I a while back I decided to compile a list of all the books I’ve read from each recipient of the Camões Prize. Named after the epic poet Luís de Camões, author of The Lusiads, it is the highest literary honour a Portuguese-language writer can receive.  Given to authors for their body of work, the Camões is the equivalent of the Cervantes Prize, the National Book Award and the Man Booker International Prize. Although I follow literary awards with some scepticism, when I don’t completely ignore them, I think the Camões has maintained a respectable standard since its inception in 1989. That’s not to say there haven’t been some duds and controversies over the years; and one of the prize’s main problems is that it continues to honour Portuguese and Brazilian authors too much, to the detriment of African writers, although last year Mia Couto, Mozambican author, finally received his much deserved prize. On the whole, though, the list serves as a useful guide to the best Portuguese-language literature has to offer, and also a personal road map.

After my compilation I realized I had read at least one book by almost each recipient. It’s a list that makes me feel haughty but also ashamed of serious lacunae. Haughty because I can nonchalantly say, in a conversation about modern Portuguese poetry (this is mainly an imaginary conversation since I don’t know physical people I could have it with), “You know, I’ve read the complete poetry of Sophia de Mello Breyner.” Ashamed because I haven’t read anything by Maria Velho da Costa. Haughty because I can pass judgement on every novel by José Saramago (see what I just did there?). Ashamed because I’ve only read one book by Miguel Torga to date.

Anyway, here’s the list. I hope to improve it throughout 2014.

1989 Migue Torga (1907-1995) Portugal

Tales from the Mountains

1990 João Cabral de Melo Neto (1920 - 1999) Brazil

Education by Stone

1991 José Craveirinha (1922 - 2003) Mozambique

Obra Poética I

1992 Vergílio Ferreira (1916 - 1996) Portugal

Manhã Submersa
Alegria Breve

1993 Rachel de Queiroz (1910 - 2003) Brazil

1994 Jorge Amado (1912 - 2001) Brazil

O País do Carnaval

1995 José Saramago (1922 - 2010) Portugal

Terra do Pecado
Manual of Painting and Calligraphy
Raised from the Ground
Baltasar and Blimunda
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
The Stone Raft
History of the Siege of Lisbon
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
All the Names
The Cave
The Double
Death with Interruptions
The Elephant’s Voyage
The Lives of Things
Journey to Portugal
Deste Mundo e do Outro
A Bagagem do Viajante
Os Apontamentos
Folhas Políticas
Provavelmente Alegria
Os Poemas Possíveis
O Ano de 1993
The Tale of the Unknown Island
A Noite
O Que Farei com Este Livro?
A Segunda Vida de Francisco de Assis
In Nomine Dei
Small Memories
The Notebook
Cadernos de Lanzarote (I-V)
A Estátua e a Pedra

1996 Eduardo Lourenço (b. 1923) Portugal

Chaos and Splendour
Fernando, Rei da Nossa Baviera
Fernando Pessoa Revisitado

1997 Pepetela (b. 1941) Angola

The Return of the Water Spirit
A Montanha da Água Lilás
O Terrorista de Berkeley, Califórnia
O Planalto e a Estepe
Lueji, o nascimento de um império

1998 Antonio Candido de Mello e Souza (b. 1918) Brazil

1999 Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919 - 2004) Portugal

Obra Poética

2000 Autran Dourado (1926 - 2012) Brazil

2001 Eugénio de Andrade (1923 - 2005) Portugal


2002 Maria Velho da Costa (b. 1938) Portugal

2003 Rubem Fonseca (b. 1925) Brazil

A Confraria dos Espadas
Mandrake – A Bíblia e a Bengala

2004 Agustina Bessa-Luís (b. 1922) Portugal

A Sibila
Contos Impopulares
Antes do Degelo

2005 Lygia Fagundes Telles (b. 1923) Brazil

2006 José Luandino Vieira (b. 1935) Angola


2007 António Lobo Antunes (b. 1942) Portugal

Memória de Elefante
The Land at the End of the World
Knowledge of Hell
A Morte de Carlos Gardel

2008 João Ubaldo Ribeiro (b 1941) Brazil

Sargeant Getúlio
O Feitiço da Ilha do Pavão
An Invincible Memory

2009 Arménio Vieira (b. 1941) Cape Verde

2010 Ferreira Gullar (b. 1930) Brazil

Cidades Inventadas
Rabo de Foguete
Poema Sujo
Em Alguma Parte Alguma

2011 Manuel António Pina (1943 - 2012) Portugal

Os Papéis de K.

2012 Dalton Trevisan (b. 1925) Brazil

The Vampire of Curitiba

2013 Mia Couto (b. 1955) Mozambique

Sleepwalking Land
Under the Frangipani
The Tuner of Silences
Voices made Night
Every Man is a Race
Vinte e Zinco
O Fio das Missangas
Contos do Nascer da Terra


  1. This is kind of an interesting exercise, isn't it? Although I would not want to bother with checking any particular English-language prize - the Camões Prize is, as you say, much more interesting than anything in the U.S., at least.

    1. This is kind of an interesting exercise, isn't it?

      They're really good to show off.

      But you really think this list is more interesting than US lists? Why? Do you think the choices are particularly safe or predictable? Or unworthy?

    2. All of those things. But of course there is no close equivalent, no U.S. "author" prize - just books.

      Actually, sorry, the Bollingen prize, which is for poets only, is sometimes a lifetime achievement award and is solid. And the scifi/fantasy awards (Hugo, Nebula, Campbell) have a good record, although I have not kept up for twenty years, so how would I know.

    3. I used to think the National Book Award had a lifetime achievement, but I just found out it was given to Oprah Winfrey... wow, that's quite something... and the rest of the list is a bit whitebread too, but hey, Philip Roth!