Portuguese authors for the learner.
January 24, 2005 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Portuguese authors for the learner. I am teaching myself Portuguese and want some enjoyable fiction to read for exercise. Any recommendations for authors with a simple prose style (a la Hemingway or Steinbeck)? Bonus points for Brazilian setting.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Fernando Pessoa is pretty interesting. A sort of Portugese Kafka. He had some ridiculous number of heteronyms with detailed personal lives, astrological signs, etc.
posted by clockwork at 6:11 PM on January 24, 2005

Jose Saramago. I'm not sure how simple he is to read in Portuguese but wonderful wonderful books. (and thinking about it, they make all Portuguese kids read him in schools, so he can't be that hard.)

And then we also have a resident famous Portuguese author in house. : >
posted by amberglow at 6:25 PM on January 24, 2005

oops. should be Fernando Pessoa
posted by clockwork at 6:32 PM on January 24, 2005

Mario Vargas Llosa
is a great one. I have read two of his books (translated, of course). The War of the End of the World is excellent. The other one i read was The Feast of the Goat. Both are set in Brazil. The author was recommended to me by a bookstore owner in Rio, and i really enjoyed his writing.
posted by zergot at 7:09 PM on January 24, 2005

Machado de Assis is supposed to be great too. (Brazilian, 1800s)
posted by amberglow at 7:23 PM on January 24, 2005

zergot - Correction here please - Mario Vargas Llosa is Peruvian and writes in Spanish. His novel "The Feast of the Goat" was about the Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo.
posted by adamvasco at 7:24 PM on January 24, 2005

Jorge Amado - "Gabriella, Cinnamon and Clove" and "Dona Flor and her two husbands" among many.
A great Brazilian writer though I have only read these in English and the linked biography / bibliography linked is also in that language.
posted by adamvasco at 7:49 PM on January 24, 2005

You might want to try reading some translations of books you've already read in English, i.e. the Harry Potter series, as well as native authors.
posted by stavrogin at 8:00 PM on January 24, 2005

I wouldn't recommend Machado de Assis, really, to a beginner. It was one of the course books while I was in high school there and it's difficult reading. The native speakers had trouble with some of the idiom since it's quite dated. I found it almost completely incomprehensable.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:13 PM on January 24, 2005

ok...you'll work your way up to him : >
(i only just recently heard of Machado, thru Sontag)

jacqui, was Saramago easy for most people?
posted by amberglow at 9:01 PM on January 24, 2005

A Brazilian friend of mine visited Brazil in December and brought me back Comédias para se Ler na Escola, a short story collection by Luis Fernando Verissimo as a present. He tells me that Verissimo is a pretty well-known author.

Though the title I mentioned isn't Hemingway and Steinbeck grade fiction -- they're humorous short stories -- it will serve you pretty well in learning Portuguese, especially the Brazilian dialect, which comes through well in Verissimo's writing.
posted by pealco at 9:30 PM on January 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far, folks.

pealco, the only reason I mentioned Hemingway or Steinbeck as an example is that I'm looking for plain but adult writing, not because I yen for serious works.

amberglow, I would love to check out the works of our own MEC but I'm not sure I can my hands on them here in New Zealand. Although you've just reminded me he has a Portuguese-language blog which I ought to be following.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:45 PM on January 24, 2005

Best answer: My Portuguese teacher is a writer. One of her recent books, O Diário Supersecreto de Carolina, is written with an older teen audience in mind. It's not classic fiction (sorry, Bebeti!) but it is funny, was suited to my level of Portuguese and takes place in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.

Bebeti's favourite was Clarice Lispector, BTW.

I tried Saramago (Levantado do chão) but found the going really difficult.

I've read that Eça de Queiros is good fun, but maybe a bit archaic for a learner.

I have a copy of The Babel Guide to the Fiction of Portugal, Brazil and Africa. These are books in English translation, but you might be able to use a book like this to give you some idea of what you might like in Portuguese.
posted by sagwalla at 4:47 AM on January 25, 2005

Did nobody read the question? He's not asking "What are some great Portuguese authors" (he presumably knows or can google), he wants "authors with a simple prose style." I'm a huge Amado fan, but he's very difficult reading in the original, as (I presume) are most of the others -- great writers don't tend to have simple prose styles (Hem being an obvious exception). No, I don't have a good answer, but this thread might be more helpful if others who don't have a good answer wouldn't try to give one anyway.
posted by languagehat at 9:18 AM on January 25, 2005

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