If you’re interested in world literature and Portuguese culture specifically, this reading list is for you. As every reader knows, reading is to travel far and wide where we cannot physically go. I hope this list guides you on a wonderful journey into the lusophone world.
While selecting titles for this list, I had the English reader in mind so you’ll only find the English translation titles listed. The Portuguese speaking world includes countries around the world but I’ve decided to organise them not by country but by publication date. There are a few works from prior centuries but I’ve tried to focus on 20th century literature.
Luís de Camões > The Lusiads < 1572
“First published in 1572, The Lusiads is one of the greatest epic poems of the Renaissance, immortalizing Portugal’s voyages of discovery with an unrivalled freshness of observation. At the centre of The Lusiads is Vasco da Gama’s pioneer voyage via southern Africa to India in 1497-98. The first European artist to cross the equator, Camoes’s narrative reflects the novelty and fascination of that original encounter with Africa, India and the Far East. The poem’s twin symbols are the Cross and the Astrolabe, and its celebration of a turning point in mankind’s knowledge of the world unites the old map of the heavens with the newly discovered terrain on earth. Yet it speaks powerfully, too, of the precariousness of power, and of the rise and decline of nationhood, threatened not only from without by enemies, but from within by loss of integrity and vision.” (GoodReads)
Camilo Castelo Branco > Love of Perdition < 1862
“Perhaps the height of Portuguese romanticism, Amor de Perdição (Love of Perdition) is a Portuguese Romeo and Juliet. Simão Botelho and Teresa are hopelessly in love, but their families are rivals in Viseu. When Teresa’s father, Tadeu, discovers their love, he shuts her in a convent. But, while trying to see his beloved, Simão kills Baltasar, and eventually condemned to death. The sentence is commuted to 10 years of service in India, but before the sentence is executed, both Teresa and Simão die of broken hearts.” (GoodReads)
Machado de Assis > The Alienist < 1881
“A classic work of literature by “the greatest author ever produced in Latin America.” (Susan Sontag)
Brilliant physician Simão Bacamarte sacrifices a prestigious career to return home and dedicate himself to the budding field of psychology. Bacamarte opens the first asylum in Brazil hoping to crown himself and his hometown with “imperishable laurels.” But the doctor begins to see signs of insanity in more and more of his neighbors. . . .
With dark humor and sparse prose, The Alienist lets the reader ponder who is really crazy.” (GoodReads)