The Return by Dulce Maria Cardoso (tr. Angel Gurria-Quintana)

The Return book with picture of dog, against sandy background

a nutshell: this gripping child’s-eye-view story follows a family’s fragmented relocation from Luanda to Lisbon amidst the Angolan War of Independence in 1975

a line: “the empire was there, in that waiting room, a tired empire, in need of house and food, a defeated and humiliated empire, an empire no-one wanted to know about”

an image: the scene in which Rui, the young narrator, watches his dog run behind the family car as they flee Angola was very heart-breaking, especially since I (comparatively trivially, of course) said goodbye to a much-much-much-loved pet last year when moving to another country

a thought: I was impressed by how Cardoso made me feel both sympathy and disdain for the returnees simultaneously; the ongoing ‘purgatory’ atmosphere for the kids scraping by while waiting to hear of relatives’ fates was hard to read – but so too was the ignorant racism exhibited by the former colonialists, even the children

a fact: the author grew up in Angola before leaving for Portugal in similar war-induced circumstances as her child protagonist; please send tips of Angolan women writers for me to read next!

want to read The Return? visit here

Now and at the Hour of Our Death by Susana Moreira Marques (tr. Julia Sanches)

a nutshell: in rural north-eastern Portugal, alongside a palliative care team, Moreira Marques meets families as they face up to losing a loved one – recording their emotions and histories

a line: “Grass as tall as children, on the roadside, dancing. In the horizon, hills meeting like lovers. All this in the deepest purple, seconds after the sun sets.”

an image: one conversation in which a daughter recounts long, lonely drives to visit her bedridden father had me in tears – particularly when she berates herself for things left unsaid

a thought: I was also strongly moved by the value that Moreira Marques attaches to not leaving history to be written ‘by the rich’, leading her to sit until sunset with an elderly couple, Senhor João and Senhora Maria, so they could speak tenderly of all they had lived as well as to speak of death

a fact: to write this the author travelled to Trás-os-Montes – which translates as ‘Behind the Mountains’ – and among the individuals she gets to know are several with strikingly self-sufficient lifestyles, growing their own produce both here and during their past in colonised Angola

 

want to read Now and at the Hour of Our Death? visit here