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Tales from the Mountainby Miguel Torga
Miguel Torga, Portuguese novelist and poet, was born in 1907, yet it took over 80 years for any of his work to appear in English (he died in 1995). Torga, a pseudonym for Adolfo Correia da Rocha, was thrice nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature. His body of published work is quite substantial and comprises over 50 volumes, including novels, short stories, poetry, and drama.
Tales from the Mountain was originally published in Portugal in 1941 but was promptly censored by Prime Minister Salazar. In the mid-1950s and early '60s, editions were smuggled into Portugal following their publication in Brazil. Torga was finally able to self-publish the book in his home country in 1969, the year before Salazar died. Torga had also been earlier imprisoned without trial by Salazar's secret police (and held in solitary confinement) upon publishing a volume of an autobiographical novel.
These stories, nearly two dozen in all, are brief, candid, "deceptively simple" tales of everyday life in northern Portugal. Torga's characters are exceptional in that they represent the normal man or woman faced with earthly concerns rather than the existential dramas that plague so many other literary creations. His stories are conveyed with humor, beauty, empathy, and humanity, making them seem as relevant now as when they were first conceived. From the preface:
As a poet and storyteller, I can only ease my anxiety through words. But not everything can be written. As well as the poem or the story that the typewriter prints, there remains in the artist's soul his condition as a human being. For this reason I make a promise here, which I hand on to you: I am certain that you, as a dweller of the fertile fields of the plains, will soon have understanding and pity for the hard fate of these, your fellow beings; that one day you will come to meet the dismally withered sadness contained amongst these cliffs, not as a reader of the picturesque and the exotic, but as a sensitive creature touched by the magic of art hearing the call of life's imperatives. I make this promise because I feel ashamed of so much dirt and misery and am embarrassed to represent the ungrateful role of chronicler of a world that is not even able to read me. I take this pledge in your name, by which I mean in the name of collective consciousness itself. As far as you are concerned, that which I write — these stories, for instance — has the purpose to entertain, possibly to affect you. But I want you to know that I dare stray from this entertainment and from this emotion to charge you with the responsibility for helping rescue the house that dazzles you, because it is burning.
Recommended by Jeremy, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
This is the first English edition of the prize-winning writings of Portugal's premiere writer, who has been nominated twice for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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