Obituary: Maria Judite de Carvalho

Share
Related Topics
Maria Judite de Carvalho, writer: born Lisbon 1921; married Urbano Tavares Rodriges; died Lisbon 19 January 1998.

The very rare contemporary novelists whom we read for style rather than for story - Anita Brookner is one of the most celebrated in Britain - include the Portuguese author Maria Judite de Carvalho.

There are many resemblances between her and Brookner, and she could be called the Portuguese Anita Brookner were it not that her work displays influences of Francoise Sagan and Dominique Rolin. Her style is deliberately unsentimental and unadorned, of classic restraint, with touches of black humour enlivening her naturalistic dialogues. The heroine - if such a sad, mousy character can be called that - of her first novel, Tanta Gento ("All Those People", 1959), comments wryly towards the end of her comic-pathetic life: "Always I had this urge to laugh at things that no one else finds funny."

That strikes the frequent theme of loneliness in her work. The style is sober and discreet, yet always fascinating. Her bleak vision of human non- relationships sets her apart from her contemporaries like the flamboyant story-spinner Augustina Bessa-Luis. Her characters are weak, ordinary, humble, ineffective, yet unfailingly attractive as we follow them through drab, unhappy lives and melancholy failures in love set in shadowy rooms by Vuillard haunted by echoes of fado's brooding nostalgia. As she said in a rare interview: "If my stories are black, it's because they are inspired by the dark side of existence."

Maria Judite de Carvalho studied European literature at university, and in the Fifties left the stifling provincial rigours of the Salazar regime for the post-war liberties of France and Belgium, where she took up painting. Her observant eye for the charms of the ordinary and sense of volume and colour were to be vital elements in her writing, as she constructed her first brief stories in the same way as she would lay out the composition of a canvas.

She wrote a dozen or so carefully composed novels and some collections of crystalline short stories which are perhaps her most perfect works. Her second novel, As Palabras Poupadas ("These Words we Save", 1961), was awarded the Premio Camilo Castelo Branco prize. Her press chronicles of daily existence in the streets and markets of Lisbon were collected in two volumes in the 1980s, and her last work, Seta Despedita ("Flight of the Arrow"), was published in 1996.

Most of her writing was published in French by Editions de la Difference, well-named, which has done so much to make Portuguese as well as other European writers popular in France. Sadly, no British publisher ever had the urge to publish this exceptional talent in English.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there