Obituary: Maria Judite de Carvalho

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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
John Rentoul met Ed Miliband aged 23, remarking he was “bright, and put up a good fight for the utilities tax, but I was unconvinced.”  

General Election 2015: Win or lose, Ed Miliband is not ready to govern

John Rentoul
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk