Tuesday, 28 September 2021 | News today: 0

Portuguese writer Bruno Vieira Amaral: When you have a chance, give your best shot!

I didn’t make any plans for becoming a writer, although I saw myself as a writer (an unpublished one, that is). I went step by step, and I have the stern belief that when you do a good work people will eventually notice it, says Amaral


Portuguese writer Bruno V. Amaral came to Macedonia for the first time for the promotion of his novel The Former Things. The novel was published by the Skopje-based publishing house Ili Ili, translated by Natasha Sardzovska and, as Bruno told us, this is the first translation of his novel.

He is a literary critic and translator who was born in Portugal in 1978. He graduated in Contemporary History at the University of Lisbon, but works as a literary critic in several magazines and anthologies, he is the author of various blogs, a translator, assistant editor of LER magazine and for some time he was in charge of communications at the Grupo Bertrand publishing house.

His debut novel The Former Things, which is now translated into Macedonian, was recognized with four major literary prizes – in 2013 it was awarded the Time out Lisbboa’s Book of the Year, Fernando Namora Literary Prize and the PEN Narrative Prize. In 2015 it also won the José Saramago Prize. Amaral is also the author of Guide to 50 Portuguese Fictional Characters and Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise and in 2016, he was named one of the Ten New Voices from Europe.

We used Bruno’s visit to Skopje to talk with him about literature, its significance, awards, reading …

Is this your first time in Macedonia? Or in this part of Europe?

Yes. A couple of years ago, I went to Hungary, but that was as far as I went.


In your novel The Former Things, which has been published in Macedonian language, at the beginning you say “finding solace in art is a reasonable substitute for religion”. What is this novel about?

That’s one sentence I really do believe in. Our societies, in western Europe, have become more and more secularized, but the spiritual needs are there so people try to fill the gaps not only with art, but a wide range of experiences loosely related to the original religious feeling. The book is about someone who is forced to go back to the place where he grew up in. He hated the place and the people who lived there but eventually he understands that in order to star anew, to come to terms with himself he needs to come to terms with that place and these people. And he does that through other people’s stories.


You won the Time Out Lisboa’s 2013 Book of the Year award, the 2013 Fernando Namora Literary Prize and the 2013 PEN Narrative Prize …. What does winning awards mean to you? How do you see them? Pleasure or perhaps obligation?

The awards were important because there were many readers that would never have heard about the book if it wasn’t for the awards. Money was also important. Although I’m a writer, I have my bills to pay and my landlord, a very wise man, won’t take beautiful words as a payment. Portuguese book market is a small one, so the money I got with the awards allowed to quit my day job and just write.


You are historian, but somehow literature prevails in your life as you are also a literary critic, translator, writer … Have you always known that writing is your choice? How did you become a writer?

By chance, like so many things that have happened in my life. History was not my first choice, but I ended up there and I finished it because I wanted to prove myself that I was capable of finishing something I’d started. Few years later, I was invited to write book reviews to a newspaper and I just grabbed that chance. If I had to choose a motto, I’d choose: “When you have a chance, give your best shot.” I didn’t make any plans for becoming a writer, although I saw myself as a writer (an unpublished one, that is). I went step by step, and I have the stern belief that when you do a good work people will eventually notice it.


Given the fact that you work as a translator, have you ever met a Macedonian author? Are you familiar with Macedonian literature?



A Croatian writer in an interview told me that if he could live on that, he would be just a reader. But considering the fact that one cannot live on that, pay the bills, food … one has to write. What is your attitude towards reading? Do you think it is important?

I think reading is the basis for every future writer, but reading, specially if we’re talking about literary fiction, is and have always been a privilege, a luxury that only a minority can afford. We should keep that in mind when we talk about literature as something of a cure to all evils, which is not.