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Manuel António Pina
(Portugal, 1943–2012)   
 
 
 
Manuel António Pina

Manuel António Pina took a law degree, worked as a journalist for three decades and after that wrote regularly for newspapers as a columnist. His literary work, with more than fifty published titles, includes poetry, children’s literature, theatre, fiction, essays and commentary. His poetic debut, in 1974, featured one of the longest and oddest titles of Portuguese poetry: Ainda Não É o Fim nem o Princípio do Mundo Calma É Apenas Um Pouco Tarde (It’s Not Yet the End Nor the Beginning Calm Down It’s Just a Little Late). The laconic title of one of his last works – Os Livros (Books) – makes for a sharp contrast. Manuel António Pina won the prestigious Camões Prize in 2011.

Whether in the subversive tone and self-irony of his early works, or in the more circumspect register employed in his final collections, Pina's poetry always takes up the same questions: Does it make sense to apply the singular pronoun 'I' to the countless persons we have been throughout our life, or even to the person we are at present? Is there anything we feel to be truly real that cannot be expressed in words, or are there only words, and are we ourselves made only of words that, perhaps paradoxically, are extraneous to us? And if everything is words, then won't what we imagine and dream, what we thought of doing but didn't do, and what we remember – perhaps inaccurately – of events and people (including our own selves), be every bit as real as objective reality, if not more so? Many similar sorts of questions could be added to this list. Pina doesn't know the answers, but he knows that any answer to any question is also composed of words.

Some of the main themes of his poetry were introduced into Portuguese literature by the Modernist generation of Fernando Pessoa and Mário de Sá-Carneiro. But in Pina's work there is none of those heroic explosions of the I, none of that wanting "to be everything in every possible way", to cite the motto adopted by Álvaro de Campos. To Rimbaud's "Je est un autre", Pina might reply, "Yes, but which I is someone else?"

This absence of a stable, self-evident and recognisable I is not given a tragic dimension in Pina's poetry. It is, rather, a kind of unspoken ontological irritation, suggested by syntax more than by rhetoric – because grammar presupposes an I and ceases to function in its absence or uncertainty.

Pina's first books routinely sabotaged syntax and, as a deliberate consequence, undermined the very potential of his poetry to be eloquent. In his later books, the poet has opted for a more fluent prosody, and his poems have also assumed a broader, more noticeably ethical stance. But the same dilemma continues to haunt this poetry. On the one hand, there are too many words and everything has already been said, yet we cannot stop uttering them. "The impossibility of speaking / and of remaining silent / cannot stop speaking, wrote I or someone else," writes Pina in a poem from Cuidados Intensivos (Intensive Cares). On the other hand, it would be a good thing if words were lacking, since that lack would indicate the existence of a dimension whose primordial silence was still intact, untouched. A place, in other words (resorting to the title of one of Pina's books, Nenhuma Palavra e Nenhuma Lembrança), with "no word and no memory".

© Miguel Queirós (Translated by Richard Zenith)

Bibliography

Poetry
Ainda Não É o Fim Nem o Princípio do Mundo Calma É Apenas Um
Pouco Tarde
, A Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1974
Aquele que Quer Morrer, A Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1978
A Lâmpada do Quarto? A Criança?, Gota d'Água, Oporto, 1981
Nenhum Sítio, Gota d'Água, Oporto, 1984
O Caminho de Casa, Frenesi, Lisbon, 1989
Um Sítio Onde Pousar a Cabeça, author's edition, Oporto, 1991
Algo Parecido Com Isto, da Mesma Substância, Afrontamento, Oporto, 1992
Farewell Happy Fields, author's edition, Oporto, 1993
Cuidados Intensivos, Afrontamento, Oporto, 1994
Nenhuma Palavra e Nenhuma Lembrança, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 1999
Poesia Reunida, 1974/2001, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2001
Atropelamento e Fuga, Asa, Oporto, 2002
Os Livros, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2003
Mesa de Natal, author's edition, Oporto, 2006
Como se desenha uma casa, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2011
Poesia, saudade da prosa, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2012

Todas as palavras: poesia reunida, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2012


Fiction
Os Papéis de K., Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2003
Queres Bordalo?, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, 2005

Children's books
O País das Pessoas de Pernas para o Ar, A Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1973
Gigões & Anantes, A Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1974
O Têpluquê, A Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1976
O Pássaro da Cabeça, A Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1983
Os Dois Ladrões, Afrontamento, Oporto, 1983
História Com Reis, Pé de Vento, Oporto, 1984
História Com os Olhos Fechados [in De que São Feitos os Sonhos]. Areal, Oporto, 1984
A Guerra do Tabuleiro de Xadrez, Pé de Vento, Oporto, 1985
Os Piratas, Areal, Oporto, 1986
O Inventão, Afrontamento, Oporto, 1987
O Tesouro, April/Associação 25 de Abril, Oporto, 1993
O Meu Rio É de Ouro, April, Oporto 1995
Os Piratas [play], Afrontamento, Oporto, 1997
Aquilo que os Olhos Vêem ou O Adamastor, Campo das Letras, Oporto, 1998
Histórias que Me Contaste Tu, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 1999
A Noite, Campo das Letras, Oporto, 2001
Pequeno Livro de Desmatemática, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2001
Perguntem aos Vossos Gatos e aos Vossos Cães, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2002
O Cavalinho de Pau, Expresso, Lisbon, 2004

Essay
O Anacronista, Afrontamento, Oporto, 1994
Porto, Modo de Dizer, Asa, Oporto, 2002

Comics
Uma Viagem Fantástica (with Rui Azul), Gec/Alsthom, Oporto, 1996

In French
Quelque Chose Comme Ça de la Même Substance, L'Escampette, Bordeaux, 2002 (Tr. Isabel Violante Picon )

In Spanish
Los Papeles de K., Xordica Editorial, Zaragoza, 2006 (Tr. Antonio Sáez Delgado)

In Catalan
Els Llibres, Eumo Editorial/Café Central, Barcelona, 2006 (Tr. Gabriel de la S. T. Sampol)

In Galician
Xiganos & Anantes, Ed. Xerais de Galicia, Vigo, 1991 (Tr. Maria Xosé Fernández)

In Danish
Soroverne, Skovlaenge Forlaget, Copenhagen, 1990 (Tr. Jorge Braga e Britta Nielsen)
Historien om den lille Rødhætte, Forlaget Orby, Copenhagen, 2005 (Tr. Jorge Braga)

In Croatian
Antologija Suvremenoga Portugalskog Pjesnistva, Ceres, Zagreb, 1999 (Tr. Tatjana Tarbuk)

In Bulgarian
Neshto Kato Tova ot Sushtata Sushtnost, Karina/Mariana Todorova, Sofia, 2002 (Tr. Nikolai Kantchev)

Link
DGLAB The Portuguese Ministry of Culture's General Directorate for Book, Archives and Libraries

 



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