winner of the José Saramago Literary Award,
the author of a novel O DESLUMBRE DE CECILIA FLUSS
João Tordo was born in Lisbon in 1975. He graduated Philosophy and studied Journalism and Creative Writing in London and New York. In 2001, he won the Award Jovens Criadores in the Literature category. He published the novels O Livro dos Homens sem Luz (2004); Hotel Memória (2007); As Três Vidas (2008), which received the José Saramago Literary Award and whose Brazilian edition was, in 2011, finalist of the Portugal Telecom Award; O Bom Inverno (2010), finalist of the Best Book of Narrative Fiction of the Portuguese Society of Authors and the Literary Prize Fernando Namora and whose French translation was included into the works selected for the 6th edition of the European Literary Prize; and Anatomia dos Mártires (2011), finalist of the Literary Prize Fernando Namora, among others.
His books were published in France, Italy, Brazil, Serbia and Croatia. He lives in Lisbon and works as a journalist, translator, screenwriter and instructor in the fiction writing workshops.
ALM: Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
JT: This is my 10th novel, the third instalment of a trilogy that began in 2015 with “O Luto de Elias Gro” (Mourning Elias Gro). My books are published in several countries and languages (France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, etc), though unfortunately not in America. I am a fiction writer (novelist) who began his career in 2004. Since then I have gone through different phases, but my work is quite distinguishable in its themes and characters – the narrative voice, usually first person, is semi-autobiographical and characters tend to move in and out of different novels. The trilogy I just finished with “O Deslumbre de Cecilia Fluss” takes the reader through a world of unknown geography, where the characters deal with their personal stories of detachment, loneliness, loss and love.
ALM: What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
JT: “O Deslumbre de Cecilia Fluss” is, as I’ve said, the third part in a trilogy. It is not a narrative trilogy – all books are independent – but rather a thematical one, where the themes crossover from one book to the next, and also the characters. The book is inspired by my own adolescence and by the buddhist fables and parables. In the book, Matias Fluss, a 14-year-old kid, is going through the pains and difficulties of being a teenager when his sister Cecilia disappears. The novel is a retelling of those years by a 50-year old Matias and the late discovery of Cecilia’s whereabouts and its consequences.
ALM: How long it took you to write your latest book and how fast do you write?
JT: I had been thinking about the book since 2015 when I began the first part of the trilogy (“O Luto de Elias Gro”). I wrote it quite fast (about six months) and then spent another six months editing it. I write pretty fast, about 2000 words a day, when I am fully committed to the book, because I spend a lot of time preparing for it when I am not writing.
ALM: You are the recipient of a prestigious literary award and on the shortlists for several other awards. Do literary awards change an author’s attitude towards his work? What do these awards mean to you?
JT: The José Saramago Literary Prize was very important because it took my work to numerous readers. Also it is a very prestigious award in Portugal and I love Saramago’s books. They don’t change the attitude towards the work, but they give you an added sense of responsibility and put some pressure on writers to excel. Good things.
ALM: Do you have any unusual writing habits?
JT: I write in the mornings, 9am to 15pm. Every day I try to write the same amount of words. I am very methodical with the work, only because my natural tendency is to be lazy. So having daily goals fends off lazy and procrastination.
Prémio Literário José Saramago
|Que segredos rodeiam a vida de António Augusto Milhouse Pascal, um velho senhor que se esconde do mundo num casarão de província, acompanhado de três netos insolentes, um jardineiro soturno e um rol de clientes tão abastados e influentes como perigosos e loucos? São estes mistérios que o narrador – um rapaz de família modesta – procurará desvendar durante mais de um quarto de século, não podendo adivinhar que o emprego que lhe é oferecido por aquela estranha personagem se irá transformar numa obsessão que acabará por consumir a sua própria vida.|
Passando pelo Alentejo, por Lisboa e por Nova Iorque em plenos anos oitenta – época de todas as ganâncias – e cruzando a história sangrenta do século XX com a das suas personagens, As Três Vidas é, simultaneamente, uma viagem de autodescobertas através do «outro» e a história da paixão do narrador por Camila, a neta mais velha de Milhouse Pascal, e do destino secreto que a aguarda; que estará, tal como o do avô, inexoravelmente ligado à sorte de um mundo que ameaça, a qualquer momento, resvalar da corda bamba em que se sustém.
ALM: What authors or books have influenced you?
JT: Saramago’s novels. Melville’s “Moby Dick” and his other works. Kakfa, Dostoevsky, Fernando Pessoa. Philip Roth, Roberto Bolaño, Javier Cercas, Ian McEwan, Borges, Calvino, Auster.
ALM: What are you working on now?
JT: I am working on a non-fiction/fiction book about the craft of writing and a bit of family/personal history. A hybrid.
ALM: What is the best method when it comes to promoting new books?
JT: I leave promotion to the publishers, mostly, and ocasionally I use social media to promote the book just before it comes out. But I think reaching out to the public is very useful. I’ve done that extensively over the past 12 years, hundreds and hundreds of presentations in public libraries, schools, bookstores, etc, all over Portugal and other countries.
ALM: You were recently in the United States participating in several literary events. What are your impressions about US literary scene?
JT: I don’t know – I love many american writers but the only one I’ve met was Paul Auster, who I think doesn’t really belong in the literary scene. I think it must be very demanding on the author because of so much competition. But Portugal is becoming very competitive as well, so a writer must move out of his comfort zone (ie, his desk) and come out of his shell. That’s the way the scene seems to work these days.
ALM: Do you have any advice for new authors?
JT: Stick to the writing. Don’t let yourself be taken away by dreams of grandiosity. You will probably fail a lot. Rewrite as many times as possible. Don’t give up if a book falters. Don’t expect too much. Don’t expect too little. Just write, and stop trying to be the best. Be honest.
ALM: What is the best advice you have ever heard?
JT: Don’t be in a hurry, but don’t waste your time (José Saramago)
ALM: What are you reading now?
JT: La forma de las ruinas, Juan Gabriel Vasquez.
ALM: Who are your favorite authors and what are your favorite books ever?
JT: Favourite book ever: “O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis”, José Saramago. Moby Dick, Melville. The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolaño. Delfim, José Cardoso Pires. Anything by Philip Roth. Anything by Dostoevsky. Three Novellas, Samuel Beckett. Dubliners, James Joyce.
ALM: What do you deem the most relevant about your writing?
JT: The narrative voice. It has grown and changed so much over the past 13 years – a first person voice that comes closer and closer to finding out who is truly speaking. I have also been finding out who I am through the narrator in my books.
ALM: Thank you João. Good luck with your writings.