Dulce Maria Cardoso: I'm writing to be loved

Literature helps me reach out to others and this is what inspires me

I don't believe that we, the people, are only evil or only good. Sometimes we may be good, another time we are worse. I am myself this type of a person, says author Dulce Maria Cardoso in an interview to BTA.

Ms Cardoso, they often call you an atypical and un-womanish writer. Doesn't it hurt you a little?

I published my first novel thanks to an anonymous competition. The entire jury were sure that the author was a man. When they found out that it wasn't so, they were astounded. My first publisher asked me, “Are you sure that it was you who wrote it and not a man?” It doesn't hurt me at all because, in my opinion, writing is something universal. It relays the idea and the desires of the author. For instance, in my novel O retorno (Return) the main character is a 15-year-old boy, but it is a first-person narrative, i.e. I am that boy. That is why I don't take offense if someone cannot guess the author's gender. To me, this is the real catch in literature - to be able to get into different characters. And some people see my style as manlike also because I touch upon themes which seem more appealing to men.

What does love mean to a Portuguese female writer? And if beautiful love does not exist in your novels, then what is it like in real life, in your view?

Love is also something universal, but it can take various forms - there's love between two people, between man and woman, parental love, love for books. Love as such is intrinsic to all of us, and everyone has his or her own concept of love. But the very idea of love doesn't differ much from person to person.

Isn't it sad that more often than not art tends to copy reality?

Art accentuates life and becomes part of it. And this is a kind of embrace of someone we love.

Listening to you makes me think that you are a very social person. Isn't the boundary between social engagement and populism too thin?

I think that this boundary is almost non-existent across the world. They say that there is a corrupt elite and pure people subjugated to it. However, I don't believe that we, the people, are only evil or only good. Sometimes we may be good, another time we are worse. I am myself this type of a person. When you touch upon this topic, you must be deeply engaged socially to be able to shoulder the responsibility. Ethics is what I'm digging for, this is what is important in my creative work.

What is the colour of your creative work?

I know that my works are rather dark because I delve into such themes as, for instance, violence. But I would like it to be more colourful.

Talking about your novel Os meus Sentimentos, I come to think of a saying by the great Bulgaria writer Yordan Radichkov, who said, “A man is a long sentence written with lots of love and inspiration, but it is full of spelling mistakes.” I'm sure you put a lot of love into your writing, but from where do you draw inspiration?

To me, inspiration is the idea to get in touch with others. I am writing to be loved. Twenty years ago, when I just started writing, I realised that through literature I can reach out to others and belong to the community. And this is the source of my inspiration.

Do you handle the process of writing with ease?

It is hard, but if it were not hard it wouldn't have been worth the effort.

To many, people reading is the saving grace. May a writer find salvation in writing?

Yes, this is true. To me writing is one of the ways to salvation. I don't belong to authors who would say they cannot live a day without writing. On the contrary - I can spend months without writing a line. At that time I just live, communicate with other people, build relationships. And all this is related to writing. So I live, because I know that later this entire experience will be transformed into literature.

Do you still keep the typewriter which made you a writer?

Much to my regret, I don't. My parents had a habit of throwing away all thing they didn't need. When a computer appeared at home, both of our typewriters went into the dustbin. I wasn't at home then. Otherwise, I wouldn't have let them do it, not for the world! On the other hand, it was a kind of liberation. Because it was then that I realised that I am very much attached to various things. It is very important to avoid being attached to things but learn to keep memories of them.

Does it mean that you are no longer a slave of things?

I'm trying hard not to be. Apart from the things associated with the people I love.

How do you picture a house museum of Dulce Maria Cardoso? What things would you like to have in it? How would this museum look without a typewriter?

I wouldn't be able to picture it, and I even have never given it a thought. I do not take myself too seriously as this would affect my writing negatively. Even when I visit a doctor, I say that my profession is a lawyer, not writer. I believe that I am still in for my best works. I don't like to make plans for the future when it comes to my work. I prefer to think of every writing as of something which happens for the first time.

What does Portugal mean to you? Is the heart of an immigrant still throbbing in you?

In Portugal there are two types of trees brought from Brazil. It is noteworthy that they are in full blossom in Portugal in the spring, yet there is one more blossoming, more tender and delicate, and it happens when spring comes to Brazil. It means that these trees keep this memory in their roots and their “consciousness”. I feel like those trees, because every spring I blossom in Portugal, where I live, but my roots keep the memory of the African spring as well. And I feel this influence. Maybe because I have lost my second motherland too suddenly and abruptly, I cannot associate myself with any other country, even with Portugal. Now my family and my home are there, but I cannot find a country where I would like to stay, nowhere in the world. The language is what connects me with Portugal, and this is the strongest tie because our language is the immediate connection with our thoughts.

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Dulce Maria Cardoso was born in northern Portugal in 1964 but when she was an infant her parents immigrated to Angola. After the end of the Colonial War in 1975, she came back to her native country where she graduated in law from the University of Lisbon. She started to write scripts, short stories and novels, some of which are adapted for cinema and theatre. Among the most interesting is a seven-hour screen version of one of her novels, which is still a box-office favourite.

She is a writer whose name is yet to gain popularity in Bulgaria, despite the fact that her works are translated into 15 languages and are included in the curriculum of several universities. The novel Os meus Sentimentos (My sentiments) marks her first meeting with the Bulgarian readers - one single long sentence, a sort of cross-section of the human soul. Her second novel published in Bulgaria is Tudo sao historias de amor (All these are the stories of love). It actually doesn't offer love stories but stories about love. In a fantastic, unrealistic way, the author proves that love is not only tender feelings.

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