Agustina. The laughter of all words

Colloquium celebrating the centenary of Agustina Bessa-Luís

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Agustina Bessa-Luís was born on 15 October 1922, in Vila Meã, Amarante. Marking the centenary of the birth of a writer who, in the words of Álvaro Manuel Machado, was – and still is – “an example of solitary greatness”, means understanding the paths followed by contemporary Portuguese fiction. It also means accompanying some of the many faces of twentieth-century Portugal, a century which, thanks to its richness, diversity, and economic, social and political fickleness, could well be (and so often has been) a character in a novel.

All this, beyond what is already clear and unanimous: Agustina Bessa-Luís created a singular, unmistakable body of work, impossible to delineate and difficult to define as no words mean enough to be up to the task. Eduardo Lourenço summed it up in a way that few could when he stated that “there is no image, in the Portuguese language, that can compare to what Agustina’s work unrolls before us, a tapestry facing the day and not the night like Penelope’s”. It thus makes sense that a colloquium celebrating Agustina and her work be called “the laughter of all words”, an excerpt from Maria Agustina, a trânsfuga (Maria Agustina, the defector), by Maria Velho da Costa. It is the laughter of astonishment and wisdom, the laughter of childhood and ancestry, but also of humour, irony and a certain disdain; it is, in short, and to return to Maria Velho da Costa’s text, the laughter of someone who “triumphs, whole and sensible girl”.

— Inês Fonseca Santos

In addition to the colloquium, the exhibition Reflections of a light will be presented, gathering ten illustrations of female characters from different works by Agustina Bessa-Luís, by ten illustrators – Alain Corbel, Cláudia R. Sampaio, João Fazenda, João Maio Pinto, Luis Manuel Gaspar, Mantraste, Pedro Lourenço, Sebastião Peixoto, Susa Monteiro and Tiago Manuel.


Part I

Part II


10:00 / Opening

Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins
Inês Fonseca Santos
Mónica Baldaque

10:30 / “The laughter of all words”

António M. Feijó
Clara Ferreira Alves
Pedro Mexia

Moderator: Susana Moreira Marques


14:30 / “The river of childhood”

Rita Taborda Duarte
José António Gomes

Moderator: Sara Figueiredo Costa


16:30 / Woman: “complete being, beggining and end”

Mísia sings “Garras dos Sentidos” by Agustina Bessa-Luís
Accompanied by the musicians Bernardo Romão (Portuguese guitar) and João Filipe (viola)

Maria João Seixas
Catherine Dumas

Moderator: Clara Pinto Caldeira


19:00 / Staged reading A Ronda da Noite (The Night Watch)

A creation from João Sousa Cardoso with Ana Deus



Her musical career began in 1987 with the pop group Ban. In 1993, she founded the Três Tristes Tigres group together with writer Regina Guimarães and musician Alexandre Soares.

She created the show Sono dedicated to the poetry of Ernesto de Melo e Castro, staged in the Auditorium of the Serralves Museum. She has set the poetry of several authors to music, as a solo artist or as part of her projects Osso Vaidoso, Bruta and Ruído Vário. In 2020 she released Mínima Luz, an original album from Três Tristes Tigres.

António M. Feijó has been the President of the Board of Trustees of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation since May 2022. He is a Full Professor in the Department of English Studies and the Programme in Theory and Literature, at the School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon. He has served as Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities as well as Vice-Rector and Pro-Rector of the University of Lisbon. He was also director of the University of Lisbon Press (ULisboa Press) and the University Magazine. He has a PhD (English and North American Literature) from Brown University (1985); and an MA (English and North American Literature) from the State University of New York at Albany (1979).

He is the author of books and essays on topics of English, North American, and Portuguese Literature, as well as translations and stage dramaturgies (Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Hamlet and King Lear; works by Oscar Wilde and Fernando Pessoa, inter alia). He has served as Chairman of the Independent General Council of RTP, as Non-Executive Director of the Casa de Mateus Foundation and as Non-Executive Director of the Board of Trustees of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation between 2018 and 2022.

Having been in love with the sound of the Portuguese guitar from the start, Bernardo Romão started to play professionally at the age of 19, accompanying fado singers such as Maria da Fé, Frei Hermano da Câmara, Gisela João, Joana Amendoeira and Duarte. He currently performs regularly at the fado house Senhor Vinho and with fado singers Ricardo Ribeiro and Cristina Branco, among others.

Catherine Dumas is professor emeritus of Portuguese language literature at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris. She is the author of the first PhD thesis in France on the work of Portuguese novelist Agustina Bessa-Luís and of a book on the same author, Estética e Personagens (Campo das Letras, 2001). She is particularly interested in the intersection between intimate writing and poetic discourse, gender issues, inter-art dialogue as well as between literary texts and philosophy in the context of world literature. She has edited a number of collective works and published articles on contemporary fiction and poetry in the Portuguese language. She edited and wrote the preface for the volume Salette Tavares. 1957-1994, published as part of the Plural collection of the Imprensa Nacional – Casa da Moeda, in May 2022, Lisbon. She is a prolific translator of poetry from Portuguese into French.

Clara Ferreira Alves is a writer and journalist. A graduate of law from the University of Coimbra, she traded practising law for writing. She was editor-in-chief of the Expresso newspaper. She has done in-depth reporting, worked as a war correspondent and as an editor and literary critic. She now writes the “Pluma Caprichosa” column. She has also been the director of the Fernando Pessoa House and the literary magazine Tabacaria. She is the creator of cultural programmes and television documentaries as well as the political commentary programme Eixo do Mal. She is a member of the General Board of the University of Coimbra, as well as a member of the selection committees for the German Marshall Fund in Portugal and the Pessoa Prize.

She has published a collection of columns, Pluma Caprichosa, the fictional works Passageiro Assediado and Mala de Senhora, and a collection of essays, Estado de Guerra. Between 2014 and 2017, she published several original short stories in anthologies and magazines and, in 2015, the novel Pai Nosso. Recently, two collections of her essays have also been published, Cenas da Vida Americana, in 2017, and Os Suspeitos do Costume, in 2021.

Clara Pinto Caldeira was born in Lisbon, in 1977. A graduate of Communication Sciences, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Cultural Studies and is a junior researcher at the Research Centre for Communication and Culture of the Universidade Católica Portuguesa. She has worked as a journalist on several television projects in the cultural sphere, forming part of the team for the RTP 2 programme Câmara Clara. Recently, she worked on the documentary Francisco de Holanda, a Luz Esquecida do Renascimento (Francisco de Holanda, the Forgotten Light of the Renaissance).

Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins is a Trustee of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Chairman of the Board of the National Centre of Culture. He has been a Member of Parliament and has served as Minister of Education, Minister to the Presidency and as Minister of Finance. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Lusíada University, the Universidade Aberta and the Institute of Social and Political Sciences (ISCSP).

Writer and journalist. Some of her publications include Regressar a Casa com Manuel António Pina; the books of poetry As Coisas (il. João Fazenda; Abysmo), A Habitação de Jonas (il. Ana Ventura; Abysmo), Suite sem Vista (Abysmo) and Os Grandes Animais (il. João Maio Pinto; Abysmo); the children and young adult books A Palavra Perdida (il. Marta Madureira; Arranha-Céus), José Saramago. Homem-Rio (il. João Maio Pinto; Pato Lógico/INCM), Vincos (il. Nicolau; APCC), A Cidade (il. Beatriz Bagulho; CCB/INCM), Um Milhão de Rebuçados (il. Marta Monteiro; Pato Lógico), António Variações. Fora de Tom (il. Mantraste; Pato Lógico/INCM) and Dança (il. André Letria; Pato Lógico). She is a host on the programme Todas as Palavras (RTP3), a scriptwriter for the Boca Aberta (TNDM II) project and a specialist for the National Reading Plan.

Born into a fado family, João Filipe began teaching himself music at the age of 17 and it was in fado houses that he grew and met his mentors. He currently performs at several renowned venues in Portugal, including the Senhor Vinho and Mesa de Frades fado houses, and more.

João Sousa Cardoso has a PhD in Social Sciences from the University Paris Descartes (Sorbonne). He was the recipient of a grant awarded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (2006-2009). He staged Sequências Narrativas Completas, at the D. Maria II National Theatre (2019) and Os Pescadores by Raul Brandão (2016) and TEATRO EXPANDIDO!  (2015) at the Porto Municipal Theatre. He has directed several films. He is a professor at the Universidade Lusófona. He regularly writes for the Público newspaper and Contemporânea magazine.

José António Gomes was born in Gaia, in 1956. He is a professor of Portuguese literature and children and young adult literature at the Porto School of Education. He has a PhD in Portuguese Literature from the FCSH of the NOVA University Lisbon and was a lecturer for various years of the Master’s in Children’s and Young Adult Literature as a contribution to the formation and development of reading habits, at the University of Santiago de Compostela. Among his published works are: Para uma História da Literatura Portuguesa para a Infância e a Juventude, in 1998; Grandes Autores para Pequenos Leitores: Literatura Infantil e Juvenil – Elementos para a Construção de um Cânone (co-author and editor), in 2007; Figurações do Desejo e da Infância em Eugénio de Andrade, in 2010. He has also published several articles and book chapters in Portugal and abroad.

Graduate of Philosophy by the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Lisbon. She has worked with former Prime Minister of Portugal Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo; was Deputy Director of the European Film Distribution Office, EFDO, of the MEDIA Programme; and was Cultural Counsellor to António Guterres. She works as an interviewer in a variety of media. She was the Director of the Cinemateca Portuguesa (Portuguese film archive).

Mísia was born in Porto, lived in Barcelona and Madrid and came back to Portugal in 1991, determined to build a personal repertoire that included notable authors such as José Saramago, Agustina Bessa-Luís, José Luís Peixoto, Lídia Jorge and Vasco Graça Moura. Over the course of her career, she has performed in some of the world’s greatest venues, including Town Hall (New York), Olympia (Paris), Piccolo (Milan) and Theatre Cocoon (Tokyo). Patrice Leconte has directed one of her music videos and John Turturro chose her for his film Passione. She was awarded the Portuguese Order of Merit in 2005 and won the Amália Rodrigues Award in 2012. In Italy, she won the Carosone Award in 2010 and the Gilda Cinema Award in 2012. In France, she was decorated with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the French Republic, Chevalier in 2004, Officier in 2011. She was also recognised with the “In Honorem” Award by the Charles Cros Academy, in 2020.

Pedro Mexia was born in 1972, in Lisbon. He is a literary critic and columnist for Expresso. He has published five volumes of diaries, eight books of poetry, anthologised in Poemas Escolhidos (2018), and seven collections of columns. He is the co-director of the Portuguese Granta literary magazine (Granta em língua portuguesa) and directs the Tinta-da-china poetry collection.

Rita Taborda Duarte was born in Lisbon, in 1973. She is a graduate of Portuguese Studies from the Faculty of Humanities of Lisbon University and has a Master’s degree in Literary Theory. A guest lecturer at the Social Communication School, writer and literary critic, she was a member of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Reading Commission, regularly writing for the institution’s Rol de Livros website between 2010 and 2017. She has five published books of poetry and her most recent work, As Orelhas de Karenin (abysmo, 2019), was a finalist for the Casino da Póvoa/Correntes de Escrita Prize (2019) and the SPA-Autores Prize (2019). In 2003, she won the Branquinho da Fonseca Expresso-Gulbenkian prize with the unprecedented book A Verdadeira História da Alice. Since then, she has often written for children and young adults, with a dozen published works, many of which are included in the National Reading Plan.

Sara Figueiredo Costa was born in Lisbon, in 1978. She studied Literature and Linguistics at the FCSH – NOVA University Lisbon, where she obtained her degree and MA. Since 2002 she has worked as a freelance journalist, writing mainly on cultural topics. She is the critic for Expresso, where she writes about cartoons and illustrations. She also contributes monthly to Blimunda magazine, with reports, interviews and literary criticism. She is the editor of the literary supplement Parágrafo, published by the newspaper Ponto Final (Macau). She occasionally collaborates in various other publications, such as the Revista Macau or the ACERT – Tondela magazine. She also does other things, whether within or aside from journalism, such as exhibitions or books, lead type printing or community readings.

Susana Moreira Marques is the author of Quanto Tempo Tem um Dia, a book about motherhood, and Now and at the Hour of Our Death (original title: Agora e na Hora da Nossa Morte), a work of narrative non-fiction about the end of life that has been translated into English, French and Spanish. Her writing has been featured in Granta, Tin House, Literary Hub and many other magazines in several languages. She has been the recipient of several grants and fellowships, including from the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation (Colombia), the Jan Michalski Foundation (Switzerland), and Art OMI (United States). As a journalist, she has worked with Público, Jornal de Negócios, Antena 1 and the BBC World Service. She is currently a columnist for the newspaper Mensagem, lectures on narrative non-fiction at Casa Mombak and collaborates on film and television projects.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation reserves the right to collect and keep records of images, sounds and voice for the diffusion and preservation of the memory of its cultural and artistic activity. For further information, please contact us through the Information Request form.


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