Famous Portuguese Writers to Add to Your Reading List

famous portuguese writers

Whether you’re heading off on holiday or relaxing at home, nothing passes the time like diving into a good book. From Camões to Peixoto we’ve rounded up some famous Portuguese writers we love that you’re going to want to add for your “must-read”  list. Happy reading!

RELATED: Books about Portugal to read before you visit

José Saramago 1922-2010

famous portuguese writers

José Saramago is one of the most famous Portuguese writers and Portugal’s only Nobel Laureate. He worked at many different jobs and only dedicated himself to writing full time in his fifties. His novels have become best sellers and are translated into more than 25 languages. If you travel to Lisbon you can visit the José Saramago Foundation in Casa dos Bicos, dedicated to his life and work. 

The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1984) set in prewar fascist Lisbon, is widely regarded as his masterpiece. The controversial Gospel According to Jesus Christ (1991) is a fictional re-telling of Jesus Christ’s life depicting him as a flawed humanised character with passions and doubts. Blindness (1995), one of his most famous novels, noted by the committee when announcing his Nobel Prize in 1998.

António Lobo Antunes 1942-

famous portuguese writers

António Lobo Antunes qualified as a psychiatrist and took his time getting started as a writer.  His novels examine Portugal’s glorious but often brutal past. Internationally he is overshadowed by Saramago. At home admirers of Antunes claim the wrong man won the Noble.

The Natural Order of Things is a tale of two families and the secrets that bind them.  A personal political history that attains brilliance and surreality.


Fernando Pessoa 1888-1935

famous portuguese writers

Fernando Pessoa is the most widely recognised name in Portuguese literature worldwide.  His literary genius went largely unrecognised until after his death. He wrote under various  “heteronyms” –  ( literary personas) with fully fledged personalities separate from his own and all having different views on life, death and each one had a biography, psychology, politics, religion and were all interconnected. If you travel to Lisbon you can visit Casa Fernando Pessoa an absolute must for literture lovers.

The Book of Disquiet, complied 50 years after Pessoa’s death,  is a masterpiece of existentialism. Get the Richard Zenith translation.

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen 1919-2004

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen –  known simply as Sophia to Portuguese readers was born in 1919 in Viana do Castelo in the north of Portugal. She published her first collection of poems in 1945 and went on to write many further collections.Sophia was the first woman to receive Portugal’s highest literary honour, the Prémio Cãmoes.As well as poetry, Sophia wrote children’s books, plays essays, translations and two collections of stories. 

In the introduction to Log Book: Selected Poems she writes “Poetry is an art of being. It does not require my time and labour. It does not ask me to have a science or an aesthetics or a theory. Instead it demands the entireness of my being a consciousness running deeper than my intellect a fidelity purer than I can control.”

Miguel Sousa Tavares 1952-

Miguel is the son of poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andreson. He studied law but pursued his career in jorrnalism.

His literary fiction debut Equator was one of the best selling books in Portugal when it was first published in 2003. Set in Portuguese Equatorial Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, it is epic in scope and laced with emotional and moral complexity. A gripping story easy to read and to like I have to admit it is a book I couldn’t put down. It has also been made into a film with subtitles and while the costumes and setting are magnificent, I didn’t find the  film  as gripping as the book.

Florbela Espanca 1893-1930

Florabela is a Portuguese poet and was a contemporary of Fernando Pessoa. She was an unusually emamcipated woman for her time and place. ” To talk about poetry of the first half of the 20th century without talking about Florabela Espanca is to me the same as talking about poetry of the 19th century without talking about Emily Dickinson or Rimbaud” Kimberly Lyons, author and poet.Our Book: Florabela Espanca Selected Poems

Lídia Jorge 1946-

Lídia was born in the Algarve and studied French literature in Lisbon. She spent some years teaching in Angola and Mozambique during the independence struggle. Her work represents a recent style of Portuguese writing the so called postcolonial generation of novelists who still dominate the literary scene in Portugal.

The Migrant Painter of Birds –  is one of the best contemporary Portuguese novels. Beautifully written and imagined, this strikingly lyrical novel evokes the atmosphere of a rural community in a changing world and explores the timeless themes of family, independence and the often painful experience of emigration. She has received numerous prestigious prizes for her work.

Eugénio de Andrade 1923- 2005

Award winning poet and one of the leading names in contemporary Portuguese poetry. His poetry is very powerful and succinct. He has received many national and international prizes for his work.

Forbidden Words: Selected Poetry of Eugénio de Andrade is based on the poet’s own retrospective.

António Damasio 1944-

The only non fiction book on the list by one of the most famous Portuguese writers to live outside Portugal. Damasio studied medicine at the University of Lisbon where he also completed his doctorate. Damasio’s main field is neurobiology, his books deal with the relationship between emotions and brain substrates

Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain is that hard- to- write book directed at both his peers and uninitiated lay people. His books have won many international books prizes and have been translated into more the 30 languages.

José Luís Peixoto 1974 –

famous Portuguese writers

One of Portugal’s bestselling contemporary novelists and an author of increasing importance on the international scene. José Luís has won many prestigious awards including the José Saramago Literary Award.  His work has been translated into more than 20 languages.  

His novel The Implacable  Order of Things takes place in an unnamed Portuguese village, against a backdrop of severe rural poverty, two generations of men and women struggle with love, violence, death and perhaps worst of all the inescapability of fate. 

Miguel Torga 1907-1955

Miguel Torga is the pseudonym of Adolfo Correia da Rocha, he is one of the greatest Portuguese writers of the 20th century.  He came from a small village in Trâs- os-Montes, Portugal’s poorest region. At the age of 13 he had to go to Brazil to work on his uncle’s farm. He returned to Portugal at the age of 22 and began to study medicine in Coimbra University.

Tales from The Mountain takes place in the rugged outback of the country. His style preserves the originality of the language of the farmers of northern Portugal.

Mário de Sá-Carneiro 1890-1916

Mário de Sá Carneiro was a contemporary of Fernando Pessoa. Together they wrote for Orpheu a literary magazine known for introducing modernism in Portugal. 

In 1913 he published one of his most famous works Lucio’s Confessions set in the fin de siècle artist circles in Paris and Lisbon. It deals with the friendship of two young Portuguese poets and their search for identity through love

The Crime of Father Amaro

Eça de Queiros is one of the most famous Portuguese writers in the  realist style. He studied law in Coimbra, but his real interest lay in literature. He served as a consul first in Havana and then in England and Paris. During this time he wrote the novels for which he is best remembered.

His first novel The Crime of Father Amaro describes the destructive effects of celibacy on a priest of weak character and the dangers of fanaticism in a provincial Portuguese town.

Luís de Camões 1524-1580

Luís Vaz de Camões, one of the most famous Portuguese writers whose mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare.

His epic poem Os Lusíadas The Lusiads has become the foundation stone of Portuguese literature. A world traveller himself, Camões turns Vasco de Gama’s voyage of discovery around Africa to India into an epic poem. It is amazing, but does require some effort.

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