Dulce Maria Cardoso



Dulce Maria Cardoso was born in Fonte Longa, Portugal in 1964, and was only six months old when her family moved to Luanda, Angola. There, she learned to read and write and in 1975 she became one of the five hundred thousand which arrived in Portugal from the former colonies — ‘the returnees’ — as a consequence of the end of Salazar’s dictatorship and the ensuing process of decolonisation.

Back in Portugal, Dulce Maria Cardoso lived in the northeastern region of Trás-os-Montes and also in Cascais, a seaside town twenty miles off the capital. She studied and practiced Law for a few years before becoming a full-time writer.

Her novels have won many awards, namely the European Union Prize for Literature in 2005 for Os Meus Sentimentos (My Condolences), and the Portuguese Pen Club Award for O Chão dos Pardais (Sparrow’s ground), in 2009. Published in 2011, O Retorno (The Return) is her fourth novel. Having been met with wide acclaim by readers and critics alike, it has confirmed Dulce Maria Cardoso as one of the most important authors in Portuguese contemporary literature.

Her works have been published in France, Spain, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Brazil.

Featured Reading Group Title:

 O Retorno (The Return)

O Retorno

O Retorno explores one family’s journey from Luanda to Lisbon in 1975 as they take part in the mass exodus that saw half a million people leave the former colonies and arrive in Portugal. The decolonization process was done in such haste that it did not allow for an entirely peaceful (and democratic) transition and now armed militias and the military are picking their sides and getting ready to tear Angola apart. The political climate in Lisbon is tense — a country freed from dictatorship is now struggling to find its new identity while heading towards democracy. This is the heated summer of ’75, and this is where Rui comes in.

Rui is fifteen years old and for over a year he’s been living with his family in a 5-star hotel fully packed with people in the same situation. This unlikely setting becomes a silent purgatory where many questions are left unanswered. Rui doesn’t like it there, it’s nothing like he thought it would be. Things change too quickly. His adolescence gives way to adulthood as he must take care of his ailing mother and sister; he must keep hoping that one day things will change for the best, that one day things will be just the way they were back in Luanda. Returnees, that’s what they were called then. To return is to come back. In this case, to return is to come back to where you’ve never been before.

More information:

  • This title features as part of our autumn 2013 Portuguese reading group.
  • Listen to a short extract (in Portuguese) on YouTube:


  1. Jethro says:

    Another fine choice for the Portuguese reading group. O Retorno is a beautiful book, a deftly told story full of powerful images and ideas.

    It manages to combine universal themes (coming of age; trying to fit in; being torn between the past and the future) with a careful portrait of a very particular and fascinating moment in Portuguese and Angolan history. Cardoso does a brilliant job of describing what were tumultuous times, small details adding up to provide glimpses of the bigger picture, while at the same time setting scenes and moods.

    The narrative voice – that of a teenage boy – works on a number of levels, capturing the sense of fast change and the search for identity, while making for breezy storytelling and a deceptively simple style that’s easy to read but lives long in the memory. Óptimo.

  2. M P Ramesh says:

    D M Cardoso is not a familiar writer to me. Of course the new trends in Portuguese language is not so common in our land. Any how am serious about the movements and products coming forth from LISBON.
    Me a MALAYALAM fictionist and short story writer and poet from KERLA south of INDIA.
    M P Ramesh


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