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João Ricardo Pedro

Joao Ricardo Pedro photo by Miguel Manso

João Ricardo Pedro was born in 1973 in Reboleira, Amadora. Curious about the Lorentz force, he went on to study electrotechnical engineering at the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon. For more than ten years João worked in telecommunications, never having to apply any of the fascinating Maxwell’s equations.

In the spring of 2009, as a consequence of the economic downturn in Portugal, he found himself with more time than he needed in order to fulfil his daily duties. In a surge of pragmatism, he began to write. O Teu Rosto Será o Último is his first novel.

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O Teu Rosto Será o Último (Yours will be the Last Face I See)

This fascinating novel was awarded the LeYa Prize in 2011.

It all begins with a man leaving his house on a cold morning, with a gun in his hand. What moves him will remain unknown almost until the end, or maybe not even then.

After all, it seems that the story of the doctor who took care of him when he was badly hurt, forty years before, Dr Augusto Mendes, might be more important. Or of Dr Augusto’s son António, who did two tours in Africa, corresponding with a girl he had met in a bookshop. Or even of his grandson, Duarte, who one day rode his bike completely naked.

Through apparently autonomous episodes – against the backdrop of the 1974 Revolution – this novel builds the story of a family scarred by the long years of dictatorship, by political repression, by the colonial war.

The grandson Duarte grows up surrounded by these foreign memories – often traumatic, often obscure. Gifted with enormous talent, a precocious and prodigious pianist, he appears to be the one able to restore the family’s lost hopes. But will his art be redemptive or just bring other conflicts?

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6 Comments

  1. The chopped, descriptive narrative is interesting for a paragraph or two, but the reading never establishes a music, an emotional charge, this way; I skimmed first the lists, then everything up to the brief conversation with the hairdresser, and continued skimming after it. We get the idea of the nullity of the day quite quickly; it seems excessive to overdo it so.

    The announcement of cancer might be seen to explain (justify?) what goes before, but it also feels rather manipulative. A cold description of the world and the protagonist’s day, yes; but there is also an interior coldness behind any such chilly perspective, I think, something to add in the writing that would offer more encouragement to read with care, that would have brought me to have some interest.

    I’m suspicious there might be more narrative “games” to come, even if the substance of the story is brought to the fore.

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  2. Jethro says:

    I’ve just finished O Teu Rosto Será O Último and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a very readable book, with each chapter working as a standalone short story, and although everything doesn’t quite come together at the end, it’s still much more than a sum of its parts. What ties the chapters together are the recurrent characters, three generations of one family, and so story strands overlap and the actions of one generation influences another. But other events – in particular events of modern Portuguese history – influence them all the more, and these events are beyond their control.

    This perhaps explains the slightly enigmatic nature of it all, and why I didn’t feel cheated by the lack of a clear-cut resolution. Indeed it’s probably my favourite of all the books we’ve read for the Portuguese groups so far (though I’ve yet to get to O Delfim and Uma Viagem…): fluid and fun storytelling, but intelligent and haunting at the same time.

    (And just to reassure Jon: the sample is not typical of the book; it’s a one-off chapter and read as such, or at least encountered as such (within the body of the work as a whole), is not quite so cold and excessive. There are one or two other linguistic games, but in general the writing breathes easily and there is considerable music and emotional charge to the narrative.)

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  3. Lara says:

    I really enjoyed the extract. The author seems to introduce the reader to Portuguese culture while using a very familiar tone. There is music to the writing and the constant change of style and pace keeps the reader focused and wanting to know more about the plot. Rhythm was kept post-translation and I’m eager to learn what happens next.

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  4. Laura says:

    I agree with Jethro regarding the short story-like nature of the chapters, and was impressed by the way the apparently disjointed events are drawn gradually into focus as the plot progresses – like an image you can only make sense of when you step back and look at it in its entirety. Liked the moments where the author slips into the clipped lists of actions and repeated structures which characterise the passage in translation, I found it varied the tone rather than just pace of the narrative (sort of staccato/legato effect, to stick with the musical theme of the book)

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  5. Beth says:

    I haven’t actually managed to finish the book yet, but am enjoying it so far. I like the way the events of each chapter are tied together by the different generations of one family and I’m finding it very readable, the style is very fluid. I don’t feel I’ve particularly warmed to any of the characters yet, but then I’m only about halfway through. What I’ve read has certainly made me want to read on and find out how it all ties together, anyway. I suspect it will only keep growing on me!

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  6. Francisco says:

    Thanks for your comments, Lara & Laura, Jon & Jethro. It’s always a good sign that a text can be approached from such different readings.

    To me, this extract has a strong rhythmical presence. It not only portraits the daily routine of a Portuguese housewife and mother in the 1980s but has also this powerful, silent and self-contained, systematic approach to her surroundings; a strange repetitive mechanism pushes the day forward and presents the reader with common, almost banal, day-to-day situations, that through repetition begin to achieve claustrophobic proportions.

    When the mother finally sits down for a second, she thinks of a poem by Cesário Verde, ‘of sepulchral buildings, the size of hills’ – there’s a sense of impending catharsis, of towering claustrophobia, and of a deep, mournful, impotence. The fact that she picks up the book and yet decides not to open it confirms this feeling of helplessness; The fact that she stocks up the freezer and the food cupboard, thinking ahead, so that the family will have something to eat while she’s at the hospital confirms the lack of control she has over her illness; The fact that her husband and the son take her role as a housewife for granted confirms her silence. This piece is good with silence. It is tense and palpable; the sense of the unresolved is left open for us to fill in the blanks.

    This novel is filled with loose ends and is written in a bold, refreshing style. I agree with Jethro, writing breathes easily here.

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