Susana Moreira Marques

Now and at the Hour of Our Death

A nurse sleeps at the bedside of his dying patients; a wife deceives her husband by never telling him he has cancer; a bedridden man has to be hidden from his demented and amorous eighty-year-old wife. In her poignant and genre-busting debut, Susana Moreira Marques confronts us with our own mortality and inspires us to think about what is important.

Accompanying a palliative care team, Moreira Marques travelled to Trás-os-Montes, a forgotten corner of northern Portugal, a rural area abandoned by the young. Crossing great distances where eagles circle over the roads, she visits villages where rural ways of life are disappearing. She listens to families facing death and gives us their stories in their words as well as through her own meditations.

Brilliantly blending the immediacy of oral history with the sensibility of philosophical reportage, Moreira Marques’ book speaks about death in a fresh way.

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  • Now and at the Hour of Our Death (original title: Agora e na hora da nossa morte) was discovered after being read in our autumn 2013 Portuguese reading group. Although our reading groups tend to throw up strong disagreement about books, this book was universally adored. Thank goodness, because we love it!
  • This book was translated by Julia Sanches, who was chosen as a translator after winning our Birkbeck University of London / And Other Stories 2013 sample translation competition in the Portuguese category. Read Julia Sanches’ short piece about the book on our Ampersand blog.
  • Listen to Susana Moreira Marques discuss grief and Now and at the Hour of Our Death for BBC World Service.
  • You can also read appetite-whetting excerpts from the book at The Offing (LARB), Tin House and Words without Borders.
  • Susana Moreira Marques featured in Granta Magazine discussing re-reading classics
Print status: Available
Translator: Julia Sanches
Original language: Portuguese
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 3 September 2015
ISBN: 9781908276629
Ebook ISBN: 9781908276636
Availability: World
Number of pages: 128


Leslie Jamison

‘Raymond Carver once wrote about loving everything that increases me. This book increased me. It is fearless and luminous and full of grace; it travels to the edge of death and finds life there. Its attention to the particulars of love—between the ones who will go and the ones they will leave—is something close to sublime.’ Leslie Jamison also chose Now and at the Hour of Our Death as her New York Times Book of the Year.

Times Literary Supplement

‘[An] affecting reflection on death . . . Marques's interviews achieve a stark authenticity.’

New Internationalist

‘A beautiful mediation on life and death . . . [Moreira Marques’] writing shows that there is poetry in the most unexpected places.’

Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being

‘A tender, lyrical and intimate meditation on death and bereavement, examining dispossession, the fury of grief and the end we all will face.  Now and at the Hour of our Death is written with great compassion, and with the economy and precision usually reserved for poetry.’

Iona Heath, author of Matters of Life and Death: Key Writings

‘The writing of Susana Moreira Marques has the quiet intensity and the transformative power of poetry. She describes, in tender detail, the dying of people and the slow dying of a remote rural community, the one superimposed on the other.’

Anne Karpf, author of How to Age

‘Moreira Marques has the ability to evoke an entire lifespan in a few words or sentences, summoning an individual through a brief experience, event or gesture . . . Her great achievement is to situate dying so squarely within life itself. She liberates death and dying back into the messy business of living.’

Isabel Lucas

‘A brilliant book which pushes the boundaries, not only of literary reportage but of literary genres in general, to discuss that most intimate of moments: death . . . Death isn't good or bad, death is; and Susana Moreira Marques writes about it in her first book in a way that can only be done by great writers.’  

Big Issue North

‘An intriguing work of non-fiction, Marques takes a fresh look at death through the eyes of a palliative care team. With great compassion she listens to those facing death and recounts their stories in their own words.’

Laura Garmeson
3:AM Magazine

'To read Now and at the Hour of our Death is to better recognise the glitzy clichés and ragged euphemisms with which we dress up our mortality, and when to value or discard them. It is to embrace the fact that we are not gods. It is to define a good death. It is to “know you are a machine and not feel saddened but, rather, liberated by the thought”. It is to travel to the land of malady, and back again.'


‘A beautifully crafted, powerful meditation on the nature of existence’.


‘A slim volume with not a syllable wasted’.


‘Some of the individual aphorisms wonderfully encapsulate the sense of lost control that death brings, and the relief of getting back to the basics of breath and beauty’.

Kate Gardner
For Books' Sake

‘The amount to which Moreira Marques manages to get these strangers to open up to her is remarkable’.

Julian Hanna
Minor Literatures

‘Marques has written a restless, formally experimental book – translated with beautiful subtlety by Julia Sanches – that also manages to convey the emotions she experienced on her journey.’

Alex Kalamaroff
Entropy Magazine

‘For Moreira Marques, what divinity there is can be found only in the quiet beauty that would otherwise go unnoticed, in that artist’s refuge, the details.’

The Lady

‘The writing is compassionate but unsentimental, taking in the bodily indignities of death alongside the beauty of the landscape and a vanishing way of life.’

José Mário Silva

‘An extremely rare event: a book capable of creating its own form, inventing on the way a new literary genre.’  

Ana Dias Ferreira
Time Out Lisbon

‘One of the best books ever written about the meaning of life’s end.’