10 Best Quotes and their Meanings by Portuguese Literaries

I love reading, and I have been known to mark up every book I read with notes and lines, so that I can remember my favorites parts of the story. I also do this so that I remember which quotations I like the most!

I also love Portuguese literature. I read it in English, but the translations are (usually) beautifully done. I’ll be outlining some of my favorite quotes from some of my favorite Portuguese authors, coming right up!

1. “Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.” José Saramago

José Saramago

The José Saramago Foundation in Lisbon by Pedro Ribeiro Simões – Flickr

José Saramago is arguably one of the most famous Portuguese authors. He is the first Portuguese writer to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and he is one of the most talented writers to come out of Portugal in the 20th century. Saramago writes in a fantastic style of writing, and his most famous works include Baltasar and Blimunda, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis and The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.

I’ve chosen a quote from a different novel, called Blindness. This is one of the works cited by the Nobel Prize committee when they announced that Saramago had won. The novel tells the story of a strange epidemic of blindness in a fictional city, and what happens to society in the face of something of the like. This quote tells us that even when we can see, there is something that exists in all of us that can’t be seen, in other words, our soul. It’s about recognising that some of the best things in life are intangible.

2. “Times change, as do our wills, What we are – is ever changing; All the world is made of change, and forever attaining new qualities.” ― Luís Vaz de Camões

Camões

Camões when he was imprisoned by Moreaux – WikiCommons

Luís Vaz de Camões was a Portuguese writer in the 16th century. At the time, Portugal was leading the way in terms of discovering new lands. To this day, Camões is considered to be the most important poets to come out of Portugal. In addition to his poetry, he also wrote an epic poem called Os Lusiadas or, The Lusiads, which praised his country for its New World discoveries.

The quote that I’ve chosen from Camões is from a collection of poems called Sonetos de Camões, or Camões’ Sonnets. Although Camões praised Portugal in The Lusiads, much of his work was actually centered around the fact that times were changing, and that Portugal was quickly losing its power int he world compared to larger countries like England and Spain. This quote tells us that times change and it is inevitable. We should not try to fight this fact, but rather, embrace it.

3. “The excess of pleasure is pain” ― João Baptista de Almeida Garrett

Almeida Garrett

Almeida Garrett by Unknown – WikiCommons

João Baptista de Almeida Garrett, or rather Almeida Garrett for short, was the leader of the Romanticist movement in Portugal in the 19th century. He worked on reviving historic and medieval themes in his works, and he also brought about a new form of Romanticism in Portugal: nationalistic Romanticism. This is interesting, as Garrett lived in exile in England for a large portion of his life. Many of the works that Garrett wrote in exile focus on the themes of exile and loneliness, which isn’t surprising given the circumstances.

The quote that I’ve chosen from Garrett is from a book of poetry called Folhas Caídas or, Fallen Leaves. This collection marks a change in Garrett’s work, where he began to experiment with more complex and subjective content. This quote tells us that too much pleasure can actually be a bad thing, which can lead to pain.

4. “In us, existence is a sea; life a drop of water.”  Teixeira de Pascoaes

Teixeira de Páscoas

Teixeira de Páscoas by António Carneiro – WikiCommons

Teixeira de Páscoas is the pseudonym for a man named Joaquim Pereira Teixeira de Vasconcelos. He lived and wrote in Portugal in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. He wrote poetry, prose and philosophical works. He is also well known for his work with nostalgia. He was also one of the leaders of the « Portuguese Renaissance » that occurred in art and literature in the early 1900s.

The quote that I’ve chosen from Pascoases is from a novel called Senhora da Noite – Verbo Escuro, or Lady of the Night – Dark World. This quote compares life to a small drop of water in the large “sea” of existence. It also reminds us how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

5. “Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.” Fernando Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa in 1914

Fernando Pessoa in 1914 – WikiCommons

Fernando Pessoa is another world famous Portuguese writer from the 20th century. Pessoa is a Modernist poet who wrote under no less than 70 heteronyms, or alternative personas, and each one had a very different style of writing. He wrote in Portuguese as well as English.

This quote comes from one of Pessoa’s most famous works, a book called Livro do desassossego, or The Book of Disquiet. I chose this quote by Pessoa because I relate to it on a personal level! Reading and writing can act as an escape for many people, myself included! Whats better than getting lost in a good book?! This quote reminds us that if we need an escape, it can be found through literature.

6. “A human being is a being who is constantly ‘under construction,’ but also, in a parallel fashion, always in a state of constant destruction.” — Jose Saramago

This is my second quote from Saramago because I am such a big fan of his! Saramago shared these words of wisdom during a 2006 interview. This quote tells us that while it is important to strive to improve yourself, it’s important to realize that someone who is constantly changing, isn’t always changing for the better.

7. “Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently, and for the same reason.” ― Eça de Queirós

Eça de Queirós

A portrait of Eça de Queirós as seen in the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal – WikiCommons

José Maria de Eça de Queirós, or simply Eça de Queirós is a Portuguese writer from the 19th century. Critics have compared him to the likes of Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy, and he is celebrated for his work in the realist style. Émile Zola has been cited as saying that Eça de Queirós is a better writer than French author Gustave Flaubert. Queirós spent a few years living in Paris.

Queirós was involved in government work and politics for most of his life. He traveled often, and wrote poetry and novels about his experiences. This quote reflects the frustration that Queirós felt vis a vis the corrupt practices of politicians in England and Portugal.

8. “Happiness is similar to freedom, because everyone talks about it and nobody enjoys it.” Camilo Castelo Branco

Camilo Castelo Branco

Camilo Castelo Branco in 1882 by União – Photographia da Casa Real-Porto – WikiCommons

Camilo Castelo Branco is another 19th century Portuguese writer that produced over 260 books in his lifetime! He was known for his pessimism, sarcasm and dark humor that he used throughout his novels, plays and essays. Branco is also well known for his tumultuous personal life. He was arrested for the first time when he was caught unearthing the remains of his first wife, and a second time for his involvement in an adulterous affair with a married woman. When he was just 65, and very sick likely due to syphilis, he committed suicide.

I like this quote as I think it perfectly illustrates Branco’s sarcasm and wit, and the quote itself can really hit home for many readers! It is sad but true that many people spend their lives searching for happiness to never find it. Its an important quote to read as too many people get caught up in talking about happiness, that they never truly experience or enjoy it. It is a reminder to enjoy the simple things in life!

9. “We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept—our own selves—that we love.” ― Fernando Pessoa

Another quote from my other favorite Portuguese writer, Pessoa. This quote also comes from his masterpiece, The Book of Disquiet. I chose this quote because I think it is so important to keep in mind. More often than not, people can have really unrealistic expectations for the people they love. This quote reminds us to stay selfless in love.

10. “Memory is like a curse. We fall into eternity, and memory is a weight that keeps pulling us to where we can never go back to.” ― José Luís Peixoto

José Luís Peixoto

José Luís Peixoto by Helena Canhoto – WikiCommons

José Luís Peixoto is the only contemporary writer that I’ve included on my list! He is one of Portugal’s best selling authors of today. He has won numerous awards and his works have been translated into 26 different languages!

This quote warns us against getting too caught up in nostalgia, and to live for the moment. It reminds us how easy it is to get stuck in the past, which makes it difficult to move forward.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of my favorite quotes from some famous Portuguese literaries! I also hope that you’ve taken some notes for some writers to add to your “to-be-read” lists.

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