Agustina Bessa-Luís


© Luísa Ferreira




Agustina Bessa-Luís was born in 1922 near Amarante (in the Douro region) in the North of Portugal. Her childhood and youth were influenced by the Douro river landscape, which she describes repeatedly in her later work. She is one of Portugal’s most outstanding novelists with over fourty published novels. In 2004 she was awarded the most important literary prize of the Portuguese speaking world, the Prémio Camões.


In 1954 Bessa-Luís became famous with the novel The Sibyl (“A Sibila”) which draws a realistic portrait of the rural population of northern Portugal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Considerable psychological astuteness and analytical acuity make this novel a masterpiece of Portuguese literature.

In her novels the sexes are separated by traditional gulfs, though these are frequently traversed. The female figures act according to intuition and stand for preservation and permanence. By contrast, the men are interested in bringing about change and accelerating time.

The author’s language and narrative technique are reminiscent of Camilo Castelo Branco, the great nineteenth century Portuguese writer. In addition to sensitively portraying characters, Agustina focuses mainly on social and political change in northern Portugal.

Several of her novels have been filmed by the Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira: Abraham’s Valley (“Vale Abraão”), The Lands of Risk (“As terras do risco”) as well as Fanny Owen. Agustina Bessa-Luís has also written film scripts (Party) and theatre plays.

Between 1986-87 she was editor of the newspaper O Primeiro de Janeiro (Porto). From 1990 to 1993 she directed the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II in Lisbon.

Since the 1960s she has been a member of numerous national and international academies and writers’ associations. Her works have been translated into many languages and she has been awarded important literary prizes.


Prémio Camões 2004


Represented in all languages, except French


Original editions (selection) and rights sold:


Contos impopulares

Lisbon: Guimarães 1951-53, 208 p.

Spain: Alianza 1982


The Sibyl (“A Sibila”)

Lisbon: Guimarães 1954, 256 p.

Film rights sold to Paulo Branco

France: Gallimard 1982 Germany: Suhrkamp 1987 Italy: Giunti 1989 Spain: Alfaguara 1981 Romania:    Univers 1986


Fanny Owen

Lisbon: Guimarães 1979, 224 p.

Film adaptation by Manoel de Oliveira

France: Actes Sud 1988 Germany: Suhrkamp 1987 Italy: BesaSpain: Grijalbo 1988


O sermão do fogo

1963,Guimarães 1995 222 p.


O mosteiro

Lisbon: Guimarães 1980, 296 p.

France: Métailié 1994


A bela portuguesa


Germany: Radio play adaptation 1991                  


Dentes de rato

Lisbon: Guimarães 1987, 64 p.

Spain: Alfaguara 1990


A corte do norte

Lisbon: Guimarães 1987, 276 p.

France: Métailié 1991


Abraham’s Valley (“Vale Abraão”)

Lisbon: Guimarães 1991, 308 p.

Film adaptation by Manoel de Oliveira

Brazil: Planeta 2005 Brazil: Globo TV 2008 Greece: Kastaniotis 1996


Estados eróticos imediatos de Sören Kierkegaard

Lisbon: Guimarães 1992, 96 p.

Denmark: Ørby 1994


The Lands of Risk (“As terras do risco”)

Lisbon: Guimarães 1994, 288 p.

Film adaptation by Manoel de Oliveira

France: Métailié 1996


Um cão que sonha

Lisbon: Guimarães 1997, 328 p.

France: Métailié 2000


A Ronda da Noite

Lisbon: Guimarães 2006, 366. p.



O princípio da incerteza

Lisbon: Guimarães

Jóia de familia, 2001, 345 p.

France: Métailié 2002

A alma dos ricos, 2002, 345 p.

Os espaços em branco, 2003


Participation in anthologies:

Lisbon Tales

UK: Oxford University Press 2019

The Fiancé (O Noivo), taken from: “Contos impopulares


Take Six: Six Portuguese Women Writers

UK: Dedalus, 2018

(several stories, taken from: “Contos impopulares”)