Dulce Maria Cardoso


© Tiago Mirando



Dulce Maria Cardoso, born in Trás-os-Montes in 1964, is one of the most important literary voices in Portugal. She spent her childhood in Angola and returned to Portugal in 1975, shortly after Portugal’s Carnation Revolution and Angola’s independence. She studied law, worked as a lawyer and wrote scripts for the cinema. The author has received numerous prizes for her literary work, such as the European Union Prize for Literature 2009 for My Sentiments and the Portuguese PEN Prize 2011 for O Chão dos pardais.

The Return, her latest novel, was awarded the Special Prize of the Critics 2011 in Portugal, and was selected as Book of the Year 2011. It has also been voted as number 4 of the 10 favourite books 2014 of the French financial newspaper Les Échos.



Eliete is a normal woman in her early forties. There is hardly anything extraordinary about her life, and yet she enthrals us with her desire to live, and to understand people and things.

Her daughters are mostly on the internet and abroad; her husband is easier to meet on Facebook rather than at home. Who cares if Eliete, who feels strongly that her youth is gone, allows herself some escapades on a dating site? She would like to reignite her relationship with her husband, but he doesn’t seem interested. Eliete stays cool and doesn’t despair. Then suddenly she finds someone and something different - an inkling of love? Does Duarte love her like a hero in one of the photo-comic teenage magazines of her childhood? And what on earth does it mean when her dementia-suffering grandmother says that Portugal’s dictator is part of her family story?

Is normal life an everyday drama? It probably is, but still you can laugh at most of it. Written in precise language, Cardoso creates a multifaceted character of great strength. Ironic, but by no means distanced, Eliete – A Normal Life (“Eliete - A vida normal”) reflects on an apparently ordinary life against the background of a three-generation story of the 20th and 21st century in Portugal, in Europe.



The Return (“O retorno”) tells the captivating story of fifteen-year-old Rui, whose family, like a hundred thousand other whites, has to leave Angola after independence from Portugal is declared. For the first time, Rui touches the ground of the “metropolis”, as his mother has always referred to Lisbon in a tone of longing. In this unexpectedly run-down city, Rui not only struggles with the uncertain fate of his father, who stayed behind, but also with finding his place in hostile surroundings. In a personal and clear way, Cardoso describes a crucial moment in Portugal’s history and tells a story that could have happened to so many returners elsewhere in the world. The novel has been voted as number 4 of the 10 favourite books 2014 of the French financial newspaper Les Échos.



It is extremely rare to find a book with the potential to startle and move us in this manner. With The Return, Dulce Maria Cardoso surely enters the pantheon of great writers.



The language of The Return is of a precision that is lyrical and delicate in its absoluteness, but also harsh and dry, oscillating beween feelings with a subtlety that only great authors possess. The story’s universe is so well constructed that the reader laughs, cries and feels attracted to the characters as if he knew them. Life itself with its pains and joys seeps from the pages, powerful and real.

Tatiana Salem Levy, O Globo


From Dulce Maria Cardoso, probably the most important writer of her generation, comes The Return, the first serious example of literary reflection on the half a million returnees who arrived in Portugal in 1975.



A captivating coming-of-age novel inspired by the author’s own story.

Livres Hebdo




Her second novel, My Sentiments (“Os meus sentimentos”), revolves around Violeta, a middle-aged woman who earns her living as a sales representative for hair removal products. At the very beginning of the novel Violeta suffers a heavy car crash. Until the end the reader can’t be sure whether she has survived or not. Her subconscience, however, lives on and scenes of the past start moving before her inner eye, overlapping each other and getting mixed up with events just before the accident. Her French-speaking mother, who has a beauty ideal that Violeta could never live up to with her unshapely big body, reappears, as well as her father, who was denounced by his illegitimate son during the Carnation revolution. Violeta also remembers the difficult discussions she had with her daughter Dora, who was idolized and spoilt by her grandparents for being so different from her mother. Having been freed from the burden of her own existence, Violeta, who was often called a scarecrow by people on the street due to her conspicuous presentation, now takes a sharp look behind the façade of her fellow human beings.

My Sentiments captivates the reader by the exceptional narrative talent of Dulce Maria Cardoso and her poetic and precise language. With empathy rather than sentimentality she creates lively characters and draws an unsparing portrait of today’s society.



Field of Blood (“Campo de sangue”) is Cardoso’s first novel, for which she received the Grande Prémio Acontece. Four women who have nothing to say to one another wait nervously in the dim light of an inhospitable room. Four women, all of whom have a special relationship with a man who just committed a murder: his mother, his landlady, his ex-wife and a young girl who is expecting a child from him. The events unfurl in the form of flash-backs in which the relationships of the individual women to each other are highlighted. The narrative returns repeatedly to the point of departure. Except for Eva, the murderer's ex-wife, no one in this unusual and profound novel has a name. The man and Eva, who both come from poor families, separated six years ago. Although Eva married a rich man immediately afterwards, they continue to meet as lovers. As his wife, Eva used to work to keep them both, and now as his ex-wife she continues to finance him with her new husband's money B out of exaggerated, almost demented love, it is said. One day the man murders a woman he does not know by stabbing her several times in the chest, explaining afterwards that she was his girlfriend and that he wanted her heart. Beauty and loneliness can cause a person to lose their mind.

In an objective and yet poetic language, Dulce Maria Cardoso describes a world of hopelessness and repressed feelings in which everything is a deceptive game in the search for a truth that does not exist.



A vibrant style. A brilliant novel.

De Standaard


Every word is in the right place and the result is pure music.

De Volkskrant






Book of the year 2011 - Spezial Prize of the Critics (Portugal)

The Return


Portuguese PEN Club Prize 2010

Ciranda Prize 2010

O chão dos pardais


European Union Prize for Literature 2009

My Sentiments


Grande Prémio Acontece de Romance 2009

Field of Blood


Dulce Maria Cardoso is Chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letters





Eliete - A Normal Life (“Eliete – A vida normal”)

Lisbon: Tinta da China 2018, 285 p.


The Return (“O retorno”)

Lisbon: Tinta da China 2011, 272 p.

German sample translation available

Book of the Year in Portugal, Special Prize of the Critics 2011

English PEN Translates Award 2016

Albania: Fjala 2015 Brazil: Tinta da China 2012 Colombia: Tragaluz 2015Croatia: Bozicevic 2016Egypt: Bait El Yasmin (Arabic world rights)France: Stock 2014 Greece: Kastaniotis Italy: Voland 2013 Macedonia: Antolog 2014 Serbia: Geopoetika 2015 Slovenia: Cankarjeva Zalozba 2014 Spain: Libros de la Umbría y la Solana 2018 UK: MacLehose Press 2016, pb 2017


O chão dos pardais

Lisbon: Asa 2009, 224 p.

Portuguese PEN Club Prize 2010, Ciranda Prize 2010

Dutch translation available

Italy: Voland 2011 Netherland: Prominent


My Sentiments (“Os meus sentimentos”)

Lisbon: Asa 2005, 352 p.

European Union Prize for Literature 2009

Albania: Dudaj Bulgaria: Ergo Books 2011 Colombia: Tragaluz 2016 Croatia: Disput 2011 France: L’esprit des Peninsules 2005 Greece: Nisos 2011Hungary: HolnapItaly: Voland 2007 Macedonia: Antolog Netherlands: Meulenhoff 2009, pb 2011 Serbia: Booka 2011 UK: MacLehose Press


Field of Blood (“Campo de sangue”)

Lisbon: Asa 2002, 288 p.

Grande Prémio Acontece de Romance

Argentina: Adriana Hidalgo 2005 Brazil: Companhia das Letras 2005 (avail.) France: Phébus 2002 Italy: Voland 2002 Spain: El Gall 2006 (Catalan)



Short stories:

Tudo são histórias de amor

Lisbon: Tinta da China 2014, 161 p.

Argentina: Tragaluz Editores Bulgaria: Ergo Publishing Colombia: Tragaluz Editores Italy: Voland 2017 Spain: Libros de la Umbría


Até Nós

Lisbon: Asa 2008, 144 p.



Children’s Books:

Lôá e a vêspera do primeiro dia

(Ill. by Vera Tavares)

Lisbon: Tinta da China 2014, 51 p.


Lôá perdida no paraíso

(Ill. by Vera Tavares)

Lisbon: Tinta da China 2014, 51 p.


A Bíblia de Lôá

(Consisting of Lôá e a vêspera do primeiro dia, Lôá a perdida no paraíso,

Lôá e a multidão a caminho, Lôá e o arco-íris rasgado,

Lôá quer voltar para casa, Lôá, a fronteira que divide e a fronteira que une)

Film rights under option for GEM s.r.l., Italy

Italy: Mesogea