On Words and Water

Words: Irina Chitas
Illustration: Sofia Pádua

We need books to think, as we need water to live. So why not bring the two of them together?
If only we could draw words from water. If we could drink from words. If these two statements were a little less true, perhaps it would become less of a cliché to say that a book has the ability to make us dive — some, into ourselves, others into the clear light of reality from which we try to escape all too often. This selection, unfair due to being so small, looks at human beings and water in the only way possible: a fluid symbiosis of enchantment and conflict, dependence and respect, symbolism and literalness.

Inês Francisco Jacob

Edições Alambique

Poems for the sea, about the sea and by the sea, written by Inês Francisco Jacob, one of the most fascinating poets of the new generation. Created during the lockdown, her second book is an exercise in nostalgia on an inexhaustible theme: the taste of salt, the lull of the waves, the goodness and cruelty of infinity.

A Jangada de Pedra,
José Saramago

Porto Editora

In a world that wants to have fewer and fewer borders, is it still the land that defines us? And if that land is torn away from an even bigger piece of land — oh, and if we’re left adrift? The genius of José Saramago manages to scathingly surrender humanity to the unforeseen, in a surrealism too close to reality that proves that the human being will never know how to be an island.

Vidas e Vozes do Mar e do Peixe,
Vasco Célio, Maria Manuel Valagão & Nídia Braz

Tinta da China

More than an essay, this is a book-tribute to the life we make of the sea. Giving voice to those who know it best, the authors navigate the Algarve coast to tell the stories that could belong to anyone, but don’t. This is a raw account of those who care of our sea and fight so that it doesn’t disappear.

Sinais de Fogo,
Jorge de Sena

Livros do Brasil

For more than twenty years, Jorge de Sena poured his heart into these pages. They could only end with his own ending. Set essentially in the Figueira da Foz of the 1930s, this is Sena’s awakening to poetry, to adulthood, to an Iberian Peninsula in turmoil, and to the unequivocal sea: in this work, it appears to us as adolescent laziness, as a plural threat, as an escape solution, as a just killer, as family. Docile, cruel, necessary.

A Desumanização,
Valter Hugo Mãe

Porto Editora

A fantastic narrative about the delicacy that makes the Icelandic fjords a prose poem. Symbolism, folklore and belief, like water, are everywhere. In the immense landscapes — violent escarpments to the raging sea, sky of ice, floor of snow — and inside all the characters, authentic waves are in convulsion.

Caderno das Memórias Coloniais,
Isabela Figueiredo


Portugal’s relationship with the sea can never be healthy if the past is perpetually romanticised. Isabela Figueiredo writes about the end of the Portuguese colonial empire (the violent dénouement of maritime exploration, that continues to portray our ancestors as brave heroes who were capable of taming the seven seas, and beyond) from a place of brutal personal truth, met by the consciousness of time.

O Livro Grande de Tebas, navio e Mariana,
Mário de Carvalho

Porto Editora

If a ship summarised the world, if a sea summarised the search, if a myth summarised reality. If we need a summary of the meaning of life, here it is. What do we do with so much sea in between if we don’t swim within ourselves?

Dia do Mar,
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Assírio & Alvim

No poetry has ever sailed more than Sophia’s. With the sea as a theme running through her work, it is almost unfair to impose this volume as a suggestion. But life is made of choices, and if Sophia always sought perfection, we don’t even try to have that ambition. Here, in the most tender, true and concrete way, the poet breaks waves between the sea and the garden, in a purification of her childhood.

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