The book “As Pessoas Invisíveis”, by José Carlos Costa Barros, winner of the Leya Prize 2021, which narrates a journey through various times in recent Portuguese history, arrives at bookstores on April 12, the publisher announced this Monday.
More than 800 originals applied for this award, of which 14 were selected for appreciation by the jury, chaired by the writer Manuel Alegre, accompanied by Angolan writer Ana Paula Tavares, literary critic Isabel Lucas, professor José Carlos Seabra Pereira, poet Nuno Júdice, journalist Paulo Werneck and professor Lourenço do Rosário.
“The Invisible People” is a journey through several times in recent Portuguese history, since the 40s of the 20th century, “narrated from an ambiguous character, Xavier, who acts as if he had a gift or as if he needed to believe who has a gift”, revealed the jury.
The story begins in 1980s Berlin, where a notebook is found that reports the discovery, in Portuguese lands, of a gold deposit, a secret that takes the narrative back to the years of the Second World War, the exploration of wolfram and the unlikely friendship. of a German engineer with the young Xavier Sarmiento, who discovers he has the gift of healing and is fascinated by the idea of Power.
It is his story, from healer and magician to feared militia chief, that the reader follows throughout the novel, witnessing his cures and miracles, as well as his clandestine love affairs and his untimely flight to Africa.
“Traversing episodes of Portuguese life over five decades — from the movements in the Trás-os-Montes region during the Spanish Civil War to the death of Francisco Sá Carneiro — ‘The Invisible People’ is also a revisitation of one of the most tragic and least known events in Portuguese colonial history: the massacre of a large number of Forro natives, showing how the legal end of slavery preceded, by many decades, its effective abolition“, describes the publisher.
The author emphasizes that, “despite some coincidences of dates and geographies, it is not based on real facts and has nothing to do with the Batepá massacre or the events of that month of February 1953 in São Tomé and Príncipe”.
According to the description in the Museu do Aljube, the Batepá Massacre was “an episode of terror and colonial violence that will result in the death of hundreds of São Toméans, following protests and the refusal of forced labor on the swiddens.” “.
The ambition for gold, Salazar’s position in the face of war, the colonial war, the birth and early years of democracy are landscapes and times in which the novel touches, giving the word to “those who don’t usually have it”, he described at the time. the award jury.
“The inhabitants of the rural world or the blacks of the colonies are almost diaphanous beings that underline a feeling of almost doom that runs through the entire book and constitutes one of its most magnetic points. In ‘The Invisible People’, the reader is invited to fill in with your imagination the unsaid, the silences, the invisible”, he added.
Another aspect highlighted in the choice of this work was the language work, the mastery of a “telluric orality contrasting with the richness of vocabulary and historical-social references”.
This was not the first time that José Carlos Barros competed for the Leya Prize, since in 2012 he was a finalist with the novel “Um Amigo para o Verão”, published the following year by Casa das Letras.
Author of a vast poetic work, his prose debut took place with “O Prazer e o Tédio”, a novel that filmmaker André Graça Gomes adapted to the big screen in 2012, without funding and with amateur actors. The feature film was shot in Boticas, where the writer was born, in 1963, and addresses the anguish of the rural world.
Graduated in Landscape Architecture from the University of Évora, José Carlos Barros lives in Vila Nova de Cacela, in the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António, in the Algarve.
He has exercised professional activity in the field of spatial planning and nature conservation, and was director of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. He was also senior technician at the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina and at the Regional Directorate for the Environment of the Algarve.
Former PSD deputy, José Carlos Barros was vice-president of the Municipality of Vila Real de Santo António and president of the Municipal Assembly of the same city. He is a councilor, with no responsibility, in that chamber.
Among the various books of poetry he wrote are “a useless abstraction”, “Todos os náufragos”, “Theory of forgetfulness”, “Pequenas depressões” (with Otília Monteiro Fernandes) and “As Leis do povoamento” (also edited in Castilian).
With “Seven epigonos de Tebas” he won the National Poetry Prize Sebastião da Gama 2009.
His most recent books of poetry are “Use of Poisons”, “Children’s Education”, “Station – The poems of DN Jovem”, and “Penélope writes to Ulisses”.
The LeYa Prize has a value of 50 thousand euros and is the biggest literary prize for unpublished novels from all over the Portuguese-speaking world.
Assigned by blind proof, the authorship of the novels is unknown throughout the reading and evaluation process.