Title: O Paraíso são os Outros
Author: Valter Hugo Mãe
First published January 1, 2014
32 pages, Paperback
ISBN: 9788540507852 (ISBN10: 8540507854)
In O Paraíso são os Outros, our narrator is a curious young girl who is fascinated by the peculiar behavior of animals and humans alike: the need to live in pairs. She observes that penguins, dolphins and humans of all genders form couples – “all because of love.” The inspiration for this book came from a visit to the artist Nino Cais’ studio, where he worked on old wedding photos, adding elements of childish jewelry to the faces of the couples portrayed.
Six of these images feature in the book and interact with the text. Through these manipulated photos, Valter Hugo reflects on the modern way of loving: no longer in a traditional way, but by evoking themes such as homosexuality, adoption, loyalty, second marriage, happiness, and even loneliness.
About the Author
Valter Hugo Lemos is a Portuguese writer known by his artistic name, Valter Hugo Mãe. He is also an editor, visual artist, and singer.
Born in Saurimo, Angola in 1971, he spent his childhood in Paços de Ferreira and currently resides in Vila do Conde. He holds a degree in Law and a post-graduate degree in Modern and Contemporary Portuguese Literature.
In 2007, he won the José Saramago Prize. Mãe has published several poetry books, including Livro de Maldições (2006), O Resto da Minha Alegria Seguido de a Remoção das Almas e Útero (2003), and A Cobrição das Filhas (2001).
He also wrote the novel O Nosso Reino (2004). Mãe has organized numerous anthologies, including O Encantador de Palavras, which features the poetry of Manoel de Barros, and Quem Quer Casar com a Poetisa, which showcases the poetry of Adília Lopes.
Valter Hugo Mãe’s “O Paraíso são os Outros” is a beautifully written novel that explores the complexities of human relationships and the search for meaning in life. The Portuguese author, known for his lyricism and poetic prose, delivers a poignant story that will resonate with readers who enjoy literary fiction and philosophical musings.
Set in a small village in northern Portugal, the novel follows the lives of several characters whose paths intersect in unexpected ways. There’s the retired schoolteacher who spends his days observing the world from his balcony, the single mother who struggles to provide for her son, the young girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina, and the artist who finds solace in solitude.
As they navigate their personal struggles and desires, they come to realize that their happiness depends on their connection to others and the world around them.
Mãe’s writing is masterful, with vivid descriptions and poetic language that evoke the beauty and harshness of rural life. He weaves together different narrative threads with ease, creating a tapestry of emotions and experiences that feel authentic and compelling.
The characters are well-drawn, with distinct personalities and motivations that make them relatable and sympathetic. The themes of loneliness, love, and mortality are explored with subtlety and depth, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.
However, the novel’s slow pace and lack of plot twists may deter some readers who prefer more action-driven stories. The philosophical musings and introspective passages may also feel dense or abstract to some.
Additionally, the novel’s themes of poverty and social inequalities may resonate more with Portuguese readers or those familiar with the country’s history and culture.
Overall, “O Paraíso são os Outros” is a beautiful and thought-provoking novel that will appeal to readers who appreciate literary fiction and philosophical contemplation. It provides a window into a small community in Portugal and the universal human experiences that connect us all.
I highly recommend it to readers who seek a contemplative and poetic reading experience.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.