Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

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Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Portrait of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
Portrait of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
BornNovember 6, 1919
DiedJuly 4, 2005(2005-07-04) (aged 85)
Resting placeNational Pantheon
OccupationWriter, Poetess
Home townPorto
SpouseFrancisco José Carneiro de Sousa Tavares
ChildrenMiguel Sousa Tavares
Isabel Sofia Andresen Sousa Tavares
Maria Andresen Sousa Tavares
Sofia Andresen Sousa Tavares
Xavier Andresen Sousa Tavares
RelativesMother: Maria Amélia de Mello Breyner
Father: João Henrique Andresen

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (6 November 1919 – 2 July 2004) was a Portuguese poet. She was the first Portuguese woman to receive the Camões Prize, in 1999. Her body has been in the National Pantheon since 2014 and has a library with her name in Loulé.

Life and career[edit]

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen was born on November 6, 1919 in Porto.[1] [2] She was the daughter of Joana Amelia de Mello Breyner and João Henrique Andresen. She has Danish origin on the paternal side. His grandfather, Jan Andresen, landed in Porto one day and never left this region, having his son João Henrique, in 1895, bought Quinta do Campo Alegre, now the Porto Botanical Garden.[3] As stated in an interview in 1993[4], this farmhouse "was a fabulous territory with a large and rich family served by a large household."[3] Her mother, Maria Amelia de Mello Breyner, is the daughter of Tomás de Mello Breyner, Count of Mafra, doctor and friend of King D. Carlos. Maria Amelia is also the granddaughter of the capitalist Henrique Burnay, from a Belgian family living in Portugal, and future Count of Burnay.

She began her studies at Sacred Heart of Jesus College, at 1354 Avenida da Boavista, Porto, where she entered the first year of operation of the school.

Raised in the old Portuguese aristocracy, educated in the traditional values of Christian morality, she was leader of Catholic university movements while attending Classical Philology at the University of Lisbon (1936-1939)[2][1] which she never concluded. She collaborated in the magazine "Cadernos de Poesia", where she made friends with influential and well-known authors: Ruy Cinatti and Jorge de Sena.[1][2] She became one of the most representative figures of a liberal political attitude, supporting the monarchic movement and denouncing the Salazar's regime and its followers. The "Cantata da Paz", also known and called by its chorus, became famous as an intervention song of the Progressive Catholics: "We see, hear and read. We cannot ignore!"

In 1946, she married journalist, politician and lawyer Francisco Sousa Tavares[1][2] (who she would later divorce in 1985) and became mother of five children: a university professor of letters, a journalist and writer (Miguel Sousa Tavares), a painter and ceramist and one more daughter who is an occupational therapist and inherited her mother's name. Her children motivated her to write children's books.

In 1964, Andersen received the Grand Prize of Poetry by the Portuguese Society of Writers for her book "Livro Sexto". After the Revolution of 25 April, she was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1975 by the Oporto circle on a Socialist Party list while her husband joined the Social Democratic Party.

A documentary short film about her was produced in 1969. It was the first completed film by director João César Monteiro (then using the name João César Santos).[5]

Andersen won acclaim as a storyteller with Contos Exemplares (Exemplary Tales),"Histórias da Terra e do Mar" (Stories of Land and Sea), and a number of children's booksA Menina do Mar (The Sea Girl), O Cavaleiro da Dinamarca (The Danish Knight), A Floresta (The Forest), O Rapaz de Bronze (The Bronze Boy), A Fada Oriana (The Fairy Oriana). She also published several poetry books and anthologies, including: Poesia, Dual, Livro Sexto, Coral, Dia do Mar, No Tempo Dividido, Grades, O Nome das Coisas, As Ilhas, Antologia, Geografia, Navegações, O Búzio de Cós. In 1999 she became the first woman to receive the highest Portuguese award for poetry, the Prémio Camões. She was also awarded the Max Jacob Poetry Prize,in 2001, and the Spanish Prémio Reinha Sofia in 2003.

Andresen died at the age of 84 on 2 July 2004 in Lisbon,[1][2] at Pulido Valente Hospital.[6] Her body was buried in Carnide Cemetery. On February 20, 2014, the Assembly of the Republic decided to unanimously honor the poetess in the Portuguese National Pantheon[7][8]. The relocation ceremony took place on July 2, 2014[9].

Since 2005, in the Lisbon Oceanarium, her poems with a strong connection to the sea have been placed for permanent reading in the rest areas of the exhibition, allowing visitors to absorb the boldness of her writing while immersed in a deep sea view.

"Poetry," she explained, "is my understanding of the universe, my way of relating to things, my participation in reality, my encounter with voices and images. This is why the poem speaks not of an ideal life but of a concrete one: the angle of a window, the resonance of streets, cities and rooms, the shadow cast by a wall, a sudden face, the silence, distance and brightness of the stars, the night’s breath, the scent of linden and of oregano." The sea is probably the most central theme in her poetical works. Other recurring themes are Ancient Greece and ideas of freedom and justice.

Besides her work as a writer, she translated Dante and Shakespeare into Portuguese.

Her poetry has been translated into English by Ruth Fainlight, Richard Zenith and most recently by Colin Rorrison with Margaret Jull Costa, as well as into many languages in the world.

Writing style[edit]

From her childhood and youth, she recalls above all the importance of houses, a memory that will have a great impact on her work, describing and recalling the houses and the objects inside them. She explained this as follows: "I have a lot of visual memory and I always remember houses, room by room, furniture by furniture, and I remember many houses that have disappeared from my life... I try to 'represent', I mean , "bring back the things I liked," and that's what goes with houses: I want their memory not to drift, not to be lost. "[10]

Andersen also had an idea of poetry as a fundamental transformative value. Its production corresponds to specific cycles, with the culmination of the activity of writing at night: "I cannot write in the morning,... I need that special concentration that is being created at night."[10] Hers nightly experience is underlined in several poems ("Night", "The Moonlight", "The Garden and the Night", "April Night", "O Night"). She accepted the notion of inspired poet, she said that her poetry happened to her, like Fernando Pessoa: "Fernando Pessoa said: 'A poem has happened to me.' My fundamental writing is very close to this 'happening'. I found poetry before I knew there was literature, I really thought that the poems were not written by anyone, that they existed in themselves, that they were like an element of the natural, that they were suspended immanent.It is difficult to describe the process of writing a poem. There is always a part that I can't distinguish, a part that happens in the area where I don't see it."[11] Her own life and memories are an inspiration to the author because, as Dulce Maria Quintela[12] points out, she "speaks of herself through her poetry".

Andresen became a poet as a child when, at the age of three, she was taught "A Nau Catrineta" by her nanny Laura.[12]:

There was a maid in my house named Laura, whom I liked very much. It was a young, blonde woman, very beautiful. Laura taught me "A Nau Catrineta" because there was an older cousin of mine who had been taught a poem to say at Christmas and she didn't want me to be left behind… I was a phenomenon, reciting the "Nau Catrineta", all . But there are more encounters, fundamental encounters with poetry: the recitation of the "Magnífica" on thunderstorms, for example. When we were a little older, we had a housekeeper who on those nights burned rosemary, lit a candle and prayed. It was a mixed environment of religion and magic… And in a way on those thunderstorms, many things were born. Even a certain social and human concern, or my first awareness of the harshness of the lives of others, because this housekeeper said: "Now fishermen walk in the sea, let us pray that they will reach the land" (...). "[13]

Based on Luísa Pessoa's observations[14], Andersen focuses on themes such as:

Childhood and youth - constitute for the Author a reference space ("The Garden and the House", Poetry, 1944; "House", Geography, 1967; "White House", Poetry, 1944; "Lost Garden", Poetry, Garden and the Night, Poetry, 1944).

Contact with nature also profoundly marked his work. It was for the author an example of freedom, beauty, perfection and mystery and is widely cited from her work, whether cited by the allusions to the land (trees, birds, moonlight) or by references to the sea (beach, shells, waves).

The Sea is one of the key concepts in the literary creation of 'Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen: "From the Shore / Where It All Started Intact on the First Day of Me."[15] The literary effect of inspiration on the sea can be seen in several poems, such as "Men by the Sea" or "Women by the Sea." The author comments this as follows:

"These poems have to do with the Granja mornings, the beach mornings. And also with a painting by Picasso. There is a painting by Picasso called Women by the Sea. No one will say that Picasso's painting and Lorca's poetry. have had a tremendous influence on my poetry, especially in the time of the Choral ... And one of Picasso's influences on me was that I moved the images."

The sea is used to express the obsession with the it, its beauty, its serenity and its myths. The sea appears here as a symbol of the dynamics of life. Everything comes from it and everything returns to it. It is the space of life, transformation and death.

The city is another motif often repeated in Andersen's work. The city is viewed as negative space. It represents the cold, artificial, hostile and dehumanized world, the opposite of nature and security.

Another frequently stressed topic in Andersen's work is time: the divided and the absolute that oppose each other. The first is the time of loneliness, fear and lies, while absolute time is eternal, unites life and is the time of moral values According to Eduardo do Prado Coelho[15], the divided time is the time of the house's exile, associated with the city, because the city is also made by the twisting of time, the degradation.

Andersen was an admirer of classical literature. In her poems often appear words of ancient spelling (Eurydice, Delphos, Amphora). The cult for the art and tradition proper to the Greek civilization is close to her and shows through her work.

In addition to the thematic aspects mentioned above, Fernando Pessoa's enormous influence on the work of Andersen is also present.[16][17][18] What the two authors have in common is: Plato's influence, the appeal to infinity, childhood memory, Sebastianism and Messianism and the formal tone that evokes Álvaro de Campos.

In general, the author's thematic universe is comprehensive and can be represented by the following summary points[14][19]:

  • The pursuit of justice, balance, harmony and the demand for morality
  • Awareness of the time we live
  • Nature and the Sea - euphoric and referential spaces for any human being
  • The theme of the house
  • Love
  • Life as opposed to death
  • Childhood memory
  • Values of classical antiquity, Hellenic naturalism
  • Idealism and individualism at the psychological level
  • The poet as shepherd of the absolute
  • Christian humanism
  • Belief in Messianic and Sebastianist Values
  • Separation

Regarding the language style of Andresen, the most evident marks are[14]: the hieratic value of the word, the rigorous expression, the appeal to the clarifying vision, richness of symbols and allegories, synesthesias and evocative rhythm of a ritual dimension. One can also notice a "transparency of the word in its relation of language to things, the luminosity of a world where intellect and rhythm harmonize in perfect, melodic form."[20]

The opinion of her of some of the most important Portuguese literary critics is the same: the author's talent is unanimously appreciated. Eduardo Lourenço says that Andersen has a wisdom "deeper than just knowing", that its intimate knowledge is immense and its reflection, however deep, is exposed in an original simplicity.[21]



  • Poesia (1944, Cadernos de Poesia, nº 1, Coimbra; 3.ª ed. 1975)
  • O Dia do Mar (1947, Lisbon, Edições Ática; 3.ª ed. 1974)
  • Coral (1950, Porto, Livraria Simões Lopes; 2.ª ed., illustrated por Escada, Lisboa, Portugália, 1968)
  • No Tempo Dividido (1954, Lisbon, Guimarães Editores)
  • Mar Novo (1958, Lisbon, Guimarães Editores)
  • Livro Sexto (1962, Lisbon, Livraria Morais Editora; 7.ª ed. 1991)
  • O Cristo Cigano (1961, Lisbon, Minotauro, ilustrado por Júlio Pomar)
  • Geografia (1967, Lisbon, Ática)
  • Grades (1970)
  • 11 Poemas (1971)
  • Dual (1972, Coímbra Moraes Editores; 3.ª ed., Lisbon, Salamandra, 1986)
  • Antologia (1975)
  • O Nome das Coisas (1977, Lisbon, Moraes Editores)
  • Navegações (1983)
  • Ilhas (1989)
  • Musa (1994)
  • Signo (1994)
  • O Búzio de Cós (1997)
  • Mar (2001) - antologia organizada por Maria Andresen de Sousa Tavares
  • Primeiro Livro de Poesia (infanto-juvenil) (1999)
  • Orpheu e Eurydice (2001)

Poems not included in the cannon poetry work[edit]

  • "Juro que venho para mentir"; "És como a Terra-Mãe que nos devora"; "O mar rolou sobre as suas ondas negras"; "História improvável"; "Gráfico", Távola Redonda - Folhas de Poesia, nº 7, July, 1950.
  • "Reza da manhã de Maio"; "Poema", A Serpente - Fascículos de Poesia, nº 1, January, 1951.
  • "Caminho da Índia", A Cidade Nova, suplemento dos nº 4-5, 3rd series, Coimbra, 1958.
  • "A viagem" [Fragmento do poema inédito "Naufrágio"], Cidade Nova, 5th series, nº 6, December, 1958.
  • "Novembro"; "Na minha vida há sempre um silêncio morto"; "Inverno", February - Textos de Poesia, 1972.
  • "Brasil 77", Loreto 13 - Revista Literária da Associação Portuguesa de Escritores, nº 8, March, 1982.
  • "A veste dos fariseus", Jornal dos Poetas e Trovadores - Mensário de Divulgação Cultural, nº 5/6, 2nd series, March/April, 1983.
  • "Oblíquo Setembro de equinócio tarde", Portugal Socialista, January, 1984.
  • "Canção do Amor Primeiro", Sete Poemas para Júlio (National Library, quota nº L39709), 1988.
  • "No meu Paiz", Escritor, nº 4, 1995.
  • "D. António Ferreira Gomes. Bispo do Porto"; "Naquele tempo" ["Dois poemas inéditos"], Jornal de Letras, 16 Jun., 1999.



  • Contos Exemplares (1962, Lisbon, Livraria Morais Editora; 24.ª ed. 1991)
  • Histórias da Terra e do Mar (1984, Lisbon, Edições Salamandra; 3.ª ed., Lisbon, Texto Editora, 1989)

Children's books[edit]

  • A Menina do Mar (1958)
  • A Fada Oriana (1958)
  • A Noite de Natal (1959)
  • O Cavaleiro da Dinamarca (1964)
  • O Rapaz de Bronze (1966)
  • A Floresta (1968)
  • O Tesouro (1970)
  • A Árvore (1985)


  • O Bojador (2000, Lisbon, Editorial Caminho)
  • O Colar (2001, Lisbon, Editorial Caminho)
  • O Azeiteiro (2000, Lisbon, Editorial Caminho)
  • Filho de Alma e Sangue (1998, Lisbon, Editorial Caminho)
  • Não chores minha Querida (1993, Lisbon, Editorial Caminho)


  • "A poesia de Cecíla Meyrelles" (1956), Cidade Nova, 4th series, nº 6, Novembre1956
  • Cecília Meyrelles (1958), in Cidade Nova
  • Poesia e Realidade (1960), in Colóquio : Revista de Artes e Letras, nº 8
  • "Hölderlin ou o lugar do poeta" (1967), Jornal de Comércio, December 30, 1967.
  • O Nu na Antiguidade Clássica (1975), in O Nu e a Arte, Estúdios Cor, (2.ª ed., Lisbon, Portugália; 3.ª ed. [revista], Lisbon, Caminho, 1992)
  • "Torga, os homens e a terra" (1976), Boletim da Secretaria de Estado da Cultura, Decembro 1976
  • "Luiz de Camões. Ensombramentos e Descobrimentos" (1980), Cadernos de Literatura, nº 5
  • "A escrita (poesia)" (1982/1984), Estudos Italianos em Portugal, nº 45/47

English translations[edit]

  • Marine Rose: Selected Poems tr. Ruth Fainlight (1987, Black Swan)
  • Log Book: Selected Poems, tr. Richard Zenith (1997, Carcanet)
  • The Perfect Hour, tr. Colin Rorrison with Margaret Jull Costa (2015, Cold Hub Press)


Recording from the Library of Congress[edit]

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen reading from her own work (1985). [1]

Awards and decorations[edit]


  • In 1964 Grand Prize for Poetry by the Portuguese Writers Society for her book Livro Sexto (The Sixth Book).
  • In 1977 Teixeira de Pascoaes Prize for her book O Nome das Coisas (The Name of Things).
  • In 1983 Critics' Prize by the International Association of Critics for the full set of her work.
  • In 1989 King Diniz Prize by the Casa de Mateus Foundation for her book Ilhas (Islands).
  • In 1990 Grand Prize for Poetry by both Inasset/Inapa and Pen Club for her book Ilhas (Islands).
  • In 1992 Calouste Gulbenkian's Grand Prize for Literature for Children by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for the full set of her work.
  • In 1994 "Vida Literária" (Literary Life) Prize by the Portuguese Association of Writers.
  • In 1995 Honour Plaque of the Petrarca Prize by the Italian Association of Editors.
  • In 1998 Luís Miguel Nava Foundation Prize for her book O Búzio de Cós e Outros Poemas.
  • In 1999 the Camões Prize for Portuguese language literature.
  • In 2003 the Reina Sofia Prize for writers of Portugal, Spain and Latin America.



  1. ^ a b c d e "Figuras da Cultura Portuguesa". April 30, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Rocha, Clara. [ "Biografia de Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen"] Check |url= value (help) (PDF). Munícípio de Alpiarça. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "O barco dos Andresen da Dinamarca ancorou em Portugal - DN". (in Portuguese). Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  4. ^ "Sophia e a Palavra". Noesis. 1993.
  5. ^ Paulo Felipe Monteiro, "An Art in the Rough: The Cinema of João César Monteiro", in Lucia Nagib, Anne Jerslev, eds., Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches to Film (I.B.Tauris, 2013), ISBN 978-1780765112, p. 152. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  6. ^ Queirós, Por Luís Miguel. "Sophia O poema a levará no tempo". PÚBLICO (in Portuguese). Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  7. ^ "Resolução da Assembleia da República 17/2014, 2014-03-06". Diário da República Eletrónico (in Portuguese). Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  8. ^ "Resolução da Assembleia da República n.º 17/2014 - mello breyner sophia andresen". Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  9. ^ "Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen trasladada para o Panteão a 2 de julho - JN". (in Portuguese). Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  10. ^ a b do Prado Coelho, Eduardo (1986). "Entrevista concedida a Eduardo do Prado Coelho". ICALP REVISTA. pp. 60–62.
  11. ^ Sophia de Mello Breyner, in revista Crítica, 1972
  12. ^ a b Quintela, Dulce Maria (1981). Temas de Língua e Cultura Portuguesa 12.º Ano. Lisbon: Editorial Presença. pp. 112–122.
  13. ^ Entrevista concedida a Maria Armanda Passos, "Sophia, um retrato", in Jornal de Letras, nº 26, Fevereiro de 1982
  14. ^ a b c Pessoa, Luísa (2006). Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen. Introdução ao Estudo da Obra. São João do Estoril: Edições Bonanza.
  15. ^ a b "Sophia, a Lírica e a Lógica" in Colóquio : Revista de Artes e Letras, nº 57, 1981
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ a b c d "Cidadãos Nacionais Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  18. ^ a b "DESTAQUES - Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas". Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  19. ^ Besse, Maria Graciete (1990). Sophia de Mello Breyner :Contos exemplares. Mem Martins: Publicações Europa-América. ISBN 9721031437.
  20. ^ Manuel da Costa Pinto (05-07-2004). "Sophia de Mello Breyner deu vigor à poesia sobre o homem moderno". Jornal Folha de S. Paulo. Archived from the original on 2012-12-08. Retrieved 2009-05-05. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  21. ^ Eduardo Lourenço, prefácio à Antologia, Figueirinhas, Porto, 1985, pp. 7-8
  22. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]