Torga was born 100 years ago

Last Sunday, August 12th, we celebrated the birth anniversary of Miguel Torga, poet and diarist whose forceful and highly individual literary style and treatment of universal themes make him one of the most important writers in 20th-century Portuguese literature. He would be 100 years old.

Miguel Torga, pseudonym of Adolfo Correia da Rocha (São Martinho de Anta, Portugal, August 12, 1907- Coimbra, January 17, 1995) was one of the greatest Portuguese writers of the 20th century. He wrote poetry, short stories, theater and a 16 volume diary.

He was born in the village of São Martinho de Anta in Trás-os-Montes, northern Portugal, to small-time farmer parents. After a short spell as student in a catholic seminary in Lamego, Trás-os-Montes, in 1920 his father sent him to Brazil where he worked on the coffee plantation of an uncle who, finding him to be a clever student, paid his high school there and afterwards his medicine graduation (1933) at the University of Coimbra, in Coimbra, Portugal (to where he returns in 1925 to complete his secondary education). After graduation he worked in his village of São Martinho de Anta and in other places in the country, publishing his books from his own pocket for a number of years. In 1941, he established himself as an otolaryngologist physician in Coimbra.

He decides to adopt the pseudonym of Torga. He chooses it carefully. Torga means heather, a wild, low-growing shrub, that grows spontaneously in dry rural areas throughout Portugal, but especially in the mountainous regions in the north. It is the sturdiness of this plant that will characterize the poet and the writer of prose. Miguel is a praise to Cervantes and Unamuno.

He was a member of the literary movement Presença for a short period before founding two cultural magazines in the 1930s. After the publication of the book O Quarto Dia da Criação do Mundo he was arrested for two months, between December of 1939 and February of 1940.
After the value of his work was being recognized, he went on to receive several awards, as the Prémio Camões in 1989 and the Montaigne award in 1981. He was several times nominated for the Nobel Prize of Literature, being the last one in 1994, but he never won.

His agnostic beliefs seems to reflect in his work, that deals mainly with the nobility of the human condition in a beautiful but ruthless world where God is absent or is nothing but a passive and silent, indifferent creator.
Torga's work has been translated into many languages.

In Rebellious Orpheus (1958), he wrote:

I sing as one who uses verses as a means of self-defense
I sing, and
never ask the Muses
If it is terror or beauty what I sense
I was born a subversive.
Starting with subversive feelings about
myself – the main reason
for my dissatisfaction.
The centenary of his birth was celebrated all over Portugal, and in his beloved Coimbra, where he lived and where he died, a monument was built to honor the life of the poet, the physician and the writer.
Find out more about Torga's life in here.


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