José Tolentino Mendonça wins the Francisco de Sá de Miranda literary prize

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Cardinal and poet José Tolentino Mendonça has won the Francisco de Sá de Miranda Literary Prize, instituted by the town council of Amares, Braga district, distinguishing the book “Introduction to cave painting”, published in 2021, Porto Editora announced today.

“The prize, awarded every two years and with a monetary value of 7,500 euros, includes the poetry modality and is aimed at Portuguese-language authors, admitting to the competition works published in book form and whose first edition took place during the two calendar years preceding the one to which the competition refers,” the writer’s publisher said in a statement.

The Francisco de Sá de Miranda literary prize was created by Amares Town Council in partnership with the Centro de Estudos Mirandinos.

The book “Introduction to Cave Painting” was published in 2021 by Assírio & Alvim, part of the Porto Editora group, after winning the D. Diniz prize from the Casa de Mateus Foundation in 2022.

“Composed of poems that evoke personal memories, often through impressive images and verses imbued with remarkable sensitivity, the book’s poems are also a profound revisitation of our collective memory as a people,” reads Porto Editora’s press release, which cites the jury’s assessment.

The jury, made up of Sérgio Guimarães de Sousa (director of the Centro de Estudos Mirandinos and professor at the University of Minho), Isabel Morán Cabanas (professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela) and Anabela de Figueiredo Costa (director of the Francisco de Sá de Miranda municipal library), considers this a “book of great literary maturity”.

The jury praised “the introduction to rock painting, in verses that are sometimes dense, sometimes imbued with a touching simplicity, as an implicit interrogation of the human condition, guided by an innocent, but far from naïve, gaze that only the memory of childhood conveys in its primordial purity”.

José Tolentino Mendonça’s book of poetry, “Introduction à la peinture rupestre”, comprises 19 poems, some of which refer to his childhood, and includes the text “À qui tu laisses ton or” (“To whom you leave your gold”).

The author, a Catholic priest currently in charge of the Holy See’s Department of Culture and Education, after having been in charge of the Apostolic Library and the Vatican Archives, dedicates “Introduction à la peinture rupestre” to his mother.

The journey through the Catholic Church seems to run parallel to the stages of poetry.

José Tolentino Mendonça, elevated to cardinal by Pope Francis in 2019, published his first collection of poems, “The Counted Days”, in the year of his priestly ordination in 1990.

Born in Machico, on the island of Madeira, Tolentino Mendonça has published around 45 titles, mainly poetry, but also essays, theater and theology.

As a writer, he has received several awards, including the City of Lisbon Poetry Prize (1998), the P.E.N. Clube Português/Ensaio (2005), the Inês de Castro Foundation Literary Prize (2009), Res Magnae (2015), the Portuguese Writers’ Association Chronicle Grand Prize (2016) and the Teixeira de Pascoaes Poetry Grand Prize (2016), as well as the Capri-San Michele (2017), “A life for. … passion!” from the Italian newspaper Avvenire (2018), the Cassidorio il Grande (2020) and the Coimbra University Prize (2021).

In 2020, he was awarded the European Helena Vaz da Silva Prize.

The priest and writer has also received two citations from the Portuguese state, from the Order of the Infanta, in 2001, and from Sant’Iago da Espada, in 2015.

The Autonomous Region of Madeira awarded him the Madeira Medal of Merit in 2019.

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