Maria Judite de Carvalho (18 September 1921-19 January 1998) remains one of Portugal’s most important women writers of the second half of the 20th century. A gifted painter and caricaturist, her professional career was spent in journalism, as an editor and columnist, and she translated a number of French works into Portuguese. As a creative writer, she excelled at the short story and novella, though she also wrote a novel, poetry and a play. She was born and educated in Lisbon, with secondary education at the French College for girls and an undergraduate degree in Germanic Philology at the University of Lisbon. In 1949 she married a fellow student, Urbano Tavares Rodrigues, writer, critic, and steadfast opponent of the Salazar regime. They started married life that year in Montpellier, France, where Rodrigues taught at the university. Their daughter was born in Lisbon in 1950, and Carvalho returned to France in 1952 when her husband took up a new post in Paris. Among the literary and artistic contacts they made there were Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, and Vieira da Silva. In 1955, Carvalho and Rodrigues returned to Portugal and Lisbon remained Carvalho’s home for the rest of her life.

She published her first story, ‘O Campo de Mimosas’, in 1949 in the Portuguese women’s magazine, Eva, and, from 1953 onwards, a number of crónicas [newspaper columns]. Back in Lisbon, her first collection, Tanta Gente, Mariana, comprising a novella and seven short stories, was ready to go press in 1955; on its publication in 1959, it made an immediate critical impact. Over her lifetime, Carvalho published eight further volumes of stories, a novel, and two collections of crónicas written over a professional career spanning the years 1968 to 1984. A volume of poems and a play were published posthumously. Six times a literary prize-winner, she was also honoured posthumously with the Vergílio Ferreira Prize for her lifetime achievement.

Carvalho was a writer of great concision and restraint. Her characters, mainly urban middle class, appear to lead ordinary, uneventful lives, composed of home, school, office, and cafés. These environments are described realistically: she has the trained observation of a painter, watching from the sidelines. The psychology, motives, words and deeds of her characters are relayed through an ironic narrator. When not detached, the first-person viewpoint is ruthlessly honest. To read her stories is to enter the limited, frustrated world of the Portuguese authoritarian regime (which came to an end in 1974, but the social effects of which lingered on for decades). Here, the prohibitions, secrecy and fear of outside influences have imprinted on her protagonists a frustration or self-imposed repression that, however, are never explicitly linked to Salazar’s New State. She was a writer of hints, of glancing remarks, of social criticism, who left the reader to fill in the narrative and emotional gaps. As a newspaper editor and columnist, she faced actuality on a daily basis. She saw the changes, slow and halting, in women’s domestic and professional roles as the 1960s got under way. But she also understood the pitfalls of modernisation, the potential dehumanising of technological innovations, the pressures of consumerism on people, particularly women, insufficiently educated to counter them with the irony and maturity she herself possessed. In that regard, her crónicas are as much education as entertainment.

Carvalho, Tanta Gente, Marianna Book Cover
The front cover of Carvalho's 'Tante Gente, Marianna'

Tanta Gente, Mariana set the tone of all her subsequent work. Seen here are the great thematic constants: isolation, loneliness, frustration, disappointment, the passage of time, bitter memories, and the inability to communicate. Like Mariana, the protagonist of the novella of the title, Carvalho depicted men and women as islands, even when in the company of friends or of their closest partners. Another constant impression is that of lives wasted. Some of her (typically) early 1930s female protagonists are passive and have allowed an unsatisfactory relationship to drift on over the years. Devoid of guile or manipulation, they remain an accessory rather than the central fact of their men’s lives, and suffer accordingly. Right from the start, Carvalho showed uncanny perception about old people and their gradual socio-economic isolation. Here, it may be ventured, she drew on her familiarity with Simone de Beauvoir’s ideas, both in Le Deuxième Sexe and La Vieillesse. As Urbano Tavares Rodrigues revealed in an interview with Jane Pinheiro de Freitas (2011), Carvalho was deeply impressed by Le Deuxième Sexe, which she read when living in Paris, and she subsequently read all that Beauvoir published. It is not hard to see in the last collection of stories, Seta Despedida, the same sociological concerns as in La Vieillesse, nuanced by her imaginative insight into the attrition of time on human lives.

In only one collection, Os Idólatras (1969), did Carvalho turn her back on the past and memory, for a futuristic, fantasy world of the 21st century. This elicited a varied critical response, with João Gaspar Simões (1981) venturing that her creative genius lay with dissecting the absurdities of the world as it is, not in imagining a whole future, which in the nature of science-fiction precludes irony. In contrast, Alexandre Pinheiro Torres (1989) praised the collection as a strong indictment of capitalism, and Maria Alzira Seixo (1977) assessed the importance of Carvalho’s breaking her own boundaries.

Carvalho’s own rather sombre upbringing among elderly aunts, and a sequence of family bereavements – motherless at the age of eight, and then fatherless by the age of fifteen – undoubtedly influenced her outlook. Instinctively and temperamentally on the side of the melancholy and the overlooked, she depicted them without sentimentality; her sarcasm is directed at the thick-skinned, capable and pushy of this world, often a precocious teenage girl who knows she will be one of life’s winners.

Carvalho saw her last book, Seta Despedida, awarded several literary prizes. By this time, she was gravely afflicted with cancer. A woman of immense dignity, tenderness and reserve, she was not given to self-promotion or publicity. Her character is briefly evoked for us by Urbano Tavares Rodrigues, in a vignette entitled ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho, princesa da ironia’ (Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, 2015) and, with Paula Morão, in a ten-minute video presented by Teresa Sampaio (Ler Mais Ler Melhor. Vida e obra de Maria Judite de Carvalho, 2011).

Compiled by Juliet Perkins (London)


Tanta Gente, Mariana (Lisbon: Editora Arcádia, 1959 [printed 1955]; latest edn Lisbon: Ulisseia, 2010)

As Palavras Poupadas (Lisbon: Editora Arcádia, 1961; 4th edn Mem Martins: Europa-Améria, 1988)

Paisagem sem Barcos (Lisbon: Editora Arcádia, 1963; latest edn Mem Martins: Europa-América, 1990)

Os Armários Vazios (novel) (Lisbon: Portugália, 1966; latest edn Mem Martins: Europa-América, 1993)

O Seu Amor por Etel (Lisbon: Movimento, 1967)

Flores ao Telefone (Lisbon: Portugália Editora, 1968)

Os Idólatras (Lisbon: Prelo Editora, 1969)

Tempo de Mercês (Lisbon: Seara Nova, 1973)

A Janela Fingida [journalism] (Lisbon: Seara Nova, 1975)

O Homem no Arame [journalism] (Lisbon: Livraria Bertrand, 1979)

Além do Quadro (Lisbon: Edições ‘O Jornal’, 1983)

Este Tempo [journalism,  ed. by Ruth Navas and José Manuel Da Costa Esteves] (Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 1991)

Havemos de Rir? [theatre, preface by Luíz Francisco Rebello] (Mem Martins: Europa-América, 1998)

A Flor Que Havia Na Água Parada [poetry, preface by Eugénio Lisboa] (Mem Martins: Europa-America, 1998)

Seta Despedida (Mem Martins: Europa-América, 1995; latest edn Biblioteca Prestígio, 2001)

Diários de Emília Bravo ([ournalism, ed. by Ruth Navas (Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 2002)

English Translations of Carvalho’s Work

Translations into Foreign Languages


‘So Many People, Mariana’ [Translation of Tanta Gente, Mariana by John Byrne] in Professor Pfiglzz and His Strange Companion and Other Portuguese Stories, vol. 2 ed. by Eugénio Lisboa (Manchester: Carcanet Press in association with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation/Instituto da Biblioteca Nacional e de Livro, Instituto Camões, 1997)

 ‘Fingerprints’ and ‘Cold’ [Translation of ‘As impressões digitais’  and ‘Frio’ by Juliet Perkins] in StoryTelling: Memory, Love and Loss in Portuguese Short Fiction ed. by Ana Raquel Fernandes, Paul Melo e Castro and Patricia Odber de Baubeta, Texts Chimaera (Lisbon: Centro de Estudos Anglísticos da Universidade de Lisboa, 2016)


Anjos, Marlene dos, and Paula Lessa Oliveira, Fabiana de: ‘A Construção da personagem contemporânea em “George” de Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (Cadernos do CNLF 18.8, 2014, pp. 271-79)

Baptista-Bastos, [Armando]: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho: uma ternura magoada’ in Maria Judite de Carvalho: A Janela Fingida (Lisbon: Seara Nova, 1975, pp. 11-18)

Bárbara, Elisabete: ‘Do dizer e do voltar a dizer em Maria Judite de Carvalho: uma nova perspectiva’ (Forma Breve 2, 2004, pp. 221-26; available online at

Besse, Maria Graciete, Adelaide Cristóvão and José Manuel Da Costa Esteves [eds]: Maria Judite de Carvalho: Une écriture en liberté surveillée (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2012)

Baubeta, Patricia Odber de: ‘Quiet, Quiescent, Acquiescent: Representations of Women in Portuguese Literature’ (Tropelias: Revista de Teoria de la Literatura y Literatura Comparada 22, 2014, pp. 96-106)

Buescu, Helena Carvalhão: ‘Somos todos homines sacri: uma leitura agambiana de Maria Judite de Carvalho’ in Chiaroscuro: Modernidade e Literatura (Oporto: Campo das Letras, 2001, pp. 293-316)

Coelho, Jacinto do Prado: ‘Maria Judite: As Palavras Poupadas’ in Ao Contrário de Penélope (Amadora: Livraria Bertrand, 1976, pp. 275-278)

Costa, Maria da Graça Fróis: ‘La question de la souffrance féminine et ses modes de représentation chez Maria Judite de Carvalho’ in Les Voix des femmes dans les cultures de langue portugaise: penser la différence. Actes du colloque international du Séminaire d’Etudes Lusophones, 26-27 mars 2007 ed. by Maria Graciete Besse (Paris: Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2008); available online at

Esteves, José Manuel Da Costa: ‘Seta Despedida de Maria Judite de Carvalho: uma forma abreviada sobre a dificuldade de viver’ in Le Conte en langue portugaise ed. by Anne-Marie Quint, Centre de Recherche sur les Pays Lusophones-CREPAL Cahier No. 6 (Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1999, pp. 69-78)

—: ‘Une façon de dire adieu’ in Maria Judite de Carvalho: Une écriture en liberté surveillée ed. by Maria Graciete Besse, Adelaide Cristóvão and José Manuel Da Costa Esteves (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2012, pp. 35-43)

Fernandes, Ana Raquel: ‘In Less Than No Time: Maria Judite de Carvalho’s Tanta gente, Mariana’ (Luso-Brazilian Review 45.2, 2008, pp. 135-153)

Freitas, Jane Pinheiro de: ‘Tecendo por trás do real: a loucura assistida em “A imitação da rosa” de Clarice Lispector e “O aquário” de Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (Nau Literária 4.1, Jan-June 2008, pp. 1-9)

—: ‘La deuxième face de la Venus: femmes transgressives chez Maria Judite de Carvalho et Clarice Lispector’ in Les Voix des femmes dans les cultures de langue portugaise: penser la différence. Actes du colloque international du Séminaire d’Etudes Lusophones, 26-27 mars 2007 ed. by Maria Graciete Besse (Paris: Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2008); available online at

—:‘Visões do (des)encanto: um estudo sobre o feminino transgressor em Clarice Lispector e Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (PhD thesis, São Paulo: Universidade de São Paulo, 2011)

—: ‘A escrita feminina na voz de Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (REVELL: Revista de Estudos Literários da UEMS 4.2, 2013, pp. 53-61)

Freitas, Olívia Rocha: ‘A melancolia nas crônicas de Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (PhD thesis, Natal: Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, 2011)

Frier, David: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho’ in Dictionary of the Literature of the Iberian Peninsula, Vol. A-K, ed. by Germán Bleiberg, Maureen Ihrie and Janet Pérez (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993, pp. 322-327)

Lepecki, Maria Lúcia: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho: Circularidade da Acção, Procura da Palavra’ in Meridianos do Texto (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 1979, pp. 193-201)

Lisboa, Maria Manuel: ‘No Mother’s Daughter, or The Importance of Being Ernesto: Identity and Separation in Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (Portuguese Studies 12, 1996, pp. 106-132)

—: ‘Dying as an Art in Maria Judite de Carvalho: Doing It Exceptionally Well’ (Journal of the Institute of Romance Studies 6, 1998, pp. 277-288)

Lopes, Óscar: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho’ in Os Sinais e os Sentidos: Literatura Portuguesa do século XX (Lisbon: Caminho, 1986, pp. 131-135)

Machado, Álvaro Manuel: A Novelística Portuguesa Contemporânea, Biblioteca Breve 14 (Lisbon: Instituto de Cultura Portuguesa, 1977, pp. 60-63)

— (ed.): ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho’ in Dicionário de Literatura Portuguesa (Lisbon: Editorial Presença, 1996, pp. 106-107)

Navas, Ruth: (ed.): Maria Judite de Carvalho: Diários de Emília Bravo (Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 2002)

—: Leituras Hipertextuais das Crónicas de Maria Judite de Carvalho (Lisbon: Edições Colibri, 2004)

Novo,  Dulce Maria Pereira Tavares: ‘As Palavras Poupadas: o silêncio em Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (MA dissertation, Aveiro: Universidade de Aveiro, 2010; available online at

Oliveira, Daniela: ‘Voz silente: uma análise de As Palavras Poupadas, de Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (Forma Breve 3, 2005, pp. 281-295)

Oliveira, Renata Quintella de: ‘“Seta Despedida”: vivendo como quem se despede de si e da vida’ (Via Litterae 6.1, Jan-June 2014, pp. 121-142; available online at

Perkins, Juliet: ‘As Time Goes By: Old Age and the Elderly in Maria Judite de Carvalho’s Seta Despedida’ in As Time Goes By: Portraits of Age ed. by Joy Charnley and Caroline Verdier (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, pp. 101-120)

— : ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho: Introduction: The Richness of Reticence’ in StoryTelling: Memory, Love and Loss in Portuguese Short Fiction ed. by Ana Raquel Fernandes, Paul Melo e Castro and Patricia Odber de Baubeta, Textos Chimaera (Lisbon: Centro de Estudos Anglísticos da Universidade de Lisboa, 2016 [at press])

Rodrigues, Urbano Tavares: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho, princesa da ironia’ (Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho: 50 anos de vida editorial’; available online at

Seixo, Maria Alzira: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho: Os Idólatras e Tempo de Mercês’ in Discursos do Texto (Amadora: Livraria Bertrand, 1977, pp. 111-122)

—: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho: um tempo de integração’ in Para um estudo da expressão do tempo no romance português contemporâneo (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 2nd edn: 1987, pp. 175-202)

Serra, Pedro: ‘Máquinas da voz, máquinas da escrita: estética da ciência e da tecnologia na “cronística” de Maria Judite de Carvalho’ (Forma Breve, 8, 2010, pp. 43-55)

Silva, Cristiane Ivo Leita da: ‘Literatura e Imprensa: Maria Judite de Carvalho no Diário de Lisboa’ (Revista Athena, 7.2, 2014, pp. 57-68)

Simões, João Gaspar: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho: As Palavras PoupadasPaisagem sem BarcosOs Armários VaziosFlores ao TelefoneOs Idólatras’ in Crítica IV: Contistas, Novelistas e outros prosadores contemporâneos 1942-1979 (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 1981, pp. 279-301)

Torres, Alexandre Pinheiro: ‘Maria Judite de Carvalho e a barbárie do capitalismo’ in Ensaios Escolhidos I: Estudos sobre as Literaturas de Língua Portuguesa (Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 1989, pp. 141-146)

Williams, Suzan Bozkurt: ‘Voices from the Sidelines: The Crónicas of Inês Pedrosa and Maria Judite de Carvalho at the Intersection of Literary Canon and Journalism’ in Transcultural Encounters Amongst Women in Hispanic and Lusophone Art, Literature and Film ed. by Patricia O’Byrne, Gabrielle Carty and Niamh Thornton (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010, pp. 123-133)

Interviews/in the Media

Ler Mais Ler Melhor: Vida e Obra presented by Teresa Sampaio, with contributions from Urbano Tavares Rodrigues and Paula Morão (2011, 10 mins, illustrated) available online at