Maria Gabriela Llansol

Biography

Maria Gabriele Llansol
Maria Gabriela Llansol, 1994 (Courtesy of  João Barrento, Espaço Llansol)

Born in Lisbon 1931 into a bourgeois family of Spanish origin, Maria Gabriela Llansol published extensively for over forty years: 23 novels, three diaries, seven translations into Portuguese (Rilke, Verlaine, Rimbaud and Apollinaire, to name just a few), and many other texts. She was one of the very few writers to win the prestigious APE (Portuguese Writers’ Association) best novel prize twice: in 1990 (with Um Beijo Dado Mais tarde) and 2007 (with Amigo, Amiga – Curso de Silêncio 2004).

Llansol was only 24 years old when she published her first collection of short stories Os Pregos na Erva (1962); 10 years later Depois de os Pregos na Erva (1973), another collection of stories mostly written in the late 1960s, appeared. However, Llansol never wanted to discuss or to republish these first two books, purportedly rejecting them as too conventional, too ‘narrative’, and claiming O Livro das Comunidades (1977), her third opus and first volume of The Trilogy of the Rebels, as the origin of her literary career.

During Salazar’s dictatorship, in 1965, Llansol abandoned Portugal and her Law degree, and moved to Belgium, with her husband Augusto Joaquim, who was a conscientious objector to the Portuguese colonial wars in Africa. In Belgium, first in Louvain, then Jodoigne and Herbais, Llansol worked in a community school for foreign children. These children could not entirely communicate with each other as they spoke different languages. However, the school taught them to embrace a communitarian life (how to read, to write, to plant and to sew). These experiences fostered a different relationship between the children and the tutors: they no longer needed the same language in order to communicate. To Llansol, this was the first vision of a polyphonic, transnational community and her involvement in the Ferme Jacobs school led her to initiate the literary project O Livro das Comunidades.

She established herself as a singular voice in Portuguese literature by creating, book after book, a literary cartography with a series of European references (historical, literary, musical), to which she gave radical and innovative continuity. O Livro das Comunidades introduced the primary figures of this community (the ‘fictional’ Ana de Peñalosa, and the ‘real’ San Juan de la Cruz, Nietzsche and Thomas Müntzer). San Juan and Nietzsche became the textual ‘father’ figures of the community and many more figures joined the nomadic exile of a group of rebels in this ‘edenic space’, which could be read as a metaphor for the European continent: Bach, Fernando Pessoa, Luís de Camões, Santa Teresa d’Ávila, Robert Musil, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Hadewijch, Eckhart, among many others. These figures became part of Llansol’s literary universe. But in order to develop an absolutely original text, Llansol presented a series of concepts which defied existing literary structures and theoretical paradigms (for instance, in the place of a ‘character’ she evoked the ‘figure’).

Having been compared to writers such as Maurice Blanchot, Clarice Lispector and Marguerite Duras, Llansol denied the assumption that her writing is difficult: ‘I keep being told that this text is difficult and fascinating _______________ I wished so hard for people to see the thought it holds’. Lines such as ‘____________’ and great fragments of space ‘[             ]’ are common in her texts. The visual fragmentation of the text is performed by en-dashes, lack of a narrative plot and linguistic jigsaw puzzles (play on words creating visual impact). The procedure of cutting the text in half or presenting gaps, omissions, and long lines, possibly to be filled by the reader or left unsaid, both invite and reject, host and abandon, the reader, divided in her/his own anxiety of facing a text that is not at all conventionally narrative.

Llansol published three diaries – Um falcão no punho (1986), Finita (1987) and Inquérito às quatro confidências (1996) – that became intimate dialogues with her works. They registered the author's daily routine but enhanced both the nomadic character of her texts and the intimate encounter of the writer with nature. From her texts, we know that she had no children, and she demonstrated how both her works and real life were guided by the principle of nature and women working together towards the blurring of the boundaries between the human, vegetable and animal realms.

She returned to Portugal in the mid-1980s and lived in Sintra until her death in 2008. In 2007, Association Espaço Llansol was created, which has been extremely active in promoting the Llansolian oeuvre, particularly since the author’s death, organizing conferences and supporting publications in Portugal, Brazil and France. Espaço Llansol is also responsible for cataloguing and maintaining the author’s literary estate, and five diaries have been published posthumously.

When Maria Gabriela Llansol died in March 2008, Claire Williams wrote in the obituary in The Guardian that this was the loss of an author who ‘eschewed the literary conventions of her country’. The acknowledgement of Llansol’s forsaking of Portuguese literary conventions could only be explained by the fact that she was an ‘isolated figure in Portuguese literature’, an isolation provoked by her exile in Belgium for over 20 years, which physically separated her from a hypothetical community of writers in Portugal. Moreover, Llansol seemingly cultivated her own isolation, by her scant public appearances and interviews, and by her dense, erudite, and impenetrable text, which did not encounter a popular readership in Portugal. Her death sparked public and private reactions in the Portuguese media and academia – unprecedented attention for a writer whom the daily newspaper Público referred to as ‘almost secret’ (two years earlier, on one of her rare public appearances, the same paper had called her ‘discreet’). Throughout her career, Llansol drew around her a cohesive group of academics, researchers, artists, and simply passionate readers, and she is now widely studied in Portugal and in Brazil, as demonstrated by the large number of publications, theses and cultural performances that have appeared in the last decade. Although her books are not yet translated into English, there has been a surge in translations into French, Spanish, Italian and German, attesting to her growing international reputation.

Bibliography

Os Pregos na Erva (Lisbon: Portugália, 1962; 2nd edn Lisbon: Rolim, 1987)

Depois de os Pregos na Erva (Porto: Afrontamento, 1973)

O Livro das Comunidades (Porto: Afrontamento, 1977; 2nd edn Lisbon: Relógio d’água, 1999)

A Restante Vida (Porto: Afrontamento, 1983; 2nd edn Lisbon: Relógio d’água 2001)

Na Casa de Julho e Agosto (Porto: Afrontamento, 1984; 2nd edn Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 2003)

Causa Amante (Lisbon: A Regra do Jogo, 1984; 2nd edn Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 1996)

Um Falcão no Punho. Diário I (Lisbon: Rolim, 1985; 2nd edn Relógio d’Água, 1998)

Contos do Mal Errante (Lisbon: Rolim, 1986; 2nd edn Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2004)

Finita: Diário II (Lisbon: Rolim, 1987)

Da Sebe ao Ser (Lisbon: Rolim, 1988)

Amar um Cão (Colares: Colares Editora, 1990)

O Raio Sobre o Lápis (Lisbon and Brussels: Comissariado Europália, 1990; 2nd edn Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2004)

Um Beijo Dado Mais Tarde (Lisbon: Rolim, 1990)

Hölder, de Hölderlin (Colares: Colares Editora, 1993)

Lisboaleipzig 1: O Encontro Inesperado do Diverso (Lisbon: Rolim, 1994; 2nd edn Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2014)

Lisboaleipzig 2: O Ensaio de Música (Lisbon: Rolim, 1994)

Inquérito às Quatro Confidências: Diário III (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 1996)

A Terra fora do sítio (Lisbon: Expo-98, 1998)

Carta ao Legente (Belo Horizonte: Edições Duas Luas, 1998)

Ardente Texto Joshua (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 1999)

Onde Vais, Drama-Poesia? (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 2000)

Cantileno (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 2000)

Parasceve: Puzzles e Ironias (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 2001)

O Senhor de Herbais (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 2002)

O Jogo da Liberdade da Alma (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 2003)

O Começo de um Livro é Precioso (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2003)

Amigo, Amiga: Curso de Silêncio 2004 (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2006)

Os Cantores de Leitura (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2007)

Desenhos a Lápis com Fala: Amar um Cão (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2008)

Posthumous publications

Uma Data em Cada Mão: Livro de Horas I (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2009)

Um Arco Singular: Livro de Horas II (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2010)

Numerosas Linhas: Livro de Horas III (Jodoigne-Herbais, 1979-1980) (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2013)

A Palavra Imediata: Livro de Horas IV (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2014)

O Azul Imperfeito: Livro de Horas V (Pessoa em Llansol) (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2015)

Criticism

Arenas, Fernando: Utopias of Otherness: Nationhood and Subjectivity in Portugal and Brazil (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003, pp. 87-125)

Barrento, João: A Voz dos Tempos e o Silêncio do Tempo: O Projecto Inacabado da História em O Livro das Comunidades (Espaço Llansol: GELL, 2005)

—: Na Dobra do Mundo: Escritos Llansolianos (Lisbon: Mariposa Azual, 2008)

— [ed.]: O que é uma figura: diálogos sobre a obra de Maria Gabriela Llansol na Casa da Saudação (Lisbon: Mariposa Azual, 2009)

Barrento, João and Fenati, Maria Carolina [eds]: Europa em Sobreimpressão: Llansol e as dobras da história (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2011)

Barrento, João and Santos, Maria Etelvina: Llansol: A luminosa vida dos objectos (Lisbon: Mariposa Azual, 2012)

Branco, Lúcia Castello: Os Absolutamente Sós: Llansol, a Letra, Lacan (Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2000)

Branco, Lúcia Castello and Andrade, Vânia Baeta de [eds.]: Livro de Asas para Maria Gabriela Llansol (Belo Horizonte: UFMG, 2007)

Coelho, Eduardo Prado: ‘Maria Gabriela Llansol, o Texto Equidistante’ in A Noite do Mundo (Lisbon: INCM, 1988, pp. 99-103)

—: ‘A rapariga que temia a impostura da língua’ in O Cálculo das Sombras (Oporto: ASA, 1997, pp. 251-260)

De Medeiros, Paulo: ‘The Diary and Portuguese Women Writers’ (Portuguese Studies 14, 1998, pp.  227-241)

Eiras, Pedro: Esquecer Fausto: A Fragmentação do Sujeito em Raúl Brandão, Fernando Pessoa, Herberto Hélder e Maria Gabriela Llansol (Porto: Campo das Letras, 2005)

Fenati, Maria Carolina: Três Vazios: Leitura de Geografia dos Rebeldes de Maria Gabriela Llansol (Lisbon: Vendaval, 2009)

Guerreiro, António: ‘Texto Nómada de Maria Gabriela Llansol’ (Colóquio-Letras 91, 1986, pp. 66-69)

Helena, Lúcia: ‘A Figuração do Feminino em Maria Gabriela Llansol’ in Cleonice, Clara em sua Geração, ed. by Gilda Santos, Jorge Fernandes da Silveira and Teresa Cristina Cerdeira da Silva (Rio de Janeiro: UFRJ, 1995, pp. 382-388)

—:  ‘Lispector e Llansol: Um Encontro de Corpos de Escrita’ (Revista Tempo Brasileiro 128, 1997, pp. 19-26)

Joaquim, Augusto: ‘O Limite Fluído’ in Os Pregos Na Erva, by Maria Gabriela Llansol, (Lisbon: Rolim, 1987, 2nd edn, pp. 179-219)

—: ‘Algumas Coisas’ in Um Falcão no Punho, by Maria Gabriela Llansol (Lisbon: Relógio d’Água, 1995, pp. 153-204)

—: ‘Conversação Espiritual’ in Finita, by Maria Gabriela Llansol (Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, 2005, 2nd edn, pp. 237-242)

—: ‘Nesse Lugar’ in Livro de Asas para Maria Gabriela Llansol, ed. by Lúcia Castello Branco and Vânia Baeta de Andrade (Belo Horizonte: UFMG, 2007, pp. 193-225)

Lopes, Silvina Rodrigues: Teoria da Des-Possessão: Ensaios sobre Textos de Maria Gabriela Llansol (Lisbon: Black Sun, 1988)

—: ‘A Comunidade Sem Regra’ in Exercícios de Aproximação (Lisbon: Vendaval, 2003, pp. 201-235)

Morão, Paula: ‘Maria Gabriela Llansol: Notas Sobre uma Ficção Luminosa’ (Letras & Letras, 29, May 1990, p. 9)

Mourão, José Augusto: O Fulgor é Móvel : Em torno da Obra de Maria Gabriela Llansol (Lisbon: Roma, 2003)

Ribeiro, Raquel: ‘Maria Gabriela Llansol meets George Steiner: The Idea of Europe as a Llansolian Edenic Space’ (Ellipsis 6, October 2008, pp. 33-47)

—: ‘An “Intercommunion of Subjectivities”, or Restoring the Feminine and Nature: Reading Three Diaries by Maria Gabriela Llansol’ (Journal of Romance Studies 9.1, Spring, 2009, pp. 59–74)

—: ‘Marginal, Nomadic and Stateless: Pessoa, Musil and Kafka in the Works of Maria Gabriela Llansol’ in The Poetics of the Margins: Mapping Europe from the Interstices, ed. by Rossella Riccobono (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011, pp. 157-186)

—: ‘Imaginary Atlantic Islands:José Saramago’s Iberian Utopia and Maria Gabriela Llansol’s European “Communities”’ (Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 89.7, 2012, pp. 769-785)

Santos, Maria Etelvina: Como uma Pedra-Pássaro que Voa: Llansol e o Improvável da Leitura (Lisbon: Mariposa Azual, 2008)

Silva, Lígia: ‘Virginia Woolf and Gabriela Llansol: “Sweeping the Thick Leaves of Habit”’, in Virginia Woolf: Three Centenary Celebrations, ed. by Luísa Flora and Maria Cândida Zamith (Oporto: Universidade do Porto, 2007, pp. 155-164)

Silveira, Jorge Fernandes da: O Beijo Partido, Leitura de Um Beijo Dado Mais Tarde: Introdução à Obra de Llansol (Rio de Janeiro: Bruxedo, 2004)

Soares, Maria de Lourdes: ‘Clarice e Llansol: Cenas Fulgor da Escrita’ in Limites: Anais do 3º Congresso ABRALIC (São Paulo: EdUSP, 1995, pp. 245-252)

—: ‘O Diário de Llansol: a Ordem Figurar do Cotidiano’ in Um Corp’a’screver 2, ed. by Paulo de Andrade and Sérgio Antônio Silva (Belo Horizonte: FALE/UFMG, 1998, pp. 55-65)

—: ‘O Espaço Llansol: Sobreimpressão de Paisagens na Casa de Julho e de Agosto’ in Escrever a Casa Portuguesa, ed. by Jorge Fernandes da Silveira (Belo Horizonte: UFMG, 1999, pp. 179-193)

Soeiro, Ricardo Gil: A sabedoria da incerteza: imaginação literárias e poética da obrigação: Broch, Coetzee, Lispector, Llansol e Vila-Matas (Famalicão: Húmus, 2015)

Vaz, Carlos: Diários de um real-não existente: Ensaios Sobre os Diários de Maria Gabriela Llansol (Fafe: Labirinto, 2004)

Williams, Claire: ‘Speaking in Tongues: The Multiple Personalities of Maria Gabriela Llansol’ (Portuguese Studies 18.1, 2002, pp. 230-243)

—: ‘“A vida pós-dor”: Love and Loss in Maria Gabriela Llansol’ (Journal of Romance Studies 11.3, 2011, pp. 77-89)

Compiled by Raquel Ribeiro (Edinburgh)