Home > 2010, 21st Century, Novel, Pedro João Ricardo, Portuguese literature > Your Face Will Be the Last by João Ricardo Pedro

Your Face Will Be the Last by João Ricardo Pedro

October 27, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

Your Face Will Be the Last by João Ricardo Pedro (2012) French title: La main de Joseph Castorp. Translated from the Portuguese by Elisabeth Monteiro Rodrigues.

I’m a little embarrassed with this billet. Your Face Will Be the Last by João Ricardo Pedro is not available in English. The original is in Portuguese and it’s been translated into French, Dutch and Italian. If anyone stumbling upon this entry has read it, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought about it. Because I’m totally baffled by it.

João Ricardo Pedro throws us head first in a family history. It opens with a murder in an isolated village in Portugal. Celestino is found dead and his friend, the doctor Augusto Mendes recalls how Celestino came to the village decades before. From there we wander into the doctor’s family tree and the history of Portugal. We discover how he came to live in this isolated village and how he met his wife, we hear about his son Antonió and his wife, his grandson Duarte. We go back and forth between the village and Lisbon. We are rolled around from one decade to the other with no real way to understand where we are apart from some light clues about Duarte’s age or an allusion to a historical event. Or maybe there are clues obvious to a Portuguese reader that I totally missed.

It left me puzzled, unable to set the story straight in chronological order in my head. On top of that, there’s a mystery around Duarte’s love for the piano, weird friendships and a vague link to Austria. I was totally lost.

Sure, the novel mentions major political events for Portugal in the 20th century. We guess that this family has been hit by the Salazar dictatorship (Duarte’s mother never talks about her dead parents) and has been deeply affected by the long colonial war in Angola. But it’s so messy that I got lost. I felt like walking in circle in a forest with no clue of how to make sense of what I was reading. Duarte is a very strange character that I couldn’t understand and till the end, I remained outside of the book, reading with a mind hovering over what I was reading but never immersed in the story. I never felt I was there with the characters but still wanted to know how it would end.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good novel from a literary point of view, it just didn’t work for me. It left me with the disagreeable feeling that I missed a major clue to understand it all. So I’d be grateful for explanations from readers who have read it. It’s almost German Lit Month, so Licht, mehr Licht, please!

  1. October 27, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    I had never heard of this author before, so I googled him. This novel won the Leya Award, which is awarded to an unpublished author. From what I know, anyone who hasn’t had a book published can send a novel to be evaluated by a jury. The winner has the book published and also receives a monetary prize.
    Maybe he won because of the idea behind it and not so much because of the final result…

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    • October 28, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      In my book it is said that the LeYa prize is one of the most prestigious literary prize in Portugal. I’ve never heard of it, so I can’t comment.
      If you’ve never heard about this book, I suppose it wasn’t such a huge success.
      I wonder what you’d make of it, if it is easier for a Portuguese reader.

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      • October 29, 2017 at 12:09 am

        It’s a well-known prize and it may be helpful for new authors. I remember this Prize was quite spoken about when the winner was Afonso Reis Cabral, because Eça de Queirós (author of many Portuguese classics) was his great-grandfather. But I would say the most prestigious one is the Camões Prize, although it’s not awarded to a specific book but to the entirety of an author’s work. Other prestigious literary award is the José Saramago Prize, which distinguishes a book by an author younger than 35 years old I think.

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        • October 29, 2017 at 3:56 pm

          Thanks for the explanations, that’s useful to know when exploring foreign lit.

          Liked by 1 person

      • October 29, 2017 at 12:11 am

        I may give it a try to see if I like it!

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  2. October 27, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    Enigmatic novels can be frustrating. I usually do not read online commentary while I am reading a book but will do if I feel that I am stumped. Fiction that is “messy” and disorganized can be tough.

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    • October 28, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      I hate it when I have the feeling that I can’t find the key to understand a novel. And then I think that it shouldn’t be that way, that the book should speak for itself.

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  3. November 3, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    When I read Nora Roberts by Colm Toibin there were times when it was evident that a historical allusion would have fixed events fairly firmly for an educated Irish reader but where I was none the wiser. I suspect (as you suspect) that you may have run into a similar issue here.

    It is possible that the author was going for a more impressionistic portrait of a life and that chronology was therefore deliberately unclear due to being therefore less important?

    I’m guessing blind here obviously.

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    • November 4, 2017 at 8:21 am

      I haven’t read Nora Roberts but it seems to be a similar experience.

      I wouldn’t say it’s an impressionistic, I’d say more of a Hercule Poirot thing without the final library meeting. You know, lots of details here and there that you feel are relevant of something, you expect some revelation at some point but the ending left me with all my questions. I felt like I should have understood something big but totally missed it.

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