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Additional Information
ISBN: 9781949641219
Pages: 184
Size: 4.5"x7"
Publication Date: October 12, 2021
Distributed By: Publishers Group West

Empty Wardrobes

by Maria Judite de Carvalho
Translated from Portuguese by
Margaret Jull Costa
$14.95

“Maria Judite de Carvalho will always be at the forefront of Portuguese literature, whether now or in two or three generations’ time.” —A Capital

“Maria Judite de Carvalho’s fiction…provides us with a vivid portrait of our times, especially in the strange, slippery area of everyday life…” —Expresso

For ten years Dora has ritualistically mourned her husband’s death, which forced her to rely on support from old friends and acquaintances. Her beloved husband, a “Christ” so principled he rejected any ambition whatsoever as a construct of a corrupt society, succeeded only in leaving Dora and their daughter with nothing. When her mother-in-law reveals a shattering secret about their marriage one night, Dora’s narrative of her own life is destroyed. Three generations of women—Dora, her daughter, and mother-in-law—must navigate a world that has been shaped by the blundering men off in the distance, figures barely present who nonetheless define the lives of the women they would call mother, wife, or lover.

Narrated through the gritted teeth of an acquaintance, Empty Wardrobes—Maria Judite de Carvalho’s cutting 1966 novel, translated from Portuguese for the first time by Margaret Jull Costa and introduced by Kate Zambreno—is a tale of how
women, however experienced with the whims of men, however confident that the old ways have passed, are trapped within the quiet devastation of a patriarchal society and preyed upon by the ambient savageries that perch in its every crevice.

Praise

“Maria Judite de Carvalho will always be at the forefront of Portuguese literature, whether now or in two or three generations’ time.” A Capital

“Maria Judite de Carvalho’s fiction…provides us with a vivid portrait of our times, especially in the strange, slippery area of everyday life…” Expresso

Maria Judite de Carvalho (1921-1998) is widely considered one of Portugal’s most important writers of the second half of the twentieth century. Born and educated in Lisbon, with a secondary education in France, Carvalho’s work spans painting, journalism, and fiction, with a specialization in the short story and novella forms.
Translator
Margaret Jull Costa has been a literary translator for nearly thirty years and has translated works by novelists such as José Maria de Eça de Queiroz, José Saramago, Fernando Pessoa, and Javier Marías, as well as the poetry of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen and Ana Luísa Amaral.
Excerpt

It was a spring day which, apparently at least, began and ended like any other spring day: that is what she would have said or, more likely, thought, because she was always a woman of few words. She never said more than was strictly necessary – the bare indispensable minimum – or else she would begin to say only what was necessary, then quickly grow tired, or stop mid-stream, as though she suddenly realized that it wasn’t worth going on and was a waste of effort. She would sit quite still then, her face a blank, like someone poised on the edge of an ellipsis, or standing hesitantly at the sea’s edge in winter, and at such moments, all the light would go out of her eyes, as if absorbed by a piece of blotting paper; for all I know, she may still be like that, because I never saw her again. For a long time, I failed to understand that these lapses into unconsciousness, which is what they were, invariably led her back to the same place, or, rather, to the same person, to the same tarnished image of that person, because, as I said, she was not a woman given to confessions. Words were of no use to her to explain her thoughts, to polish or disguise them, which is what most of us do. She would use them, and then only as a last resort, to say something urgent (I’m referring, of course, to the time before the party her daughter Lisa gave for her friends. After that, it would be another story). And when she absolutely had to speak, she would fall silent immediately afterwards (or, as I said earlier, stop halfway), and it wasn’t only the light in her eyes that was switched off then, for her body, too, would droop slightly, as if someone had turned off the current – which, however low-voltage, at least kept it active – as if her body had forgotten its original upright posture. When this happened, she wasn’t really there, although no one knew where she was or who she was with. In fact, such a thought probably wouldn’t occur to anyone, because her face betrayed none of this, only her eyes and her hands, but who would notice either her eyes or indeed her hands, which lay half-open on her lap, like shells washed up on the beach? Sometimes when I was with her, I thought that perhaps what she needed was a good shake or, better still, an x-ray, so that we could see if she did actually have more inside her than just lungs and a digestive system.