Many years ago, when I taught a studio class at Lisbon’s Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema, I challenged my students to bring in literary works that we could interpret as film exercises. I was deeply taken by one piece in particular—I wanted to hide it and bring it home so I could make a film of my own with it. I was surprised to find that its author was, as of then, still unpublished. His name was Gonçalo M. Tavares. At least 14 years went by without me working with that very cinematic text, but I did not give up.
Tavares began to be published widely and I continued wanting to adapt his writing for film. We worked together on a few projects, yet less often than I would have wished. Today, in Portugal, Tavares is an essential reference—he is read and respected widely and his presence literally interferes with our lives. He contemplates, filters, and analyzes our surroundings and returns to us tragicomic philosophical exercises, or unravels implausible scenarios that reveal his tireless exploration of the history of literature. Emotional landscapes are at the core of Tavares’s short stories and novels. With surgical precision, he contrasts and draws parallels between his characters’ feelings, which mirror our own. Upon reading Tavares’s work, we may discover that what we fear the most is learning about ourselves.