Sophia, celebrating the extraordinary literary journey

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A ground-breaking exhibition on Sophia's work in Porto from the writer's private library will be one of the highlights for the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, in Porto, in 1919.

Throughout the year 2019, several places will host this celebration, including the house where Sophia was born, the beach of Granja, the family's holiday getaway in the North and the Algarve, as Lagos was the destination for family holidays in the sixties. All these elements are significant constants in the poet's life and work.

As of 25 January, the Biodiversity Gallery, namely the Live Science Centre of Porto is home to a "never-before-seen" photo exhibition, installation and archive of documents from Sophia's personal library. The exhibit, themed "Pour ma Sophie", is organised by Oxana Ianin, and curated by Martim Sousa Tavares, conductor and Sophia's grandson.

"My grandmother's library was sort of scattered between two places, in 2015: some of it on shelves at the family's house in Meia Praia, in Lagos, where she found so much inspiration, and the rest was stored in boxes in Lisbon. During the summer holidays I started to take a real interest on these books and I observed that many of them were signed, with beautiful dedications, and that was how it started, the idea of actually doing something with them", described Martim Sousa Tavares.

The "thorough screening" extended till 2018, and the result was the unveiling of over three hundred books with dedications, offered by authors and artists, friends to Sophia, namely Teixeira de Pascoaes, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Arpad Szenes, Miguel Torga, Eugénio de Andrade, José Saramago, Agustina Bessa-Luís, Jorge de Sena, and Herberto Helder.

Besides these dedications immortalised in exclusive photos by Oxana Ianin, the exhibit also displays dozens of original manuscripts, letters, translations, essays and other hidden "treasures" from Sophia's own library for years.

"Essentially, this exhibit is based on these two elements: the books with dedications and the books that are memory keepers or even objects and secrets, as they reveal a part of Sophia's world, her way of being and how she engaged with books or people that were part of her life", explained Martim Sousa Tavares.

At year-end, all the materials that are part of the exhibition will be added to the legacy of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen in the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal [National Library of Portugal], as it is heritage of the Portuguese people.

The programme of activities will also include poetry sessions in Lisbon, and outside Portugal featuring conferences, concerts, shows, exhibitions and special editions, according to the organisation.

"Poetry is my understanding of the universe, my way of relating to things, my participation in reality, my encounter with voices and images. This is why the poem speaks not of an ideal life but of a concrete one: the angle of a window, the resonance of streets, cities and rooms, the shadow cast by a wall, a sudden face, the silence, distance and brightness of the stars, the night's breath, the scent of linden and of oregano", as Sophia explained.

Besides her work as a writer, she translated Dante and Shakespeare into Portuguese.

Click here for more information on the celebrations of Sophia's centenary.