Angolan author Vieira refuses Portugal's top literature award
May 25, 2006, 16:51 GMT
Lisbon - Portuguese cultural circles were Thursday baffled by Angolan author Jose Luandino Vieira's refusal of the 100,000-euro (128,000-dollar) Camoes Prize, regarded as the literature Nobel of the Portuguese-speaking world.
Vieira, 71, who criticized Portuguese colonial rule in Angola in his books, said Wednesday he did not want the coveted award for 'personal and intimate reasons.'
Sculptor Jose Rodrigues, a friend of Vieira's, said he lived 'like a Franciscan' monk, detached from all material concerns, in an empty convent owned by Rodrigues in Vila Nova de Cerveira in northern Portugal.
He spent his time writing, walking on the mountains and talking to passers-by and animals, the sculptor added.
Vieira had made ironic comments about the prize money, according to Rodrigues.
The sculptor also said Vieira had probably wanted to avoid 'the noise and media racket that winning such a prize implies.'
Vieira was the first person to refuse the Camoes Prize, which is granted by Portugal and Brazil. His reaction took the two countries by surprise, leaving them uncertain about what to do with the prize money.
Portuguese Culture Minister Isabel Pires de Lima finally announced Portugal would give its half of the award to the ministry's international affairs department.
Born in Portugal, Vieira moved to Angola with his parents at age three, and wrote in a language mixing Kimbundu and Portuguese.
In 1965, Vieira won the Portuguese Writers' Society's literature award for the short story collection Luuanda while in jail on the Cape Verde Islands over his opposition to Portuguese colonial rule in Angola.
He never received the award, because Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's dictatorship dissolved the writers' association for paying tribute to an independence campaigner. Angola became independent in 1975.
Vieira's best-known work is Luuanda, translated into English under the same title, which describes precarious life in Angolan shantytowns.
Named after Portuguese poet Luis Camoes (1524-1580), the Camoes Prize has been awarded annually since 1989. It has previously been given to two Africans, Mozambican Jose Craveirinha in 1991 and Angola's Pepetela in 1997.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur