Euro 2016 - a reading list
Whether you love football or hate it, you've probably noticed that the European Championships are heading towards a thrilling conclusion in France. If watching the four remaining teams battle it out on the pitch doesn’t float your boat, you can always pick up a good book instead.
We’ve picked out a few of our favourite authors from the four countries that have reached the semi-finals France, Germany, Portugal and Wales. Some you will have heard of, others perhaps not, but hopefully you’ll find something to inspire you.
And we’ll see which country comes out on top in Sunday's final…
Born in Portugal in 1922 in the small rural village of Azinhaga, Saramago was in his fifties when he came to prominence as a writer with the publication of Baltasar & Blimunda.
Considered by many to be the finest Portuguese writer of his generation, he explored Portugal's troubled political identity throughout his enormous body of work, which included plays, poetry, short stories, non-fiction and over a dozen novels, translated into more than forty languages. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Try reading: The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
Luis Vaz de Camões
Considered by many to be the greatest poet of the Portuguese language, Luis Vaz de Camões’ verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil and Dante.
First published in 1572, The Lusiads is one of the greatest epic poems of the Renaissance. Camões travelled to the Red Sea, Persia and Mozambique and spent some years in Goa, India. After his return to Lisbon in 1572, he published The Lusiads recalling Vasco da Gama’s voyages of discovery - a work that became the national epic of Portugal.
Try reading: The Lusiads
Antonio Lobo Antunes
A novelist and doctor, Antunes published his first novel in 1979, having served in the Portuguese Army until 1974. He’s written over twenty-five novels, at least ten of which are currently available in English, and they tend to be quite weighty tomes. If you’re looking for a book to really immerse yourself in, he could be one to check out.
Try reading: What Can I Do When Everything’s On Fire?
Probably Portugal’s most well-known female writer, Jorge is considered a leading figure in the ‘post-Revolution Generation’, a new wave movement in Portuguese literature.
Her musical writing uses repetition to play with time and memory. Despite being award-winning and critically-lauded, Jorge’s work is surprisingly hard to find in English.
Try reading: The Painter of Birds
The third National Poet of Wales and one of the country’s most distinctive voices, having published numerous collections for adults and children. Brought up speaking only English, she then learnt Welsh as an adult, and her first collection Snow on the Mountain was published in 1971. Her work is now widely studied by GCSE and A Level students in Britain.
Try reading: Selected Poems
Quite possibly Wales’ most famous son, the poet and writer Dylan Thomas was born and raised in Swansea but spent much of his life in New Quay and Laugharne.
He wrote poems, short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself. His public readings in America were highly acclaimed, and his mellifluous voice was celebrated in his numerous radio broadcasts.
Thomas' most celebrated works include Under Milk Wood, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and A Child's Christmas In Wales.
Try reading: The Collected Poems
Roberts was one of the most significant Welsh-language authors of the 20th century and the first woman to be recognized as a major figure in the history of Welsh literature.
A novelist, short-story writer and journalist, she was born and brought up in Rhosgadfan, near Caernarfon, in North Wales, and her work reflects the hardships, stoical dignity and determination of the working men and women she grew-up with.
Try reading: Feet In Chains
Born in Cardiff, Follett was a reporter at the South Wales Echo after leaving university and said his love of literature was sparked by visits to the Cowbridge Road Library in Cardiff, which he joined when he was seven.
He has had an incredibly successful career writing thrillers and historical novels, beginning with the international bestseller Eye of the Needle. His 2012 novel Fall of Giants, features a coal mining family based in part on his grandfather’s experience of working in the pits from the age of thirteen.
Try reading: Fall of Giants
A novelist, short story writer and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. He fled to Switzerland in 1933 as Hitler’s rise to power began, before moving to the USA in1939, and he made a series of anti Nazi speeches that were broadcast in the UK. He returned to Switzerland in 1952 and died a few years later.
Try reading: The Magic Mountain
The Brothers Grimm
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born during the 1780s in Hanau, Germany. After studying law, they worked as diplomats and librarians before being dismissed from their professorships for refusing to swear allegiance to the new King of Hanover. They were later invited to join the Academy in Berlin, by Frederick William IV of Prussia, where they remained for the rest of their lives. The brothers were two of the greatest scholars that Germany has produced. Aside from their folktales, they produced many different volumes of research, as well as anthologies of verse and song.
Try reading: Grimms' Fairy Tales
Rainer Maria Rilke
Despite being born in Prague, Rilke makes this list for his enormous contribution to German-language poetry in the twentieth century. He looked to expand the realm of poetry through new uses of syntax and imagery and in the philosophy he explored through his poems. His most famous poems are Sonnets to Orpheus and The Duino Elegies.
Try reading: The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
Though The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, a bizarre post-modern detective novel set in a 1930s London film studio, was first published in 1937, the true identity of its author remained a mystery until 1974 when it was discovered that the well-known German sexologist, jazz musician and critic Ernest Borneman was 'Cameron McCabe'.
The nineteen-year-old Borneman wrote The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor after he arrived in England from Nazi Germany in 1933. He was a Communist Party member and, when it became unsafe for him to be in Germany, he was smuggled out disguised as a member of the Hitler Youth.
Try reading: The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor
Philosopher, author, and journalist, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. He was also a promising goalkeeper, although his sporting career was cut short after contracting tuberculosis at 17. Football’s loss was absurdism’s gain, as he became a leading writer in the rise of this philosophy. He died in 1960 following a car accident, and his body was found with a train ticket in his pocket; it was only at the last minute that he had decided to accept a lift from his friend rather than travel by rail.
Try reading: The Plague
Simone de Beauvoir
De Beauvoir is best known for her book The Second Sex, one of the most important works of 20th-century feminism. First published in 1949, De Beauvoir’s ground-breaking work of feminism drew on sociology, anthropology and biology to challenge ingrained beliefs about femininity and argue for gender equality.
Try reading: The Second Sex
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, born in Lyon in 1900, was a French writer and aviator. He is best remembered for The Little Prince, and for his books about aviation adventures. In 1921 he began his military service and trained as a pilot, going on to become one of the pioneers of international postal flight. At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the French Air Force flying reconnaissance missions until the armistice with Germany. Following a spell writing in the United States, he joined the Free French Forces. Then on 31 July 1944, he went on a mission to collect information on German troop movements in the Rhone valley and was never seen again. It was assumed that he was shot down over the Mediterranean.
Try reading: The Little Prince
Victor Hugo is one of the most well regarded French writers of the nineteenth century. He was a poet, novelist and dramatist, and he is best remembered in English as the author of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables.
Hugo was born in Besançon, and became a pivotal figure of the Romantic movement in France, involved in both literature and politics. His literary output was curtailed following the death of his daughter in 1843, but he began a new novel as an outlet for his grief. Completed many years later, this novel became Hugo's most notable work, Les Misérables.
Try reading: Les Misérables
Of course we're only scratching the surface of the literature that has been produced by these four nations and we'd love to hear about your favourite French, German, Welsh and Portuguese authors too. Get in touch on Twitter @PicadorBooks.
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