‘So Many People, Mariana’ by Maria Judite de Carvalho, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

In my view, a contender for the title of finest short story in existence. Mariana is a figure at odds with her environment and. more specifically, the deeply patriarchal world of Salazar’s Portugal. A Job-like figure, beset by misfortune, she is rebel, victim and accomplice, at times rebellious and, at others, complicit in her own sufferings. Carvalho’s assertion that loneliness can be a source of strength as well as of tragedy still feels revolutionary so many decades after its initial and controversial publication.

First published as ‘Tanta Gente Mariana’ in 1988. Translation in the anthology Take Six: Six Portuguese Women Writers, Dedalus, 2018. Also available in a translation by John Byrne in Professor Pfiglzz and His Strange Companion and Other Stories, Carcanet, 1997