Filho da mãe
Hugo Gonçalves

NOVEL | 2019 | 200 pages

As his 40th birthday approaches, Hugo Gonçalves receives his grandfather's will in a plastic bag. That day he embarks on a trip, both geographical and through memory, that he has postponed for decades. The first and main destination: the afternoon he received the news of his mother's death on March 13th 1985, when on his way home from elementary school.

For over a year, the author sought people and places, in order to recover what time and distance made him forget including what he didn’t even know about his mother. From the Algarve vacation of his childhood to the unruly years in New York, at every turn he searches for the splinters of mourning: cassettes with her voice, hospital hallways, the Catholic school, a scar on his leg, the escape from romantic love, the spiral of sex and drugs, or a road trip with his father and brother, thirty years after his mother's death.

This is a beautifully written personal investigation on the effects of loss on identity and character. It is a biographical account of illness, origins, family and growing pains once we get past the arc of existence in which we cease to fantasize exclusively with the future and we have to face the past.

In an attempt to reconnect with the mother he was never able to say goodbye to, and not knowing what he would find on the trip, Gonçalves learns at least one thing: anyone who wants to write about death, ends up writing about life.


RIGHTS: portuguese (portugal) COMPANHIA DAS LETRAS | portuguese (brazil) COMPANHIA DAS LETRAS

Of such honesty and courage that we never feel like a voyeur. It’s called intimacy and may very well be the last value remaining in this world.
— Joel Neto
A disturbing book that clings to the readers’ skin, written without any compromises.
— Fernando Alves, TSF
As the wise and brilliant sculptor of words Agustina Bessa-Luís says, ‘good books are those that make you uncomfortable.’ This book made me very uncomfortable.
— João Gobern
Filho da mãe is the intimate journey of a writer questioning himself and trying to understand how being orphaned made him into who he is.
— Carlos Vaz Marques, TSF
I am nearing the end of Filho da mãe by Hugo Gonçalves, and now that I want to write about it I’m having trouble doing so (...) I shouldn’t have put off what I could have written yesterday for today, but yesterday I also didn’t know where to begin...
This could be because I’ve known the author for many years, and the book is so personal that I feel like I’m violating that intimacy if I expose everything Hugo talks about here. But it could also be because, despite it being an extremely personal work, written in the first person to its very core, it’s a book where I found myself looking back at many pages — looking back at experiences and silences, the pain of loss and the mystery of memory, looking back at time and the country I grew up in (...)
— Filipe Santos Costa, Expresso
It is a story of memories (...) the second part of the novel is the most painful, the most poetic, the most piercing, that seems to have everyday, mundane words words and phrases — but read this book and you will realize that the second part is a masterful portrait that is cruel and ironic, but also intensely painful (...).
— Rádio Universitária do Minho
It treads sensitive ground, which is always the baseline. At the same time that it’s given to us with honesty and modesty, it is also open, gaping. This makes my job more difficult, because I feel ashamed about picking up a book that was so overwhelming to me but that at the same time was so intimate and sensitive that I want nothing more than what is already here.
— Luís Caetano, Antena 1