Exactly one year ago St. Orberose came to life. I had created other blogs before, on diverse topics, but none lasted too long and they no longer exist. I wasn’t comfortable with them and the results never met my expectations. I have always loved thinking and writing about books and literature, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to start another blog since I was never satisfied with the way they turned out. Then I discovered Wuthering Expectations’ Portuguese Reading Challenge, and I think that was a great motivation to make one more attempt. As someone who comes from an endangered literature, I’m always sensitive and thankful to those who take the time to read it. And Tom had written some excellent posts that I enjoyed reading; we both shared a love for Eça de Queiroz, and he inspired me to write a short biography of this great novelist with brief commentary about all his novels. And this is how St. Orberose’s first post was born. Since then this blog has been a serene place where I post whatever I want about books and related topics. I never had an overarching plan for it.
It comes as no surprise that Portuguese literature has become a major part of the blog’s identity. In this age of specialization, of niches and obscure tastes, everyone tries to leave a mark by their difference. So some people review Spanish-language books; others have a penchant for French literature; some are into African literature; still others have made the 19th century their playground. For my sins, I realized Portuguese literature was the only unique thing I had to offer. So several posts about Eça followed after the first one, and I had a great time writing about him and sharing my findings – in some cases facts I was recently discovering – with the readers. Another writer I also liked writing about was Fernando Pessoa: my writing for the blog coincided with my reading of the three heteronyms; I had previously sampled them here and there, but for the first time I read them from cover to cover, and I shared my opinions on three posts. I also loved writing about Raul Brandão’s Húmus; he was a writer I discovered the previous year and the novel left a lasting impression. The novel is one of the few I truly regret my readers can’t read since I think it’s one of the best things ever written. My five posts were really nothing more than translations of passages with brief commentaries tacked on. Perhaps the apex of all this writing about Portuguese literature was the José Saramago month in November. I had never done anything like it before, and I think the final result was rather good. Writing about my favourite writer is a pleasure and reward in itself, but I’m glad to know that here and there some readers were seduced to try him out too, and that makes me very proud and thankful.
Ironically, Portuguese literature is but a small part of what I read every year; in fact I probably read more of it in 2012 exactly to keep the blog fresh with unknown books. Most of my favourite writers are outside Portugal, all over the world, and St. Orberose has been nothing but a mirror of my interests: Dario Fo, Philip Roth, Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka are amongst the authors I wrote most about, and they form a reliable picture of my literary tastes. Obviously they’ll continue to be part of the blog in 2013.
Thanks to St. Orberose I also had the pleasure of discovering and becoming part of a community of fascinating and intelligent book blogs that have enriched my life and reading habits with their sensible reviews, discussions and recommendations for my ever-growing TBR lists. Almost every day I discover a remarkable new blog that teaches me something new about books. Some even got me to join a few challenges along the way: the African Reading Challenge, the European Reading Challenge, and the German Literature Month – it was very good being part of them. I like to think I have established good relationships with a few of these bloggers.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep doing this, how much longer I’ll continue to have the will and the time to write about books, if my personal life in the future will permit me. But I plan to keep going as long as possible.
Thanks to everyone who followed St. Orberose during the previous year!