22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Pedro Rosa Mendes

Portrait Pedro Rosa Mendes
© Hartwig Klappert

Pedro Rosa Mendes was born in Cernache do Bonjadrin in Portugal in 1968. He studied law and went on to work as a journalist, for example, for the Portuguese newspaper »Publico«. He became known by his reports from war zones, for which he received the Feature of the Year Award twice. Pedro Rosa Mendes initially had mixed feelings on his way from being a war reporter to a writer: »I was afraid of changing my profession. It was a major challenge. But I was satisfied with the outcome. It was good to be able to reflect about all the things you cannot write about in a newspaper article.«

»Baia dos Tigres« (1998; tr.: Tiger bay) was his first novel. He describes a three-month journey from Angola to Mozambique in 1997. He, thus, travelled in a part of Africa, which the UN troops that had been deployed there had left only a few months earlier, because the situation was not safe. The civil wars had left entire areas in Angola that had more mines than people. When Mendes was taken prisoner during his journey, he experienced himself what it means when you have to fear disappearing without a trace, like so many others before him. He travelled in order to meet the people, whose individual fates remain invisible, in spite of the images we often see on TV. Yet, he never has a novelettish or exaggeratingly emphatic view of the »Third World«. Rather, he protects the dignity of the victims. In his texts, he mixes fictional stories and real events, and thereby reveals his very personal point of view and experiences. »Baia dos Tigres« is as much a travelogue as a novel and screenplay. It moves between genres and creates a linguistic cartography of Africa. The author cannot reach the Tiger Bay, which is cut off from the rest of the country, because of the war and the destruction and it becomes an ideal and a fantasy. For »Baia dos Tigres« and for »Peregrinação de Enmanuel Jhesus« (2010; tr.: The pilgrimage of Emmanuel Jhesus) the author received the prize of the Portuguese PEN Club. His second book describes the journey of the architect Alor through East Timor, and incorporates in the narrative important historical and political events, as well as theological debates or texts about the traditional martial arts of the island. The miniatures combined present an artfully composed portrait of the recent history of the country, from the Indonesian occupation up to independence in May 2002.

Together with the photojournalist Wolf Böwig, Rosa Mendes has been working on documentaries about the situation in West and Central African crisis zones. Their reportage »Schwarz.Licht« (2006; tr.: Black light) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Pedro Rosa Mendes lives in Lisbon.

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