Joel Neto was born on Terceira Island and, after a few years on the mainland, he has returned to dedicate himself solely to literature.
Joel Neto is the author of more than two dozen volumes of different genres, including Archipelago (novel, 2015), A Vida no Campo (diary, 2016), Meridiano 28 (novel, 2018) and A Vida no Campo: The Years of Maturity, vol. II (diary, 2019), which reached the tops of sales and the outcry of critics. He has books and short stories translated into several languages and regularly publishes in Portuguese and foreign anthologies and literary magazines. Since 2012, he has lived in Dois Caminhos, a parish in Terra Chã, where he has a garden, an orchard and two dogs.
We all remember that we are on active volcanoes – asleep but alive.
I slide the room’s curtains, in the window overlooking the channel, and there it is: the Mountain. It rises, majestic in the soft, gentle silence of a summer morning. All around, the sun celebrates it above all else, extending the sea, the islands and the birds (always the birds) in its reverence.
No other point in Portugal, or even in the Azores, offers the feeling of an archipelago similar to what you have here. This afternoon we will go down to Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo, winding through the valley that runs from Serra do Topo, and Terceira and Graciosa will rise in front of us – exulting under this same warm and festive sun or sulking by behind a thick fog, we cannot yet know. Here, in Urzelina, it is impossible to escape these. Pico, monumental and hardened by centuries of whale hunting and vine cultivation. Faial, gracious and cosmopolitan, acculturated by decades of navigation and telegraphy. And above both, majestic, the Mountain.
Could the landscape of the Azores, its strength and redemption, have shown the disgraced what they were? Would men have been allayed here, if they could ever have known this hope?
Tell us something you've seen that you've never seen before.
I had never seen Graciosa and Terceira from the north coast of São Jorge so clearly. I've been to São Jorge dozens of times and the fog had never allowed me to really see it. One more demonstration that meteorology is one of the islands great instruments to reinvent themselves at every moment.
Was there a particular meal that stuck in your memory?
A grilled octopus at Peter, in Horta. I always thought that Terceira cooked octopus like nowhere else in the Azores, and in fact I never looked at Peter as a real restaurant. Shame on me.
What was your favorite moment of this trip?
Homecoming. In all my travels, homecoming is the best moment. I leave precisely to be able to return. And, when it comes to the Azores, this moment is always perfect: the Azores Archipelago comes with us.
If you had to recommend the Azores to friends, what would you say?
That this is the last paradise on Earth. I'm a writer: ahyperboles help me. And yet, I challenge you to find another one like this.