Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Pedro Rosa Mendes, Portugal

"With each millimeter of soil I am confronted with the last moment of my life. As far as the eye can see. That’s why they only drive me around at night. To protect me. It’s supposed to suit me. Now it is night, and abundantly so. I am always nervous at night. My fear has gone, deserted me. It has become part of the terrain. There is no solidarity. Nothing. Nothing for me to embrace. That can be deadly. The earth, the streets, the savannah, the land: fear is like a map that we are forced to cling to.”

Freelance journalist and writer. Pedro Rosa Mendes was born in 1968 in Cernache do Bonjardim, Portugal. After studying jurisprudence at the University of Coimbra, he began to work as a journalist for the leading daily Público, mainly reporting on cultural events and foreign affairs. He has reported from a diverse number of countries, including Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe, Angola, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. Rosa Mendes was twice awarded the Feature of the Year Prize in Portugal for reportage, and in 2000 he was honored with the Lisbon Press Club's Bordalo, the most prestigious award for Portuguese journalists.

In 1999, Rosa Mendes published Baía dos Tigres (Publicações Dom Quixote), which describes a three and a half month journey from Angola to Mozambique, and depicts the destruction and degradation created by the civil wars, particularly in Angola. It is a landscape where more mines can be found than human beings, where the political relations of the parties in conflict are driven by rage. Shortly after its publication in Portuguese, the book won the award for best novel by the Portuguese Pen Club, and was subsequently translated into thirteen languages. In 2001, Baía dos Tigres was among the five finalists of the prestigious Étonnant Voyageurs Book of the Year Award in Saint Malo.

In November 2002, Pedro Rosa Mendes co-authored a book together with French illustrator Alain Corbel on civil society organizations in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe, and Cape-Verde, entitled Ilhas de Fogo. One year later, in 2003, Pedro Rosa Mendes published the novel Atlântico, with pictures by the prominent photographer João Francisco Vilhena. Some of his works have been translated into English, German, Spanish and French.

Pedro Rosa Mendes now works as freelance journalist. Over the course of the last two years, Rosa Mendes has traveled extensively throughout the Western African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau in preparation of a new book. He contributes with articles and essays to a variety of publications including Lettre International ("Bucht der Tiger", "Alptraum im Kannibalenland"), El País Semanal (Madrid), Terra Negra (Brussels), and Grand Street (New York). Besides his native language, Rosa Mendes also speaks fluent French, English and Spanish.

Pedro Rosa Mendes has two daughters and currently lives in Lisbon.


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"Literary reportage is linked to a long tradition which goes back to Herodotus. Travelling and writing about foreigners, distant, difficult, and unknown places is a necessity, because in some places people don’t have the luxury, the time, and the tradition of writing about their own culture."Abdourahman Waberi (jury member 2003 & 2004)