Dystopian Visions, Populism and the Return to Empathy in António Ladeira's Montanha Distante (2020) and Nuno Gomes Garcia's Zalatune (2020)

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Across the world, nationalism and populism are on the rise and wrap up debates about immigration, human rights, refugees and moral responsibility. Whilst nationalism ascertains who is in and out of a community, populism relies on the emotional appeal that common people need to overcome the disinterested and corrupted elite. What is particularly disturbing is the tendency for nationalist and populist policies to introduce legislation that infringes human rights and curbs the independence of the judiciary and democratic institutions, pillars of the rule of law. In this regard, dystopian speculative fiction warns readers about the possible outcomes of the present world by extrapolating key features of populist right-wing rhetoric. In this article I examine two recent novels by Portuguese writers António Ladeira and Nuno Gomes Garcia to show how they operate within what Tom Moylan defined as a critical dystopian narrative. I argue that António Ladeira’s Montanha Distante (2020) and Nuno Gomes Garcia’s Zalatune (2020) experiment the radical limits of the political and social practices of populist policies, showing their devastating result on the individual and his or her sense of community. I also contend that these dystopias offer a glimmer of hope by returning to the basic concept of empathy, the cornerstone of cohesive communities, able to face down the corrosive effect of cold and calculating populist policies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreating Through Mind and Emotions
EditorsMário S. Ming Kong, Maria do Rosário Monteiro, Maria João Pereira Neto
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherCRC Press | Taylor & Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780429299070
ISBN (Print)9780367279936, 9780367495381
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Publication series

PublisherTaylor & Francis


  • Critical Dystopia
  • Intellect
  • Empathy
  • Populism
  • Contemporary Portuguese Speculative Fiction


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