I want to go to (back to) Portugal.
After spending four happy years living in the country, whenever I return my joy in the place and the people is undiminished.
To remind myself of its many wonders, I like to immerse myself in books about the place.
If you’re a Lusophile or willing to be converted, here are five portals to Portugal.
Sea of Straw
By Julia Sutton
This is a love story between two people and one country.
Insights on the Salazar regime in such recent history come as a shock, yet the reader basks in the sensory, detailed settings, the gradual growth of our characters and an awareness of being given a Technicolor vision of a time, a place and a human bond.
Night Train to Lisbon
By Pascal Mercier
In Night Train, a chance meeting with a Portuguese woman on a bridge provokes Gregorius, a Swiss teacher of Classics, to follow his curiosity.
It leads him to a book, ‘Um Ourives das Palavras’ (A Goldsmith of Words), written by Amadeu de Prado.
In an uncharacteristic act of spontaneity, Gregorius walks away from his life and boards a night train to Lisbon, just to discover more about the author.
‘A treat for the mind. One of the best books I have read in a long time.‘ Isabel Allende.
The Book of Disquiet
By Fernando Pessoa
To understand the adventurous spirit balanced by introspective nature of the Portuguese, you have to read Pessoa.
His philosophical notes and nuances are by turn wry and melancholy, much like listening to a fadista. Beautiful, painful and the definition of saudades.
“the sort of book one makes friends with and cannot bear to be parted with”
The High Mountains of Portugal
By Yann Martel
“Lost in Portugal.
Lost to grief.
With nothing but a chimpanzee.”
As ever, Yann Martel proves unpredictable in this odd combination of experiences, both human and animal.
Three short stories linked by theme and metaphor draw the reader into considering grief, meaning, history and the significance of communication.
By JJ Marsh
I know, it’s one of mine. But this book represents thanks, beijinhos and abraços to Portugal. It’s crime, of the character-driven kind, and all about what makes this country and culture so exceptional. It also has francesinhas. Oh yes. Come to Portugal – you won’t forget it.
“Like the great wines that appear in its pages I suspect this gem of a series will only improve with age.”
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