Books to read before visiting Lisbon with your family
We are all living this global pandemic and the only safe travel is inside our minds. Virtual visits to museums and monuments are a good way to enjoy free time (if there is any left) visiting places you had planned to visit this year. But for a bookworm like myself, the best way to travel without leaving your couch is reading.
I’m sure you agree that most movies based on books are disappointing compared to their original books’ stories. Our brains can take us to several places, creating scenes with rich details even if we had never been there. Therefore, reading is a nice habit for the days of confinement. It is a great way to distract us a little bit from the news. After a month of confinement, we all need a little break from COVID-19 news and reading a book might help.
Reading book novels based in Lisbon is a great way to prepare yourself for a future trip to Lisbon. While getting involved with the story and characters you can get to know the city history, start getting familiar with the names of the most important places and the local culture.
I selected four Portuguese novels that take place in the Portuguese capital so that you become familiar with this wonderful city.
If you have the chance of reading the Portuguese edition of those books it would be is even better to start getting used to the style and vocabulary of the Portuguese people. Believe me, even if your mother tongue is Portuguese, the Portuguese language spoken in Portugal has some very marked differences concerning the Portuguese spoken in Brazil for example.
1. “Quando Lisboa tremeu”, Domingos Amaral (When Lisbon trembled, free translation)
In this novel, Domingos Amaral, a contemporary Portuguese journalist and writer, presents an adventure in the Lisbon of the great earthquake of 1755. The story begins on the morning of November 1, 1755, when a massive earthquake hit Lisbon, changing the lives of the five main characters of the book. As the story unfolds their paths will cross creating an involving plot. As we follow the characters experiences, we get to know the events of that fateful day and we are presented to Marques do Pombal, the politician that had a crucial role in Lisbon reconstruction. Domingos Amaral transforms the story of a catastrophe in a fun and informational story that helps the reader to understand the event that marked Lisbon history.
Unfortunately, this book is only available in Portuguese and Spanish.
2. History of the siege of Lisbon, José Saramago
José Saramago, the great Portuguese writer who owns a Nobel Prize, makes a parallel between Lisbon in the 1980s and Lisbon in 1147 when Lisbon was under the dominion of the Moors and was reconquered by the king D. Afonso Henriques with the help of the Crusades.
The book shifts the present, lived by Raimundo Silva, a proof-reader who has the job of proofread a book about the History of the Siege of Lisbon, and the past when the siege of Lisbon took place. As Raimundo looks through his window view and walks around his neighbourhood near the Castle, we can image the streets and the city atmosphere. In the passages that present the episode of the Siege, we are transported to the months in which King D. Afonso Henriques and his troops laid siege to the Moorish Lisbon to conquer it.
The book was published in several languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, among others). For all languages that the book has been published see https://www.josesaramago.org/historia-cerco-de-lisboa-1989/
3. The Maias, Eça de Queirós
In “The Maias”, the great Portuguese writer Eça de Queirós, uses his descriptive realism to criticize the Lisbon society of the nineteenth century.
“The Mayans” portrays the Saga of the Mayan family over three generations. The almost photographic descriptions of Eça de Queirós take the reader through streets and emblematic points of Lisbon, such as Largo de São Carlos, the “Passeio Público” (today Avenida da Liberdade), Cais do Sodré and Chiado.
Although I have not finished reading The Mayans yet, I couldn’t leave it off this list.
4. Enquanto Salazar Dormia, Domingos Amaral (While Salazar slept, in free translation)
In this novel, Domingos Amaral takes us to visit the Lisbon of World War II, when Portugal a neutral territory in the conflict, became the stage for many espionage actions, with spies from both sides, the Axis and the Allies, picking Lisbon for their conspiracies.
The book narrates the memories of the fiction character Jack Gil, a Portuguese-British spy whose mission was to dismantle the Nazi spy networks that operated throughout the country. As we follow Jack’s espionage and romance adventures, we travel through scenarios like Alfama, Ericeira, Estoril and Cabo de São Vicente.
Unfortunately, this book is only available in Portuguese, Polish and Italian.
I hope you enjoy the suggestions and have a nice reading!