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Pereira Maintains
by Antonio Tabucchi

This short and relatively unknown novel is set in Lisbon during the rise of Fascism in Europe. The main character, Pereira, desires a life away from the machinations of politics. Yet he slowly becomes immersed in the politics of his country. The author writes elegantly and simply. The words, “Pereira maintains” (instead of ‘he said’) is a device that it might take awhile to get used to, but it is an artistic way to add an ominous tone. An important book by a fine writer.

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"Tabucchi now takes his place … as one of the great Continental rediscoveries for English-speaking readers in recent years.” Daily Telegraph

Pereira Maintains is small only in size. Its themes are great ones – courage, betrayal, fidelity, love, corruption – and its treatment of them is subtle, skillful and clear.” – Phillip Pullman

“Pereira maintains he met him one summer’s day. A fine fresh sunny summer’s day and Lisbon was sparkling. It would seem that Pereira was in his office biting his pen, the editor-in-chief was away on holiday while he himself was saddled with getting together the culture page, because the Lisboa was now to have a culture page and he had been given the job, But he, Pereira, was meditating on death. On that beauteous summer day, with the sun beaming away and the sea-breeze off the Atlantic kissing the treetops, and a city glittering, literally glittering beneath his window, and a sky of such blue as never was seen, Pereira maintains, and of a clarity almost painful to the eyes, he started to think about death.” Pereira Maintains, Canongate Books, 2011 edition.

The Maias
by Eça De Queirós

Reading The Maias offers a wonderful chance to be introduced to a great Portuguese writer. Interested in Portuguese society in the nineteenth century, the author uses realism and satire to dig deeply into the heart of his subject. In The Maias Eça describes a society far behind the rest of Europe, stuck in a kind of time warp. Critical of Portuguese society, he has fun with his characters and in so doing, provides a very rich landscape for us to discover. Lots of twists and turns and finely depicted characters.

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“On the basis of at least half a dozen books Eça ought to be up there with Dickens, Balzac and Tolstoy as one of the nineteenth century’s talismanic names.” – Jonathan Keates, Observer

“Slow-moving and elaborate, by modern tastes: but a founding work of modern Portuguese literature, hailed by José Saramago as a masterwork.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The Lisbon house into which the Maias moved in the autumn of 1875 was known in the neighborhood of Rua de Sao Francisco de Paula, and throughout the district of Janelas Verdes, as Ramalhete – the House of the Bouquet. Despite the evocative freshness of its name, Ramalhete was a somber mansion with gloomy walls, a row of narrow iron balconies on the first floor, and above them a line of small windows sheltering under the edge of the roof. It had the mournful look of an ecclesiastical residencexx.” – The Maias, Penguin Books, 1998 edition.

A General Theory of Oblivion
by José Eduardo Agualusa

I was not sure whether to include this in the Portuegese section or the Africa section of the website. Ludovica, the main character, is Portuguese, although she has relocated to Luanda in Angola, and this is where the narrative takes place. I doubt many of us will be traveling to Angola, however, this book covers the time of Independence from Portugal, and thus gives the reader the sense of what this historical event was like for both the colonizers and the native Angolans. Ludovica is based upon a true story of a woman who is afraid to leave her home. She walls herself in and continues to live and write closed off from the swirling world and events around her. This is an amazingly creative and lovely book. The characters are full of life and the author has imagined Ludovica’s life and times with great charm and inventiveness. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

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“In this tale, based on real-life events, one of Angola’s most inventive novelists has found the perfect vehicle to examine his country’s troubled recent past.” – Financial Times

“A master storyteller … It’s a tribute to Agualusa’s storytelling that the bittersweet redemption found by his characters feels authentic; he and they have earned it.” – Washington Independent Review of Books

“Ludovica never liked having to face the sky. When still only a little girl, she was horrified by open spaces. She felt, upon leaving the house, fragile and vulnerable, like a turtle whose shell had been torn off. When she was very small, six, seven years old, she was already refusing to go to school without the protection of a vast black umbrella whatever the weather. Neither her parents’ annoyance nor the cruel mockery of the other children deterred her. Later on, it got better. Until what she called The Accident happened and she started to look back on that feeling of primordial dread as something like a premonition.” – A General Theory of Oblivion, Archipelago, 2015.