My parents recently made a short trip to Lisbon and asked me for book suggestions. I first suggested “Night Train to Lisbon” by the Swiss author, Pascal Mercier. I just finished it. It is a great novel mixing the sudden trip by an erudite from Bern to Lisbon, a city he completely ignores and memories from the time of the Salazar dictatorial regime and the resistance to it. The memories build up through his encounters in the Portuguese capital. It is a book that gave me the envy to learn Portuguese (I started two weeks ago) and to go back to Lisbon (my only trip dates from more than 20 years ago).
I thought about this book after having watched the movie “Night Train to Lisbon”, with Jeremy Irons as the main character. I liked very much the movie, inspired by the novel. It has great pictures of Lisbon. But I even preferred the novel. Here is the movie’s trailer.
Another book that I just read and which takes place mainly in Lisbon is “Baltasar and Blimunda” by Portuguese Nobel laureate, José Saramago. I also very much enjoyed this novel. Saramago has a great sense of humor. The book tells the story of Baltasar a one-armed soldier, and Blimunda, a seer, during the high days of the Kingdom of Portugal. They are involved with attempts to fly, pursued by the Holy Inquisition and have the chance to listen to Domenico Scarlatti playing the harpsichord.
The original Portuguese title of “Baltasar and Blimunda” is « Memorial do Convento ». The book tells the story of the construction of the Convent of Mafra, 16 miles from Lisbon. I did not visit it, but it looks interesting.
Fado is one of the traditional types of music in Lisbon. I found this video clip from the 1955 movie “The Lovers of Lisbon (Les Amants du Tage)” by French cineaste Henri Verneuil. It shows an interpretation of Barco Negro by the star of the Fado, Amália Rodrigues.
And here is a more modern version of the same fado “Barco Negro” by singer Mariza.