A city as mysterious and culturally rich as Lisbon deserves a lengthy reading list. To simplify matters a bit, we review books here by Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago and Robert Wilson, among others. These books span the gamut from hilarity to history and fantasy to reality.
Reading Up on Lisbon
1. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Classics) by Fernando Pessoa
An essential read for anyone interested in Portuguese culture, whether a trip to the country is in the works or not. Pessoa is Portugal's most revered writer, and this book of largely unfinished poetry and prose is his best known work. Pessoa will take you to a beautiful place during your travels.
2 and 3. The History of the Siege of Lisbon and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by José Saramago
Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, explores the concept of historical revisionism in "The History of the Siege of Lisbon", an engaging story about a proofreader who rewrites Portuguese history with a stroke of a pen.
"The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis" tells the tale of a character who has a chance encounter with his creator, deceased Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. This whimsical tale makes for great in-flight entertainment.
4. A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson
This historical thriller is set in both pre- and post-World War II Lisbon, a city that Wilson has called, "one of the most remarkable cities of the last sixty years." The narrative is teeming with cultural and geographic references and won the British Crime Writers' Association's distinguished (and dark) Golden Dagger award for best crime novel of 1999.
Also worth checking out is the book's sequel, "Company of Strangers".
5. English as She Is Spoke : Being a Comprehensive Phrasebook of the English Language, Written by Men to Whom English was Entirely Unknown by José da Fonseca, Pedro Carolino, Paul Collins
This English phrasebook, first published in 1885, was written by two non-English-speaking men armed only with a Portuguese-to-French dictionary, a French-to-English dictionary and the delusion that their end result would actually be coherent. Lucky for you, it's not.
"English as She is Spoke" will probably be the funniest book you read on your trip. Keep it on hand for situations that require emergency comic relief, such as a missed train or lost luggage.
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