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141. Meeting Gonçalo M.Tavares…

141. Meeting Gonçalo M.Tavares…

Dear Diary,

It has been far too long since I wrote, and checking exactly how long, I find that my monthly Books Bought & Read section appears to be over 6 months out of date. That will all change in the coming months, when I: a) have my book finished and can get back to blogging and b) move to New York for the winter with little to do but make soup, and write.

Before that, though, I have just returned from an overnight visit to the glorious, medieval walled village of Óbidos an hour (exactly, by bus) north of Lisbon, and I wanted to tell you about the things I found there: fantastic accommodation, great music, and one of my modern literary heroes.

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I took two days off work as my favourite living Portuguese writer was attending, and it just so happened that a great Mozambican author and the singer of 2014’s Portuguese album of the year were both going to be present on the same day, so I had little choice in the matter. Finding a room free at the best B&B in the entire region, however, was pure luck. Hosts Sharon and John have the cosiest house right by the train tracks complete with patio, swimming pool, the craziest life stories, and the greatest tea-drawer I have ever seen.

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But I wasn’t in town for tea: I was there to attend the first Folio Literature Festival of Óbidos, and to meet Gonçalo M.Tavares. I had bought a ticket to see him in discussion with someone I had never heard of, not expecting to understand much of anything but simply hoping to meet him afterwards and get one of my books signed: in the end I sat through three sessions with him, and understood more than I’d expected to.

First, a packed standing-room-only 60-minute lesson he offered for free in the village hall based (extremely loosely) on Saramago’sBlindness‘; then the talk, on his work in general; and finally a book launch for his latest work, the wonderfully titled ‘The Torcicologologista, Your Excellency.’

Here are the highlights I took from each:

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On ‘Blindness’:

-There are so many billions of images today, we are always anxious, whatever we see, knowing how many more we are missing.

-There is a character in certain Japanese theatre pieces called ‘The Absent,’ who represents someone/something not there, but stands stage front and centre…and is the best paid of all, for being able to make the audience not see what is right in front of them.

-The talk focussed little on literature, instead showing Tavares‘ impressive breadth of interests: everything from John Cage’s infamous 4min 33seconds (of silence); a video of a man pushing a block of ice through the streets until it disappeared; and the fact that an image can become so commonplace as to be invisible, but there is always a new way to see it, exemplified by this stunning scene from master Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky:

The Talk:

-Words have weight, and different weights for different people. The word ‘Lisbon’ will mean different things depending on a person’s experience of the city.

-‘Fuga,’ or ‘escape,’ has been a common thread in literature since the Greeks: we are all fleeing something, as are most of the characters in his works.

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-If we were immortal, we could watch films until we saw a good one. Mortality means that time and choices weigh heavily on us, (similar to the earlier-mentioned feeling of the anxiety of missing out on all of the images around us)

-When you die, it is not the facts, not: ‘What did you do?” which will be important, but: “How much happiness did you put into, and take out of, the world?”

Gonçalo’s definition of the pleasure to be derived from something as insignificant as playing football: “To do something ‘inútil‘ (useless) and to take pleasure in it is to undertake a revolutionary act”!

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The Book Launch:

Gonçalo’s books are all different, but with this newest one the humour is front and centre: humour is an integral part of playing with language, something which he clearly loves to do.

-He likes the ‘weight’ of words, especially Biblical words, old words: ‘pedra‘ (stone) is intrinsically more appealing than ‘computador‘ (computer). He prefers “words with experience.”

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As you can see, I got to meet the man himself, and am well on my way to completing my collection of his complete works, two of them now signed and ready to be encased in glass if and when, as the great Saramago himself predicted, Mr.Tavares joins him as the second ever Portuguese Nobel Laureate in literature.

I later got to meet Mia Couto, a wonderful Mozambican author whose books I have been reading here and there, and who took the time to confirm for me a rumour I’d heard and which may be my new favourite anecdote on my tours: Mia was once invited to talk at a literary conference for black African women…despite only being African, and in no way either black or a woman!

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As if all that wasn’t enough, the evening was rounded off with a fado performance from Gisela João, one of the hottest modern performers of this most traditional of Portuguese musical styles.

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I leave you with one of the songs she played to end the evening, and wish you sweet Portuguese dreams.

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Posted by on October 24, 2015 in BOOKS

 

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131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

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Don’t forget to check out and order my first ever published book, available here!

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October’s reading, (and purchasing), was brought to you courtesy of a three-week holiday (vacation) to the city that only sleeps when it’s tired, or has a job interview early the next morning, or because the bars have all closed at 2am: New York.

A long flight and metro journeys between my base of Brooklyn and the island once known by the natives as Mana-hatta, (amazing what you can learn on a walking tour…), allowed me to get through seventeen wonderful, and not always short books: The Strand and various lovely, (and cheap), book sellers on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, allowed me to bring a further 26 home with me, (at least, the ones which weren’t left behind as presents).

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The Strand, the world’s largest bookshop…

One of them, Colson Whitehead’sThe Colossus Of New York‘ came to me in the opposite direction, a lovely and unexpected gift on my 17th 37th birthday, and the perfect jazz prose-poem for somebody wandering the streets of the city, for the first or fiftieth time. A new author for me to look out for, this slim and gorgeous time gets 9/10 on the Borges/Brown scale.

(I decided to abandon grading all of the books I read: my blog was almost impossible to even get to last month, so from this month I am just awarding the Borges mark of excellence to any book on the list which I highly recommend reading.)

Bill Bryson‘s story of a single topic (aviation) in a single year (1927) in American history is fascinating, thanks to not covering just one year or one topic but everything from Communism and Prohibition to baseball and murder cases, and I highly recommend it. Since I try to match my reading to my location, I also finally read Brooklyn-based Michael Chabon’s modern classic ‘The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay,’ a beautiful tale of World War II refugees, New York life, and comic books. Perfect.

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I was guilty of buying a book of which I already own two copies, but since my signed copies of Haruki Murakami’s latest offering is safe in The Cupboard in the UK, and the US version has a different, (and far more gorgeous) cover, I felt entirely justified. The book was everything I’ve come to expect from one of my favourite writers…although no more. Not underwhelming, just not as overwhelming as I’d hoped.

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After returning to Lisbon to continue life and work, I flew through a couple of comic books picked up at New York’s ComicCon, which were nowhere near as much fun as their animated originals, and got back to my latest love, Portuguese literature and especially a fascinating offering from Next Great Portuguese Thing, Gonçalo M.Tavares. If you can find him in translation, I recommend his experimental style highly.

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New York Comic Con…

If you like that sort of thing.

Which I do.

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Books Bought, October 2014

Burmese Days,’ George Orwell

Pastoralia,’ George Saunders

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america,’ ed. Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey

The Fiddler In The Subway,’ Gene Weingarten

Manual Of Painting And Calligaphy,’ José Saramago

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

The Graveyard Book,’ Neil Gaiman

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Strong Opinions,’ Vladimir Nabakov

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

On The Map: why the world looks the way it does,’ Simon Garfield

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,’ David Foster Wallace

Northern Lights,’ Philip Pullman

Anansi Boys,’ Neil Gaiman

Freedom Evolves,’ Daniel.C.Dennett

From Hell,’ Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

O Massacre Dos Judeus: lisboa, 19 de abril de 1506,’ Susana Mateus & Paulo Mendes Pinto

Antic Hay,’ Aldous Huxley

Chrome Yellow,’ Aldous Huxley

Mortal Coils,’ Aldous Huxley

Ballet,’ Arnold Haskell

Biografia De Lisboa,’ Magda Pinheiro

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Books Read, October 2014

One Summer: America, 1927: ,’ Bill Bryson borges

The Rachel Papers,’ Martin Amis

The Amazing Adventures Of  Kavalier And Clay,’ Michael Chabon borges

Salvador,’ Joan Didion

But Beautiful,’ Geoff Dyer

The Song Of Achilles,’ Madeline Miller

The Testament Of Mary,’ Colm Tóibín

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

The Colossus Of New York: a city in thirteen parts,’ Colson Whitehead borges

One More Thing: stories and other stories,’ B.J.Novak

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,’ Karen Joy Fowler

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares borges

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

borges = recommended book

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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122. Books Bought & Read, July 2014…

122. Books Bought & Read, July 2014…

Books Bought, July 2014…

Non-Fiction,’ Chuck Palahniuk

A Casa Velha,’ (‘The Old House’), Machado de Assis

Coisas Frágeis 2,’ (‘Fragile Things’), Neil Gaiman

Matteo Perdeu O Emprego,’ Gonçalo M Tavares

A Little Larger Than The Entire Universe: selected poems,’ Fernando Pessoa

50 Contos,’ (‘Fifty stories’), Machado de Assis

O Gato Malhado E A Andorinha Sinhá,’  Jorge Amado

 

Fantoches,’ (Puppets), Erico Verissimo

Diálogos Impossíveis’, (‘Impossible Dialogues’),  Luís Fernando Veríssimo

Os Lusíades,’ Luís Vaz de Camões (10-volume illustrated edition)

A Bagagem do Viagante,’ (‘The Traveller’s Baggage), José Saramago

Manual de Pintura y Caligrafía,‘ (‘Manual Of Painting And Calligraphy), José Saramago

Compêndio para uso dos pássaros – poesia reunida, 1937-2004,’ (‘Compendium For The Use Of Birds – poetry compilation, 1937-2004’), Manuel de Barros

 

Books Read, July 2014…

Non-Fiction,’ Chuck Palahniuk

Diálogos Impossíveis,’ (‘Impossible Dialogues), Luis Fernando Verissimo

O País Do Carnival,’ (‘The Country Of Carnival’), Jorge Amado

Nocturno Hindu,’  (‘Indian Nocturne’), Antonio Tabucchi

The Cuckoo’s Calling,’ RobertGalbraith, aka J.K.Rowling

Matteo Perdeu O Emprego,’ Gonçalo M Tavares

A Casa Velha,’ (‘The Old House’), Machado de Assis

Coisas Frágeis 2,’ (‘Fragile Things’), Neil Gaiman

Pensageiro Frequente,’ (excellent but untranslatable pun on ‘frequent flyer’  which would be ‘Passageiro Fequente,’ but here using the word ‘thinker in place of ‘passenger’ as the two words are very similar in Portuguese, making it something like ‘Frequent Thinker.’ Only funnier in Portuguese), Mia Couto

O Mandarim,’ Eça de Queirós

 

A dozen new books bought, and one short of that read: THAT’S more like it!

With the World Cup ending on July 11th, (in case you were either living under a rock, uninterested in football, or Brazilian and trying desperately to pretend that the tournament had ended after the Quarter Finals), I was left with two weeks to enjoy the sun, sand, coconuts and caipirinhas of an east coast Brazilian beach.

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I delved into Brazilian literature, plowing through some excellent short stories by 19th century master Machado de Assis, (quite enjoyable), and some short essays by modern journalist Luis Fernando Verissimo, (ditto: to give you an idea of the vibe of this short story compilation, the first tale featured Batman and Dracula both trying to get euthanised at a Swiss clinic: one because he’s old and too weak to be a bat fighting crime, the other because he’s bored of being an ageless bat killing people…)

The highlight, though, was finally finding something by Gonçalo M Tavares, a young Portuguese author beloved by my beloved José Saramago, (the latter’s ‘He will win the Nobel Prize for Literature before too long’ quote is all over most of the former’s books).

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It was marvellous.

Matteo Lost His Job‘ was experimental and playful, linking a series of very short but beautifully crafted pictures of everyday yet strange people, in everyday yet outrageous situations, in a similar way to David Mitchell does in his masterful ‘Cloud Atlas.’ I can’t wait to find, buy, and devour some more by him to see if he can live up to the hype that I (and Saramago) have created for him.

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I was excited to find an unbelievably beautiful collection of ten illustrated volumes of the Portuguese epic poem ‘The Lusiads‘ in my favourite market, as well as the complete works of Brazilian poet Manuel de Barros who had been recommended to me by a new Brazilian friend.

However, since I don’t have several thousand spare €uros to spend on excess baggage allowance, my entire Portuguese-language book collection is currently being housed by my fantastic Czech-Argentina co-worker in an Alfama apartment in Lisbon.

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I will be back soon to reclaim it, to read it, and to let you know what’s good…

 

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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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