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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I wrote, and checking exactly how long, I find that my monthly Books Bought & Read section appears to be over 6 months out of date.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.


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.


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:


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.


-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”!


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.”


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!


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.


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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134. Books Bought & Read, November 2014…

134. Books Bought & Read, November 2014…

Wow, this is awkward: not only is this blog a month late, it’s kind of a year late.

Happy 2015 readers!

I was kind of busy the past few months, launching and promoting a Kickstarter project to fund the publication of my first book. Project over, funding complete, now I can relax and focus on my beautiful book blog.

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Oh, apart from actually having to write the book for the next two months!

(The funding has closed, but copies will be available to buy when the book is released in late March, the only difference being you may have to pay a few shillings more, and you won’t have your name in the back under the ‘Thank yous’. Unless you ask nicely. Just get in touch if you would like a copy).


So, November saw me glued to my computer screen, and giving lots of walking tours around Lisbon to squirrel away enough €uros to enable me to take most of January off to do the writing. This accounts for both the paucity of books read, (six! SIX!!), and their content, (sorry for the prevalence of Portuguese present! But I am almost at the end of the Saramago back catalogue, which is fun).

I have topped up my store of ridiculous Portuguese history and trivia to keep my tours sassy: did you know Portugal had an Empire for 584 years? Or that the first rhinoceros seen in Europe since Roman days was in Lisbon, and is still represented in the gorgeous Tower of Belém? Well, you do now, (and you already did, if you are reading this after coming on one of my tours).

I’ll be back shortly, with my review of December, and then again of the whole year…you lucky things!


Books Bought, November 2014…

Mensagem,’ Fernando Pessoa

Os Magnificos – Eusébio,’

Alice No País Das Maravilhas,’ (‘Alice In Wonderland’), Lewis Carroll

Portugal: património mundial,’ (‘Portugal: world heritage’)

A Última Entrevista de José Saramago,’ (‘The Last Interview of José Saramago’), José Rodrigues Dos Santos

A Volta Do Día Em 80 Mundos,’ (‘Around The Day In 80 Worlds’), Julio Cortázar

Uma Viagemà À Índia,’ Gonçalo.M.Tavares


Books Read, November 2014…

Objecto Quase,’ (‘The Lives Of Things’), José Saramago

Historia De Portugal: descobrimentos e expansão, séculos XV-XVI,‘ (‘History Of Portugal: discoveries and expansion, 15-16th centuries), Maria Cândida Proença

O País Das Maravilhas 2: mosteiro dos jerónimos,’  (‘The Country Of Wonders 2: the jeronimos monastery.)

O País Das Maravilhas 11: torre de belém,’  (‘The Country Of Wonders 11: the belém tower.)

A Última Entrevista de José Saramago,’ (‘The Last Interview of José Saramago‘), José Rodrigues Dos Santos  borges

2666,’ Roberto Bolaño

Switch: how to change things when change is hard,’ Chip & Chad Heath

Sandman: preludes and nocturnes,’ Neil Gaiman borges

A Minha Primeira Amália,’ (‘My First Amália’), Maria Do Rosário Pedreira & João Fazenda

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Posted by on January 9, 2015 in BOOKS


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132. Mobile Portuguese Literature…

132. Mobile Portuguese Literature…

For any of you readers out there who are wondering why I am currently living in Lisbon, you have probably never been here.

Incredible weather, friendly people, ridiculous prices, great food, stunning views, and some wonderful literature.

And mainly, the little things, like the ‘Tell A Story‘ van.


On a weekend jaunt to one of the many and fascinating craft and food markets across the city a while ago, I discovered a cute old VW van parked on the road. A friendly bearded young guy, (most Portuguese guys are friendly and bearded, you soon discover living here), was discussing Portuguese literature with passing tourists, and selling them various authors in various languages from a bookshelf propped against the van.


I had discovered the wonderful mobile literature shop of Lisbon.

Featured in articles as far afield as the UK’s Guardian newspaper, this four-wheeled book depository parks up at popular weekend spots and engages people in Portuguese literature, with the cunning use of beautiful postcards featuring some of my favourite Portuguese pen-pushers, from Eça de Queiróz to José Saramago to, of course, my beloved and befuddled Fernando Pessoa, (all of whom have had the honour to be featured in previous blogs which you can read by the interweb magic of simply clicking on their names above).

f4x9hGmuLxubhJB8OI41lu9vxUMN8P_ANzis7ffEtiE,xLHyrQ5kyT8zt5OTHGP5uT2IWgK4dGWDTaNBzIpWR5A10313580_760385947331244_1709365703361569287_n 35890_546582155378292_220088313_n 1005083_546582188711622_921698788_nIs there a cooler job in the world than driving around, finding a parking spot, and discussing and selling people literature? I may apply for a part time job, if they’ll have me.

I leave the last word(s) on why they do what they do to them, because they are beautiful words:

“Because we believe there’s no better way to remember a journey than a book. And that nothing makes one travel more than reading”


If you want to know more about Lisbon, my book is available to order now by simply clicking here!




Posted by on December 18, 2014 in BOOKS


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