From a Saramago masterpiece to Monica Ali’s rural blues, via mountains, cities and coast, bookmark this reading list for a flavour of Portugal – and its people
My initial instinct on moving to Portugal a few years ago was to fill my bookshelf with non-fiction. There lay the path to the country’s history, culture and politics, I figured. And, so it proved. Titles such as Roger Crowley’s excellent Conquerors and Barry Hatton’s eminently readable The Portuguese brought me up to speed with the country’s major milestones and missteps, its key dates and dominions. Yet, only when I picked up my first Fernando Pessoa, my first José Saramago, did I get a flavour of the whims, wants and interior worlds of the Portuguese povo (people). My selection hops between the old and new, the native-born and the outsider-looking-in. It’s by no means exhaustive, yet, as Lord Byron wrote in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, I hope it serves as a route to “pleasure in the pathless woods” of Portuguese (and Portugal-related) fiction.