The Prose Practice: Reading Abroad #1

Your help is going to be needed twice this week as we have not one but two, yes two, problems for The Pragmatic Prose Practice Panel (I tried to think of another P word to take the alliteration to a whole new level but I failed) this week the first of which is another of those tricky problems we all have… finding books to read in the places that we are off to visit. Why is it that we always want to do this? Well, I am assuming most of us do?

Oh and in case you were wondering if the problem later in the week is also to do with foreign fiction, its not, I just numbered this one as I can imagine it could become a popular question to put to you all. Right so to the problem;

Dear Savidge Readers,
For my second wedding anniversary earlier this week my beloved shocked me beyond all proportion with a surprise gifts, and one that was almost better – or equal to – a huge pile of books… a trip for a week away to Lisbon in Portugal!!! I was (almost) speechless when I opened my card thinking that I was just getting some vouchers for Waterstones or Amazon.

 Now I know how helpful your readers can be like when you asked for reads for Israel, Istanbul (which got postponed indefinitely due to volcanic ash and a tight travel PR firm) or even just to the woods! So I wondered if they might be able to help with some Lisbon literature or if nothing springs to mind maybe some Portugal prose?
Simon, London

Simon Says: Well you may by now have guessed that this is indeed my problem and that yesterday The Converted One actually shocked me beyond the beyond with a week away in June/July (my work and deadlines being a nightmare to schedule around) to Lisbon and so I am looking for some fiction either from there, heavily featuring the city or just some fiction about Portugal. I have only found ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ by Pascal Mercier so far and it looks like it has received really, really mixed reviews, anyone read it? Any others that you could recommend from the city, region or country? Who are the portuguese masters?

So what do you recommend? Oh and dont forget if you have any prose problems you can email


Filed under The Prose Practise

33 responses to “The Prose Practice: Reading Abroad #1

  1. I’ve never been to Portgual and I don’t think I’ve read anything about it either ;p so I will be interested to see what your readers come up with! Lucky lucky you though with the holiday.

    • Quite an intriguing list seems to have been brought up so am looking forward to reading about them all in more detail. I am very excited and very lucky, weirdly though until now Portugal was a country I could take or leave, not in an ungrateful way lol.

  2. What a lovely gift, Simon.

    I noticed The Book of Disquiet by Fernando on one of your stacks recently so I suggest that. It’s something of a Portuguese Ulysses though…

  3. What a nice present! But I always feel so ignorant when these questions come up.. comfortably immersed as I am usually in 1930s England, most foreign literature (and literature set abroad) passes me by… Do they go to Portugal in Travels With My Aunt? I cannae remember…

    • No idea about travels with my aunt! I have always wanted to read that though so might just be a good excuse. There is nothing wrong with being immersed in the 1930’s lol, I like to head that way now and again if I can.

  4. Being a complete Google addict I just googled “novels set in Portugal” and I got a list of 10 of them — I’m not going to copy them all out, but here is the link:
    Hope that helps. You lucky lucky person — what a lovely present to get!!!

  5. I can recommend a very good crime thriller, A Small Death in Lisbon

  6. I think I’ve only ever read bits of A Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. Congratulations and have a wonderful time, you lucky thing!

  7. novelinsights

    Ooh, how exciting!!

    Not off the top of my head but…*goes off and Googles*

    Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali (but I didn’t like Brick Lane so possibly not a good suggestion!)

    The Implacable Order of Things by Jose Luis Peixoto

    Blindness by José Saramago (just because he is Portuguese)

    • I have never read Brick Lane but I really, really don’t fancy it. I should try it some point but almost everyone I have discussed it with doesn’t really like it.

      Blindness I fancy, I tried a Saramago but didnt love it but I like to give things a second chance.

  8. Yes, Jose Saramago is Portugese and is definitely a must-read! Perhaps The History of the Siege of Lisbon would be an apt place to start?

  9. jane

    Tabucchi’s “Requiem: A Hallucination” is wonderful – I have just read it for a book group i’ve started going to – really wonderful and heavily inspired by Pessoa. It left me wanting to read Pessoa and go to Lisbon, so I might recommend you seize the opportunity to combine the three!

  10. I own Saramago’s The History of the Siege of Lisbon but it’s not light reading. In fact, I’ve started it twice and can’t get past the first bit.

    Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Club Dumas takes place in both Spain and Portugal. And as a book lover, you will probably like this thriller that features rare book dealers. It might even be one that The Converted One would like because it’s at its heart an action/mystery.

    • Ahhh you see I was all excited until you said that. Mind you I will have lots of time on my hands and relaxing to do, so it could be a nice reading challenge.

      Oooh I do like the sound of a thriller involving rare book dealers, that sounds right up my street!

  11. I love to travel. What a wonderful present. I also really enjoyed The Club Dumas. It is a high-brow literary thriller.

  12. winstonsdad there is a list of 100 best books from pourtguese publication not all available in english but a great starting place

  13. Rob

    Saw this site, thought of you and your travels…

    • What a brilliant site, thanks heaps for that Rob!

      • I was just reading through this thread seeing if there was something I could add when I saw the link to Packabook, and am delighted! It’s a fairly new site and we are still getting our name out there, so I am really pleased you found us Rob!

        Unfortunately we haven’t done our Portugal page yet – but here’s a couple of titles we have catalogued which might help in this search.

        ‘Pereira Declares: A Testimony’ by Antonio Tabucchi – set in Lisbon in 1938, at the height of the Spanish Civil War. I haven’t had a chance to read this one, but it gets a solid five stars on

        And ‘The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon’ by Richard Zimler. Set in 1506, it is a fictionalised account of a Jewish progrom. It is also a mystery novel.

        As for Night Train to Lisbon – while some of it is set in Lisbon, lots is set in other places like Bern in Switzerland. I found it a reasonably tough read and probably requires more concentration that I can summon up on a holiday!

        Hope this helps – and Simon, if you’d be interested in writing a guest post for Packabook when you get back then please be in touch!


  14. Congrats, this sounds amazing!
    What about The Pragmatic Prose Practice Panel Pals? 🙂

  15. Eva

    I read a Portugese classic, The Maias last year. It had a different fin de siecle feel to it, which was interesting. I felt it was a bit drawn-out at times, but I’m glad I read it. 🙂

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