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When José Saramago decided to write a book about Portugal some twenty years ago, his only desire was that it be unlike all other books on the subject, and in this he certainly has succeeded. Recording the events and observations of a journey across the length and breadth of the country that he loves dearly, this travelogue brings Portugal to life as only a writer of Sarama When José Saramago decided to write a book about Portugal some twenty years ago, his only desire was that it be unlike all other books on the subject, and in this he certainly has succeeded. Recording the events and observations of a journey across the length and breadth of the country that he loves dearly, this travelogue brings Portugal to life as only a writer of Saramago's brilliance can. Forfeiting sources of information such as tourist guides and road maps, he scours the country with the eyes and ears of an observer fascinated by the ancient myths and history of his people. Whether an inaccessible medieval fortress set on a cliff, a wayside chapel thick with cobwebs, or a grand mansion in the city, the extraordinary places of this land come alive with the kings, warriors, painters, explorers, writers, saints, and sinners who have fed its rich store of myth and history. Always meticulously attentive to those elements of ancient Portugal that persist today, he examines the country in its current period of rapid transition and growth. Infused with the tenderness and intelligence that have become familiar to his readers, Saramago's Journey to Portugal is an ode of love for a country and its rich traditions. About the Author José Saramago was born in Portugal in 1922. His work includes plays, poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and seven novels, including Baltasar and Blimunda and The History of the Seige of Lisbon. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Amanda Hopkinson translates contemporary literature, mainly from Latin America, and reviews for leading British newspapers. Nick Caistor, journalist and producer of BBC programs, has translated the work of several authors including Eduardo Mendoza and Juan Carlos Onetti.


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When José Saramago decided to write a book about Portugal some twenty years ago, his only desire was that it be unlike all other books on the subject, and in this he certainly has succeeded. Recording the events and observations of a journey across the length and breadth of the country that he loves dearly, this travelogue brings Portugal to life as only a writer of Sarama When José Saramago decided to write a book about Portugal some twenty years ago, his only desire was that it be unlike all other books on the subject, and in this he certainly has succeeded. Recording the events and observations of a journey across the length and breadth of the country that he loves dearly, this travelogue brings Portugal to life as only a writer of Saramago's brilliance can. Forfeiting sources of information such as tourist guides and road maps, he scours the country with the eyes and ears of an observer fascinated by the ancient myths and history of his people. Whether an inaccessible medieval fortress set on a cliff, a wayside chapel thick with cobwebs, or a grand mansion in the city, the extraordinary places of this land come alive with the kings, warriors, painters, explorers, writers, saints, and sinners who have fed its rich store of myth and history. Always meticulously attentive to those elements of ancient Portugal that persist today, he examines the country in its current period of rapid transition and growth. Infused with the tenderness and intelligence that have become familiar to his readers, Saramago's Journey to Portugal is an ode of love for a country and its rich traditions. About the Author José Saramago was born in Portugal in 1922. His work includes plays, poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and seven novels, including Baltasar and Blimunda and The History of the Seige of Lisbon. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Amanda Hopkinson translates contemporary literature, mainly from Latin America, and reviews for leading British newspapers. Nick Caistor, journalist and producer of BBC programs, has translated the work of several authors including Eduardo Mendoza and Juan Carlos Onetti.

30 review for Journey to Portugal: In Pursuit of Portugal's History and Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Luís

    I recommend this book to everyone who likes to travel, especially in Portugal. Impressions and personal accounts of more and less known places in a picturesque Portugal.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    Saramago is a congenial travel companion, although I have to admit to less of an interest in churches than he displays. Actually, than most people display. It was over-ambitious of me to think that I would actually read all of this before travelling to Portugal, and maybe, maybe it was over-ambitious of Saramago to think that he could create something that was neither guide book nor travel book. Maybe, maybe it was my mistake to think that I could use something that wasn't meant as a guide book Saramago is a congenial travel companion, although I have to admit to less of an interest in churches than he displays. Actually, than most people display. It was over-ambitious of me to think that I would actually read all of this before travelling to Portugal, and maybe, maybe it was over-ambitious of Saramago to think that he could create something that was neither guide book nor travel book. Maybe, maybe it was my mistake to think that I could use something that wasn't meant as a guide book as one. It was certainly my mistake to think I could read a travel book. Far too repetitive. Samey. The beauty of the writing and the pleasure of the company doesn't quite make up for the fact that basically, he's visiting places that have little to offer apart from, (yawn) a church. Oh, a church. Yes. A church. Oh, and another church. And, look! another church where it's hard to get hold of the key. In a place where the people use the church as a place to celebrate mass, and don't think of it as a place to visit. Hmmm. Yes. The voice is a delight. I did enjoy his company. But I think I would have to take a year out of my life to follow his journey with the kind of respect and attention that would be his due. Sorry.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    Take the long way home... In those old days way before smart phones and Google maps, one read a travel guide book to learn something about the place you just found along the road. You want some historical facts, maybe a funny anecdote and a little relevance as to why this place is in the guide book in the first place. Sometimes it helps; sometimes, not. So what if your guide book was written by a Nobel laureate? Is it a better guide? Are the anecdotes better? I could be cynical and say, it’s all a Take the long way home... In those old days way before smart phones and Google maps, one read a travel guide book to learn something about the place you just found along the road. You want some historical facts, maybe a funny anecdote and a little relevance as to why this place is in the guide book in the first place. Sometimes it helps; sometimes, not. So what if your guide book was written by a Nobel laureate? Is it a better guide? Are the anecdotes better? I could be cynical and say, it’s all about churches, castles and places to stop for lunch. Well for one, and having been to Portugal, there are a lot of churches, castles and places to stop for lunch. But they are so good there. So let’s not be so cynical. It’s published in 1981, about a half dozen years after Portugal has shaken off its Salazar rule. Democracy is still young and the country is very poor. Mass tourism hasn’t really kicked into high gear when Saramago makes his thorough journey through his native land (with the exception of the Algarve). He begins, in the far northeast, Tras-do-montes, made famous much later in The High Mountains of Portugal. He slowing traverses across and down hitting many famous and not so famous places right down to land’s end of Sagres. Saramago is quick to point out he is not a tourist, but a traveler. To travel is to discover; a tourist only encounters. “O viajante não é turista, é viajante. Há grande diferença. Viajar é descobrir, o resto é simples encontrar.” p. 366 In those days, one pounded on the door of the nearby building to get the keys and maybe ask for a guide, if you were lucky, to see the historical place. Admission was either free or make a donation. Directions? Ask a local. Saramago asked a lot of questions, observed, got lost, met some odd encounters and documented his native Portugal. Things he liked, talking with the museum director in Faro to things not so positive like the over commercializations of Fátima. It’s a funny thing. He is a well-known atheist and yet he was fascinated by all those churches. Very similar to Julian Barnes too. He was also a well known communist and only once did he visit a collective in the Alentejo. But his fascination for his country shows. This comes as an odd review. I think for many, it can be a little dated and maybe a little boring. Easily a three star rating. For me it was the opposite. Using Google as my “eyes” I routinely followed his path on line and checked out the photos along the way. His good humour keeps me entertained. We made the journey “together.” Literally too, because we saw many of the same places in the Alentejo and to be honest, this was a wow factor for me. And there are so many places I still need to see. This book was published a year after “Raised from the Ground” and before “Memorial do Convento” and so this book revealed some interesting things. One, he says very little about Mafra, where Memorial is set; and he truly seems so much at ease in the Alentejo, where “Raised from the Ground” is set. And interestingly he calls Casa do bicos in Lisboa one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Years later his Foundation would be located in this house, and having visited it, I heartily agree with him. As a Saramago fan, I am too biased. It was a fun journey, one that I made in his own language too. And with that I can only thank him for such a pleasurable, long way home. And I agree with him, “the journey never ends, only the traveler stops. And when ready, the traveler gladly carries on the journey.” And as a geek, some of my favourite lines (sorry, it would take to long to translate): “...aqui têm todos os tons do verde, do amarelo, do vermelho, do castanho, roçam mesmo as franjas do violetas...Viajante no País das Maravilhas. (Vila Real do Mateus, p. 56) “Onde perde, ganha.” Cabeceiras de Basto, p. 73 “Declara já o viajante que este é um dos mais belos museus que conhece. Outros terão riqueza maior, espécies mais famosas, ornamentos linhagem superior: o Museu de Alberto Sampaio.” Guimarães, p. 77 “Dirá que o interior, amplo, imerso em penumbra, faz com que definitivamente acreditemos na possibilidade que o homem afinal tem viver entre a beleza.” A-ver-o-Mar, p. 90 “Nadeau com grandes ambiçãoes esta igreja. Se o viajante não se engana, Braga começou por quere não ficar atrás de Santiago de Compostela.” Sé da Braga, p. 113. “Num corredor de acesso, metida em vitrina, estava uma figura feminina toda de r DNA’s vestida, com um galante chapéu de aba larga, igualmente toucado de rendas, todo um ar de maja goyesca, castiça no porte da cabeça e nos cabelos soltos... E Nossa Senhora do Enjeito (Egito).” Braga, p. 118 “O viajante está decidido a não andar de igreja em igreja como se de tal dependesse a salvação de sua alma.” Porto, p. 138 “E também, confesse-se aqui um pecado de gula, para ver se tornam a saber-lhe tão bem os divinos pastéis que comeu encostado a Torre dos Sinos, fazendo da mão esquerda guardanapo para now perder migalha.” p. 170 “...de geral consenso, este é o mais belo monumento que daquele existem Portugal” Sé Velha, Coimbra, p. 178 Pergunta Guerra. “Connected o ditado do pão, do queijo e do vinho?” “Não conheço.” “ É assim: pão com olhos, queijo sem olhos, vinho que salte aos olhos. É o gosto a terra.” Cidadelhe, p. 208 “...deixar Linhares que de longe tanto se parece com a grega Micenas e aonde custou tanto a chegar como se Micenas fosse.” p. 215 “Hoje há uma estrada, sim senhores, e no seculo XII como seriam os caminhos?, a pedra, como foi transportada? Ou serviu a que da escarpa foi retirada brutalmente para abrir a plataforma onde se cavaram os alicerces.” Capela de São Pedro das Águias, p. 248 “E aqui está o que abundantemente justifica a Abrantes: esta Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, onde o Museu de D. Lopo de Almeida foi instalado há cinquenta anos.” p. 281 “E vai protestando um pouco de indignação, um pouco de mágoa, um pouco de enfado diante do estendal de comércio das inúmeras lojinhas que, aos milhões, vendem medalhas, rosários, crucifixos, miniaturas do santuários, reproduções mínimas e máximas da Virgem.” Fátima, p 296 “Desta ponte não fará o viajante outro sermão aos peixes. O Almonda e um rio de águas mortas, vida, nele, só a da podridão.” Leiria, p. 315 “O Convento de Mafra é grande. Grande é o Convento de Mafra. De Mafra é grande o convento. São três maneiras de dizer, podiam Er algumas mais, e todas se podem resumir desta maneira simples: o Convento de marfar é grande.” p. 354 “Aqui encontraria o viajante uma sugestão para Gaudi se não fosse mais exato terem bebido nas mesmas fontes exóticas o grande arquiteto catalão e o engenheiro militar alemão Von Eschwege, que veio à Pena por mando doutro alemão, D. Fernando de Saxe-Coburgo Gotha, dar corpo a delírios românticos muito do gosto germânico. Castelo Pena, Sintra, p. 360. “Tem o museu milhares de peças de que o viajante não falará.” Museu de Arqueologia e Etnografia, Lisboa. p. 369 “Bem fez em ter usado linguagem marinheira. Aqui mesmo à entrada está, à mão esquerda, Vasco da Gama, que descobriu o caminho para chegar à Índia, e, à direita, a jacente estátua de Luís de Camões, que descobriu o caminho para chegar a Portugal.” Mosteiro de Jerónimo, p. 370. “...por gosto mórbido ou franciscano mortificação da carne, vá à Capela dos Ossos, se pelo contrário não lhe parecer, como parece, que roça a obscenidade aquele ordenamento arquitetural de restos humanos, tantos que acabam por perder significado sensível.” p. 441 “O Museu de Beja é regional e faz muito bem em não quere ser mais do que isso.” p. 454 “A vocação do turista no Algarve é claramente concentracionária.” p. 485 “ primeiro havia os Lusitanos, vieram os Romanos, depois os Visigodos e os Árabes, mas, como era preciso haver um país chamado Portugal, apareceu o conde D. Henrique...” p. 487 “A viagem não acaba nunca. Só os viajantes acabam... É preciso recomeçar a viagem. Sempre. O viajante volta já.” P. 492-3

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    this could be the most quirky travel book you will ever read. if you stick with it you will get in to his rhythm. the rhythm of a grumpy genius old man motoring around Portugal's back roads. if you get stuck behind him in a car it could take DAYS to pass him. If you talk to him in a bar or the cloister of a monastery if could change your life. this could be the most quirky travel book you will ever read. if you stick with it you will get in to his rhythm. the rhythm of a grumpy genius old man motoring around Portugal's back roads. if you get stuck behind him in a car it could take DAYS to pass him. If you talk to him in a bar or the cloister of a monastery if could change your life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jolanta (knygupe)

    Prepare yourself to a long, slow reading and journey (not a trip) to Portugal’s culture and history. This voyage is going to be a great one! The book, not for a tourist, it’s for a traveller. “There’s a big difference. To travel is to discover; the rest is simply finding”… …”When the traveller sat in the sand and declared: “There’s nothing more to see,” he knew it wasn’t true. The end of one journey is simply the start of another. You have to see what you missed the first time, see again, what you Prepare yourself to a long, slow reading and journey (not a trip) to Portugal’s culture and history. This voyage is going to be a great one! The book, not for a tourist, it’s for a traveller. “There’s a big difference. To travel is to discover; the rest is simply finding”… …”When the traveller sat in the sand and declared: “There’s nothing more to see,” he knew it wasn’t true. The end of one journey is simply the start of another. You have to see what you missed the first time, see again, what you already saw, see in springtime what you saw in summer, in daylight what you saw at night, see the sun shining where you saw the rain falling, see the crops growing, the fruit ripen, the stone which has moved, the shadow that was not there before. You have to go back to the footsteps already taken, to go over them again or add fresh ones alongside them. You have to start the journey anew. Always. The traveller sets out once more.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Didier Vanoverbeke

    Unfortunately this is little more than religious iconography pros porn. But if that’s your kink, have at it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Frank O'connor

    Saramago's gift for turning anything into a story shines through in this travelogue which even manages to make Portugal seem worth a visit. He has a way of nosing out the interesting: a town with an ancient statue of a pig on a column, for example. The man himself feels like a disagreeable travel comanion. He focuses largely on churches and castles, appears to shun companionship and the new - while remaining aloof and treating his surroundings with a slight air of pomposity. Having written that, Saramago's gift for turning anything into a story shines through in this travelogue which even manages to make Portugal seem worth a visit. He has a way of nosing out the interesting: a town with an ancient statue of a pig on a column, for example. The man himself feels like a disagreeable travel comanion. He focuses largely on churches and castles, appears to shun companionship and the new - while remaining aloof and treating his surroundings with a slight air of pomposity. Having written that, however, I turn the page and find his justification: "The traveller is in search of a human art,its desire to triumph over death expressed in elevated or suspended stone, in traces of color and design ... In this state of mind it's possible to comprehend why the traveller prefers to seek out small and quiet places where he can listen to the sound of his own questions, even though he may get no answer."

  8. 4 out of 5

    David J.

    I have tried to read this book twice, both times never making it past 30 pages or so. I lived in Portugal for a little more than a year and a half, from 1998 to mid 1999. I love Portugal and the Portuguese, and was excited to read this book both times I tried. Maybe it is the narrative voice he uses. He speaks of himself in the unfamiliar third person. Perhaps I will pick up the book in Portuguese and try it one more time. With how rusty my Portuguese is, I'm not optimistic of the results. I have tried to read this book twice, both times never making it past 30 pages or so. I lived in Portugal for a little more than a year and a half, from 1998 to mid 1999. I love Portugal and the Portuguese, and was excited to read this book both times I tried. Maybe it is the narrative voice he uses. He speaks of himself in the unfamiliar third person. Perhaps I will pick up the book in Portuguese and try it one more time. With how rusty my Portuguese is, I'm not optimistic of the results.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Though this doesn't purport to be a guide book, I'd hoped to either be immersed in the storytelling or at least have it augment my sense of place during recent travels to Portugal. Alas, the effort fell flat for me; I didn't want to be bored, but I very much was. The sameness of every. single. visit. to. every. church. in. every. town. Looking for the keys to said churches. Tasty or not tasty meals, an art museum, a wet road. Repeat. At least there were a few photos to break the tedium. Read thi Though this doesn't purport to be a guide book, I'd hoped to either be immersed in the storytelling or at least have it augment my sense of place during recent travels to Portugal. Alas, the effort fell flat for me; I didn't want to be bored, but I very much was. The sameness of every. single. visit. to. every. church. in. every. town. Looking for the keys to said churches. Tasty or not tasty meals, an art museum, a wet road. Repeat. At least there were a few photos to break the tedium. Read this one at a fast skimming pace.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    I'm going to have to put Saramego aside for now. I'm enjoying his writing style, his point of view, and his personality, but I'm finding that this is not a book for someone new to Portugal, its history, or its culture. Saramego references events, writers, and historical events with little context for the uninformed. A beautiful book, but not what I'm looking for before my first trip to Portugal (although I'll likely read the geographically relevant sections before I go). I'm going to have to put Saramego aside for now. I'm enjoying his writing style, his point of view, and his personality, but I'm finding that this is not a book for someone new to Portugal, its history, or its culture. Saramego references events, writers, and historical events with little context for the uninformed. A beautiful book, but not what I'm looking for before my first trip to Portugal (although I'll likely read the geographically relevant sections before I go).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    I read this for two reasons: I love Saramago and I wanted to learn more about Portugal. Both goals were met and exceeded. Saramago's humanity, sense of humor/irony, and understanding of the human spirit are in every page, every line - you just want to read slower to relish his writing. Portugal...can't wait to go! I read this for two reasons: I love Saramago and I wanted to learn more about Portugal. Both goals were met and exceeded. Saramago's humanity, sense of humor/irony, and understanding of the human spirit are in every page, every line - you just want to read slower to relish his writing. Portugal...can't wait to go!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Alas I didn't finish this; although Saramago's affection for his country shines through, the travelogue aspect of it—going from one little town to another—was ultimately rather boring. It is a trip that I would more enjoy taking than reading about. Alas I didn't finish this; although Saramago's affection for his country shines through, the travelogue aspect of it—going from one little town to another—was ultimately rather boring. It is a trip that I would more enjoy taking than reading about.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I started this while in Lisbon, but put it down pretty quickly. There's an arch quality to the narrator's voice that puts me off. He refers to himself as The Traveler throughout. I'm wondering if it's the translation, but whatever it is, I don't need to read anymore. I started this while in Lisbon, but put it down pretty quickly. There's an arch quality to the narrator's voice that puts me off. He refers to himself as The Traveler throughout. I'm wondering if it's the translation, but whatever it is, I don't need to read anymore.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ian Thomson

    “The traveler made a quick tour of the town’s churches, but found nothing of particular interest in them.” - Page 283. The reader envisaged feeling the warmth of Saramago’s home country, but found nothing of particular interest among a multitude of church visits and weather reports. The traveler raised the reader’s hopes in the first 50 pages with his colorful, engaging use of language. A quick skim of the book’s remaining 400 pages duly followed as the reader battled against ennui.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Good skim in prep for trip to Portugal.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Salvatore

    I think this book would have been better served to me after going to Portugal. But it is a comprehensive road trip across the country, looking at the churches and some of the people who find themselves living in their small town, either affected or unaffected by the religious and folkloric artifacts around them. Very thorough - perhaps too much so for the casual reader about this Iberian nation. But I'll take anything Saramago serves. I think this book would have been better served to me after going to Portugal. But it is a comprehensive road trip across the country, looking at the churches and some of the people who find themselves living in their small town, either affected or unaffected by the religious and folkloric artifacts around them. Very thorough - perhaps too much so for the casual reader about this Iberian nation. But I'll take anything Saramago serves.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Zaleski

    Giving up on this one,at least for now. I'm bored out of my mind. Sorry, Saramago, but this is your first fail. Giving up on this one,at least for now. I'm bored out of my mind. Sorry, Saramago, but this is your first fail.

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Junke

    An wonderfully idiosyncratic, self deprecating traveller’s tale from a Nobel Prize laureate. Reflects deep learning and love for his country. No doubt best understood in the original Portuguese by his fellow Portuguese, then his fellow Iberians, then European, then the rest of us. Published in 1981, it primarily looks nostalgically back to honour his heritage. But it is selective, with little mention of Portugal’s colonial past, including slavery, no mention that the monarchy ended in 1926, foll An wonderfully idiosyncratic, self deprecating traveller’s tale from a Nobel Prize laureate. Reflects deep learning and love for his country. No doubt best understood in the original Portuguese by his fellow Portuguese, then his fellow Iberians, then European, then the rest of us. Published in 1981, it primarily looks nostalgically back to honour his heritage. But it is selective, with little mention of Portugal’s colonial past, including slavery, no mention that the monarchy ended in 1926, followed by 48 years of dictatorship, nor the reform beginning in 1974 when he was writing this book and on the eve of Portugal joining the EU. Devotional attention to small towns and villages and the countryside, with cursory treatment of Lisbon and Porto. A lifelong Communist at ease with the fact that his patrimony is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, traditionally so central to life in Portugal. It is the buildings he adores and on which he is gifted at describing, the eternal for the church key, and a clear bias for natural soft stone for building over granite or worst still marble. This is a slow read. Take your time and savour each page.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    I started this book thinking it would be a great introduction to Portugal before my visit, but instead I found it exhausting to read. I too visit all of the beautiful churches in Europe every time I go (for the art, not the religion), so I never realized how boring they are to describe. Don’t make me read about one more church, Mr. Traveller! That said, I decided to pick it up again after I returned home from Portugal, and it opened my eyes to an entirely new perspective. I almost felt like we we I started this book thinking it would be a great introduction to Portugal before my visit, but instead I found it exhausting to read. I too visit all of the beautiful churches in Europe every time I go (for the art, not the religion), so I never realized how boring they are to describe. Don’t make me read about one more church, Mr. Traveller! That said, I decided to pick it up again after I returned home from Portugal, and it opened my eyes to an entirely new perspective. I almost felt like we were comparing notes! Saramago is a wonderful writer, and I was finally able to appreciate his observations. I loved the final chapter, “The Traveller Sets Out Again”. It’s exactly how I feel at the end of any adventure. Final thoughts: some shockingly slow spots can be endured for the gems you’ll find throughout this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carol Harrison

    Although I've read several of Jose Saramago's novels, this was the first non-fiction book of his that I'd seen. At first I thought that his use of the 3rd person ("the traveler") would get tiresome, especially in a book this long. Surprisingly, for me at least, it didn't, nor did his consistency in what he noted about each town or village he visited: the church, monastery or convent, and the museum. I didn't understand most of the architectural terminology, or the references to Portuguese litera Although I've read several of Jose Saramago's novels, this was the first non-fiction book of his that I'd seen. At first I thought that his use of the 3rd person ("the traveler") would get tiresome, especially in a book this long. Surprisingly, for me at least, it didn't, nor did his consistency in what he noted about each town or village he visited: the church, monastery or convent, and the museum. I didn't understand most of the architectural terminology, or the references to Portuguese literature/history/culture, but I still really enjoyed travelling along with Saramago and listening to his mutterings, which were sometimes quite interesting and/or witty. I regretted to read on the back cover that he died in 2010--it felt like he should go on travelling, as he said he must on the last page.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    On page 190 and really struggling so wanted to come here and find out if I’m alone. Seems other people have the same problem. It’s a weird travelogue - I was hoping it would give some insight into Portuguese life after Salazar - I’m setting up a branch of my business in Portugal and wanted some background into what makes people tick. This book doesn’t do that - he goes from church to church and rarely talks to anyone. No chats about work, food, culture, football, drinking wine with strangers, po On page 190 and really struggling so wanted to come here and find out if I’m alone. Seems other people have the same problem. It’s a weird travelogue - I was hoping it would give some insight into Portuguese life after Salazar - I’m setting up a branch of my business in Portugal and wanted some background into what makes people tick. This book doesn’t do that - he goes from church to church and rarely talks to anyone. No chats about work, food, culture, football, drinking wine with strangers, politics - only churches and road conditions (and not really any discussion of Catholicism or belief despite all the time in church). What makes it even more frustrating is that the churches are so obscure that even a Google image search rarely brings up the paining or statue he is talking about.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jack Hrkach

    I did not finish this book, though I have finished and enjoyed at least three other of Saramago's works. A year or so ago I struggled with DH Lawrence's book on his travels through Italy. I found myself in a similar frame of mind when I read this. Saramago's portrait of his country (as much as I read of it, along the Douro River from its source in Spain to near where it empties into the Atlantic at Porto) is SO intimate that I found myself learning less about the country, as I'd hoped, than abou I did not finish this book, though I have finished and enjoyed at least three other of Saramago's works. A year or so ago I struggled with DH Lawrence's book on his travels through Italy. I found myself in a similar frame of mind when I read this. Saramago's portrait of his country (as much as I read of it, along the Douro River from its source in Spain to near where it empties into the Atlantic at Porto) is SO intimate that I found myself learning less about the country, as I'd hoped, than about Saramago. I'm sure he's an interesting fellow, but I became bogged down in his "the traveler" - 's mumblings and rumblings and decided that at least at this point, I was ready to read no more. YOU may love it. I did not.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ben Guterson

    Deliberate, dreamlike, and wry, this travel memoir finds Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago alternately detached and astonished throughout. His recounting of an epic trek through his home country in the late-1970s fixates on Portugal's religious architecture to near-exclusion, though it doesn't ignore history, legend, and the terrain itself: He seems familiar with everything and every place through his reading or past association, and then surprised by the reality of it all once he arrives. I enjo Deliberate, dreamlike, and wry, this travel memoir finds Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago alternately detached and astonished throughout. His recounting of an epic trek through his home country in the late-1970s fixates on Portugal's religious architecture to near-exclusion, though it doesn't ignore history, legend, and the terrain itself: He seems familiar with everything and every place through his reading or past association, and then surprised by the reality of it all once he arrives. I enjoyed the book, though it is a slow read. Still, Saramago's artistry makes the journey seem somehow both inevitable and unexpected, and his musings on both the timelessness of the land and his own melancholy at modernity's intrusion are often sublime.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathy England

    This is the Portuguese version of Travels with Charley by Steinbeck, although the famous Portuguese author is more interested in the art and architecture of Portugal than Steinbeck was of the same in the U.S. The writing is very good, but as I was reading this in advance of visiting Portugal (a trip which continues to be put off 6 months at a time by Covid-19), the details of which buildings to visit in which towns and the descriptions of the art and architecture would have been better read in c This is the Portuguese version of Travels with Charley by Steinbeck, although the famous Portuguese author is more interested in the art and architecture of Portugal than Steinbeck was of the same in the U.S. The writing is very good, but as I was reading this in advance of visiting Portugal (a trip which continues to be put off 6 months at a time by Covid-19), the details of which buildings to visit in which towns and the descriptions of the art and architecture would have been better read in concert with visiting the places in person. The reading was slow going because of all the detail included. The best paragraph of the book was the last chapter..."The Traveller Sets Out Again", not because it was the last but because it is so true.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bedeuxni

    Portugal might be a rather small country, but it has much to offer. Traveling from North to South can take a long time. Reading a book of Saramago has many similarities with traveling. Sometimes it is pleasant, sometimes it is tedious, but in the end you made it. Saramago takes you to seemingly every church in the country, which can be lengthy at times, but other parts are brilliant. To sum it up, a solid book, which should nevertheless be read by everyone who is interested in Portugal.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Wexler

    Long and unfulfilling tour through Portugal Not a good overview of Portugal for those who don’t know it. Not sure if it’s the translation, or the design of the author to speak of the traveler in the third person, or the endless description of churches rather than a deeper look into the Portuguese people and it’s history, but I found it very hard to power thru

  27. 4 out of 5

    Martina

    Saramago is doubtless one of the greatest South European writers in modern literature, and as such, he has its own peculiarities. Beautiful book, often too detailed, sometimes hard to follow. But worth the effort to the last page.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Fay

    I love Saramago’s fiction but found this repetitive. Although very interested in delving into his insights into Portuguese culture, I read the second half as a chore.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heriberto

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Very good travel companion! Read only the parts of traveled cities/regions

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    But for a few beautiful moments, this was the most mind-numbing slog. I write this as an aficionado of travel essay who normally loves lyrically-paced meditations on place and time, and enjoys following an author’s tangents, wherever they may lead. But this, especially the conceit of his use of his third-person ‘traveler’ was pretentious, annoying, and continually disrupted the narrative. I only finished this book out of respect for his fiction.

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