From Publishers Weekly
In 1979, 19 years before he won the Nobel Prize for literature, Portuguese novelist Saramago (Blindness) journeyed across his homeland, hoping "to write a book on Portugal that [would be] capable of offering a fresh way of looking, a new way of feeling" about the country's history and culture. Out of that personal quest comes this monumental work, a literary hybrid that intermingles an intimate portrait of a nation with aspects of a novel, travel log and guide book. From the outset, a deep sense of Portuguese and European history pervades Saramago's descriptions, which evince a longing for the past whose fragments lie in every crevice, niche and portico. For example, upon seeing "traces of ancient anti-Spanish rancor in the form of obscene graffiti scored into good 15th-century stone" in Miranda do Douro, he recalls a 17th-century siege that took place in the small town. Later on in his trip, standing in the ruins of a church, he muses, "[T]he day before yesterday the Romans were here; yesterday it was the turn of the monks of Sao Cucufate; today it's the traveler." Saramago's absolute attachment to his homeland filters through every paragraph, impelling him to create a new vision of the country: a vision that aims to meld Portugal's past to its present and future. The reader may find the author's use of the third person when speaking of himself rather tedious, and some drawn-out sections waffle in personal, almost mystical, reflections. But it is difficult to resist being enchanted by the witty, at times sarcastic reveries of a man in search of his land, its history and himself. 6 maps, b&w photos. (Mar.)Forecast: Saramago's name will attract some readers to a book that, without it, will appeal to only a limited niche market.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
For many Americans, Portugal is a distant relative of Spain, a country whose glory has vanished since the days of Henry the Navigator and his discoveries in the New World. Saramago, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, writes to dispel this notion. The author originally wrote this book to show his compatriots his deep love for the history, traditions, and countryside of his native land, and his passion for his subject shines through on every page. The many black-and-white photographs will familiarize the reader with some of the more obscure locations discussed here. Unfortunately, Saramago's use of the third-person narrative throughout the text gives it a stilted, artificial tone that distracts from the information presented. Further, Saramago is so deeply involved in his topic that he can be obscure to readers unfamiliar with the details of Portuguese history and culture. Some notes are available, and the maps and index are excellent. Recommended for larger travel collections where introductory travel guides to Portugal are already available.-DOlga B. Wise Compaq Computer Corp. Austin, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.