Portugal Reading and Movie List

by Andrea Segura - Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Literature on Portugal and Portugal History

  • Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus, by Hugh Kennedy. An overview of eight centuries of history. (Addison-Wesley, 1997)
  • Rick Steves’ Portugal is a travel guide that tells you what you really need to know when traveling in Portugal.
  • The Portuguese Empire, 1415-1808: A World on the Move, by A. J. R. Russell-Wood is a lively account of the Portuguese sea voyages and discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries.
  • Food of Portugal (Anderson) or Lonely Planet’s World Food Portugal (Scott-Aitken and De Macedo Vitorino) are great reads about Portugal cuisine.
  • The Portuguese: The Land and Its People, by Marion Kaplan (Viking, 2006) gives a detailed history of Portugal and also discusses politics, the economy, literature, art, and architecture.
  • Journey to Portugal: In pursuit of Portugal’s History and Culture, by José Saramago. This Nobel Prize- winner traveled across his homeland to better understand Portugal’s history and culture.
  • New Portuguese Letters, by the “Three Marias” (Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, and Maria Fátima Velho da Costa), first published in Portugal in 1972. The Portuguese government banned and confiscated all copies and arrested the authors for “outrage to public decency”. They were acquitted 2 years later, and the case became a cause célèbre for feminist organizations around the world.

Fiction Literature showcasing Portugal

  • The Lusiads (Os Lusíadas), by Luís de Camões is one of the greatest epic poems of the Renaissance, immortalizing Portugal’s voyages of discovery.
  • Baltasar and Blimunda, by José Saramago is a romance novel that offers a surrealistic reflection on life in 18th-century Portugal.
  • Distant Music, by Lee Langley is about a love affair between Catholic Esperanca and Jewish Emmanuel that lasts through six centuries. This novel describes Portugal’s maritime empire, Sephardic Jews, and Portuguese immigrants in London.
  • The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, by Richard Zimler is a thriller novel about the persecution of the Jews in Portugal in the early 1500s.
  • Night Train to Lisbon, by Pascal Mercier is an extraordinary and fascinating story about a Swiss teacher’s discovery of a book through a chance encounter that leads him to an adventure in Lisbon to learn about its dictatorship past and heroes fighting in the resistance, and also changes his own life. Also available as a movie!

Movies about or set in Portugal 

  • Capitães de Abril (2000) relates the 1974 coup that overthrew the right-wing Portuguese dictatorship, from the perspective of two young army captains.
  • Fados, a 2007 documentary about the soul music of the Portuguese working class.
  • Bone (Ossos; 1997; Pedro Costa). A grim and gripping tale of life in the slums on the outskirts of Lisbon, dealing with poverty, suicide and the struggle of love and death.
  • In Vanda’s Room (No Quarto da Vanda; 2000; Pedro Costa). This award-winning film provides a close-up of the lives of Cape Verdean slum dwellers and drug addicts in Lisbon.
  • The Letter (La Lettre; 1999; Manoel de Oliverira). This classic drama won the Jury prize at Cannes.
  • The Winter in Lisbon (El Invierno en Lisboa; 1992; Jose Antonio Zorrilla) This crime drama is about a disillusioned US jazz pianist who flees to Lisbon where he befriends an artist.
  • The Mutants (Os Mutantes; 1999; Teresa Villaverde) Nominated for four Golden Globes, this film focuses on four teenagers rejected by the system and fall into a life of petty crime and pornography.
  • Night Train to Lisbon (2013). Based on the book by Pascal Mercier about a Swiss teacher’s discovery of a book through a chance encounter that leads him to an adventure in Lisbon to learn about its dictatorship past and heroes fighting in the resistance, which changes his own life.

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