Writer of deceptively simple parables, left leaning activist, and adored by many, Jose Saramago had a difficult relationship with his homeland, eventually exiling himself on the island of Lanzarote, Spain. With the Jose Saramago Foundation, established by the late Nobel Prize laureate himself together with a group of like-minded individuals in 2007, Lisbon is once again home to the writer’s humanistic and literary legacy. The cultural center, founded on a mission to defend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and cultural activity within Portugal, permanently displays an exhibition on the life and work of the writer titled The Seed and the Fruits. Since 2012 it has been housed in Alfama neighborhood’s Casa dos Bicos, a renovated and architecturally impressive 16th century house with an equally remarkable façade.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 10:00-18:00
Antonio Tabucchi is an Italian writer from Florence, but few foreigners and even fewer writers have made Lisbon their adoptive city with such fervour. Nearly all of his novels make Lisbon the center of everything, including the highly regarded, arguably Tabucchi’s masterpiece and Lisbon novel par excellence, Pereira Maintains (1994). Following the well-trodden paths of the novel’s protagonist, Pereira, will take you close to the Lisbon Cathedral on the picturesque Rua de Saudade where he lived at number 22. He worked at the office of a local newspaper for which he was cultural editor on Rua Rodrigo de Fonseca, stopped for lemonade at the nearby Café Orquidea on Rua Alexandre Herculano, and on a Tuesday afternoon at 16:00, stopped at the British Bar of Cais do Sodre.
Lisbon’s rich literary heritage can mean a saturation of dead voices. Thankfully, the city also hosts one of Europe’s most exciting literary festivals to emerge recent years. Festival Silêncio is a relatively new international literary festival bent on popularizing cutting-edge art forms which reveal the power of words. The events merge literary forms with performing arts and range from literary concerts, slam poetry, staged readings, conferences and workshops. Keen to bring a new generation of artists close to the foreground, the festival takes place in public places across Lisbon, and over the course of three days in July transforms its streets into a continuous performance stage.
The English have Shakespeare, the Italians Dante, and the Portuguese have Luis de Camoes, author of the 16th century epic poem The Lusiads. A fantastical reading of the era’s Portuguese voyages of discoveries, it is often regarded as the country’s national epic. A monumental statue of the writer, erected in 1867, stands at the center of Largo do Camoes, a small square in between the central districts of Chiado and Barrio Alto. Beneath Camoes are the smaller statues of eight other great names of Portugal’s classical literature: chronicle-writer Gomes Eannes de Azurara, cosmographer Pedro Nunes, poets Sá Menezes, Jerónimo Corte-Real and Vasco Quevedo Castello-Branco, and the historians Fernão Lopes, João de Barros, and de Castanheda.
A block further down towards the Tegus from Largo do Camoes is another small square, the Largo Barão Quintela, holding the statue of 19th century novelist Eça de Queiroz. The realist writer, author of long politically charged novels critical of the governments of the time, appears holding a swooning, half-naked female figure representing Truth. Beneath the two figures is engraved a verse by the writer, and inspiration for the sculptor Teixeira Lopes, reading ‘On the strong nakedness of truth the transparent veil of fancy’.