Pessoa’s Lisbon for Tourists
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 18th August, 2015
One if the things I so love about travel is the serendipity of chance encounters with unknown books in other people’s bookshelves, which is how I came across Fernando Pessoa’s Lisbon: What the Tourist Should See (Bilingual edition, Companhia das Lettras, 1992) here in Fortaleza, Brazil. Widely recognised as Portugal’s second most important poet (after Camoes), Pessoa spent his formative years in Durban, South Africa, where his stepfather was Portuguese Consul, and he wrote this little guidebook in English in the 1920s, by which time he was well installed in Lisbon, a city he adored. The manuscript was among the many papers found after his death and published posthumously. Although the book starts off as little more than a catalogue of sights that a casual visitor to Lisbon might see it starts to take on real life when Pessoa lets his romantic imagination roam in the bye ways of history. I particularly savoured glimpses of places now no longer extant, including the metallic covered market in the Praca de Figueira and the open-air public library that operated under the shady branches of a vast cedar tree. Lisbon has long been my favourite European city and this literary curiosity adds another little sparkle to its glory.