Sunday, July 17, 2011

Discovering Lisbon

I am wondering why the traveller’s much anticipated visit to Lisbon starts on a somewhat dejected and somber note. Here he is, ready to witness the marvel of this port city, the museums and the monasteries whose architecture takes you on a journey through various ages. But all he could muster is the bitter memories evoked by objects revealing horrendous crimes committed in the past. He is thankful to the museums for preserving some of the objects in order to testify what, according to him, is “necessary” for us to remember.
The traveller is clearly occupied with these thoughts as his indecision gives way to questioning:

“The traveler regains the street and feels lost. Where should he go now? What is he to visit? What shall he leave aside, either on purpose or because of the impossibility of seeing and commenting on everything? And anyway, what does it mean to see everything?”
~ Journey to Portugal

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The traveller reaches Lisbon

"So finally, here is Lisbon. But before undertaking the adventure, which he finds somewhat intimidating, the traveller wants to visit the village on the estuary known as Carcavelos, to see something that few people know about, when you think of the million inhabitants of Lisbon and the thousands who come to this coast, that is, to conclude, the parish church." ~ Journey to Portugal

As I begin reading the final third of this book, the 'traveller' looks as excited as ever and this turn is placed in such a way as if the whole travelogue had been busy in preparation for a visit to Lisbon, though appearances could still be deceptive. Strangely enough, the church and its architecture seems to be the element of the traveller's interest. There is no place devoid of it. Saramago, I reckon, intends to infuse various elements of Portuguese culture and is careful to include both the landscape and the art that adopts it. This is the reason why this book is more than a travelogue. In 'At the Gates of Lisbon' the author peculiarly alludes to Don Quixote de la Mancha as he prepares the traveller for another visit; this time to the place known as Lisboa.