Journey to Portugal: A Pursuit of Portugal's History and Culture
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From the misty mountains of the north to the southern seascape of the Algarve, the travels of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago are a passionate rediscovery of his own land.
Setting off in his veteran motor car, Saramago wants to travel to Portugal, as well as through it: by making it his destination the acclaimed writer hopes to take stock of his native land as it hovers on the edge of the modern world. He is no typical guide - he avoids the "sights" in favour of a remote Romanesque church, a cobweb-ridden chapel, the local and the domestic - but, with his deep fount of memory and erudite knowledge, each encounter evoking the span of Portugal's history, he is anyone's idea of a delightful travelling companion.
almost immediately, as he could not find his own way into the church. Soon enough he is in the chapterhouse, which gives onto the cloister. Its width, length and height are of perfect proportions. The eighteenth-century tiles are excellent. There are paintings of friars above the stonework, and the traveller goes from one to another, without paying them too much attention, as they are not very well done, until suddenly he comes to a halt, filled with an inexplicable joy. In front of him there is
sacrifice, renunciation or self-denial moves him deeply. Even being as egotistic as they were, the Capuchins of the convent of Santa Cruz paid a high price. This heretical thought will probably mean the traveller is thrown out of paradise. He could take other roads, or try to hide in the vegetation, but then night would fall and he is not brave enough to confront darkness among these crags of the sierra. So instead he descends to the town, which means leaving paradise for the world, leaving
traveller pays his visit to the ruins. He gives them what attention he may, especially to the early Christian basilica and the baptistery font, but feels distracted in the midst of these old stones. It’s because he’s so close to the new men that the traveller is incapable of finding the nexus, its tributaries and the current linking one with the rest. Yet this current exists, as the traveller knows full well. It’s enough to see how the battles between Theseus and the Minotaur still go on being
scientific care. In an open area that was apparently used as a burial place, large rectangular trenches have been dug, in the bottom of which can be seen a number of skeletons. In mediaeval times the site was turned into a monastery, so the bones are probably those of monks, but surely not the ones that look so small they must have been a child’s, or the other one which to judge by the size of the hip bone, must have belonged to a woman. Ruins are generally melancholy places, but for some reason
greens still holding and winning out against autumn colours. Braga is now well to the south and the traveller is almost at Rendufe when, in one of his fits of penetrating enlightment, he revolutionises the study of the habits and customs of that bird we call the magpie. The magpie, as we all know, has the reputation of a thief. Investigating its nest is to uncover a hoard of glittering things, glass, fragments of crockery, anything to reflect the sunshine. So far, nothing new. Now the traveller