I've recently read two books by Portuguese authors, which I've decided to group together for the purpose of this blog post. Nothing in common between the two, not even in their books, except their nationality, but I thought it would work for a tidier blog entry.
Both authors are young in age but despite their styles and genre being different, the writing ability and maturity is certainly something to appreciate in their work. One of them I already knew and expected a certain type of writing, but the other was a novelty and surprised me how well written the story felt..sadly, the content not as much.
O Elevador can be literally translated as "the lift" and it's a fictional story about a modern young couple who have had some issues in their relationship lately and are at a point where every little thing can be a motif for an argument. When this small story begins (my edition has 136 pages) they are about to depart to a dinner and she, Sara, isn't keen but it's his (Alex) father's birthday and the family dynamics convey this is a task they just do all by duty. Sara is tired of Alex' snob mother and aloof father and she feels their connection isn't there anymore. Alex is quieter and more introverted, he knows his parents aren't the most emotional ones but Sara dazzled him like no one else and he went forward with a relationship with her anyway, despite any misgivings.
The plot is very simple: as soon as they enter the lift, there's a malfunction and they conveniently have forgotten their phones, meaning they are stuck inside alone, at night, at a time it might be difficult to someone else to find them. This is the opportunity to argue once more, to talk about what is wrong between them and, as they do exactly that, they also reminiscence on how they met, how things were before, how their upbringing and experiences were and why their personalities are now so opposed.
I know it's sounds a lot for such a small book but the writing surprised me, it's fluid and easy and the sentences simply fly by. However, the characters themselves weren't very likable to me. Some of their attitudes and opinions on some things, how they acted regarding this or that disappointed me and to be honest, I couldn't care less about their problems or why they should consider breaking up. To top my dislike for them even more, as they make their decision at the end of the story, they do something I thought was the epitome of silliness and that means this story lost all appeal to me, so... no matter how good and mature the writing, I was simply not sold on these characters.
Almoço de Domingo can be literally translated as "sunday lunch" and it's a poetic reflection by the author on the life of a very well known Portuguese man, a business man with influence on several areas, including a lot of beneficial, social and charity work as well. He has been given awards and medals from the government and is, for those who know him, a genuine humble man of simple origins which despite his current richness, still maintains his values and love for the smaller and meaningful things.
One can know more on his Wikipedia page, or even by biographies and articles written about him and his professional businesses but for the purposes of this book, which apparently happened when the author meant to have another type of biography, let us just say that the business man is devoted to his family, is well respected and generally liked by everyone and is also known to offer his money and business name to any who might need it, within reason (such as helping a school or an association).
The author, known for his poetic style, is perfect to romanticize the life of a man in a very realistic but special biography, completely different from the usual linear style we associate with that word. In this book, we jump from narrator to narrator, or the author's or the main character himself describing his memories and ideas, usually focused on specific events.
I like the author's writing and I have loved other things by him. I can totally appreciate what he did here, how much of this can be read as a romance instead of a boring sharing of important dates, but at the same time there were passages which sounded confusing. I like the poetic side of things but I do struggle to imagine the business man thinking that way or only focusing his attention on the things chosen to be included in this story. I liked the idea of the family reuniting around the table for the sunday lunch, but I admit I didn't feel as in sync with these people as I did with the fictional ones in the author's other novels.
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