Home About Portugal Culture & History Rick Steves: Books and films about Portugal
Last update on January 29, 2019

Moving to Portugal? To get a feel for Portugal’s history and culture, consider these books and films about Portugal.

Non-fiction books on Portugal

For a concise, readable history of this country, pick up Portugal: A Companion History (Saraiva), or The History of Portugal (Anderson).

For a lively account of the Portuguese sea voyages and discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries, see The Portuguese Empire, 1415–1808: A World on the Move (Russell-Wood). A biography of Prince Henry the Navigator: A Life (Russell) reveals the man who helped set in motion the Age of Discovery. Other famous Portuguese mariners are described in Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (Bergreen) and Unknown Seas: How Vasco Da Gama Opened The East (Watkins).

To explore Portugal’s cuisine, read Food of Portugal (Anderson) or Lonely Planet’s World Food Portugal (Scott-Aitken and De Macedo Vitorino).

Fiction books about Portugal

The Lusiads (Os Lusíadas) by Luís Vaz de Camões is one of the greatest epic poems of the Renaissance, immortalising Portugal’s voyages of discovery; it’s considered a national treasure. Also look for the work of Fernando Pessoa, a 20th-century Portuguese poet.

Jose Maria Eça De Queirós, who wrote in part to bring about social reform, is considered by some to be the greatest 19th-century Portuguese novelist. English translations include The Crime of Father Amaro, which highlighted the dangers of fanaticism in a provincial Portuguese town.

Nobel prize-winning author Jose Saramago’s novel Baltasar and Blimunda offers a surrealistic reflection on life in 18th-century Portugal, while his books Blindness and Seeing are satires on society and politics.

Films about Portugal

Set in Portugal in 1938 during Salazar’s Fascist government, Pereira Declares: A Testimony (Tabucchi) is the story of the moral resurrection of a newspaper’s cautious editor. Another novel by Tabucchi is Requiem: A Hallucination.

In A Small Death in Lisbon (Wilson), a contemporary police procedural is woven with an espionage story set during World War II, with Portugal’s 20-century history as a backdrop. In Distant Music (Langley), Catholic Esperanca and Jewish Emmanuel have an affair that lasts through six centuries and multiple incarnations, and describes Portugal’s maritime empire, Sephardic Jews, and Portuguese immigrants in London. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon (Zimler), a thriller, illuminates the persecution of the Jews in Portugal in the early 1500s.

Films about Portugal

Marcello Mastroianni is the namesake in Pereira Declares (1996), inspired by the Tabucchi novel (see above).

Capitães de Abril (2000) relates the 1974 coup that overthrew the right-wing Portuguese dictatorship, from the perspective of two young army captains.

 

Rick Steves / Expatica

Rick StevesRick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at rick@ricksteves.com and follow his blog on Facebook.