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Home Moving to Portugal Society & History Books and films about Portugal
Last update on April 11, 2022

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 and readable history, pick up Portugal: A Companion History (Saraiva), or The History of Portugal (Anderson).

For a lively account of the Portuguese sea voyages, 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 set in motion the Age of Discovery. Other famous Portuguese mariners are in Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (Bergreen) as well as Unknown Seas: How Vasco Da Gama Opened The East (Watkins).

To explore Portugal’s cuisine, read Food of Portugal (Anderson) as well as 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 an epic poem of the Renaissance, immortalizing 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 to bring about social reform, is arguably the best 19th-century Portuguese novelist. English translations include The Crime of Father Amaro, which also highlights 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. His books Blindness and Seeing are also satires on society and politics.

Set in Portugal during Salazar’s Fascist government, Pereira Declares: A Testimony (Tabucchi) is the story of the moral resurrection of a newspaper’s 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. In Distant Music (Langley), Catholic Esperanca and Jewish Emmanuel have an affair that lasts through six centuries and multiple incarnations; it describes Portugal’s maritime empire, Sephardic Jews, as well as 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 army captains.

Rick Steves / Expatica