Monday, 5 September 2016

Portugal through foreign eyes

 
I confess, I was quite worried about what Portuguese readers would make of 300 Days of Sun when it was translated and published by Editorial Presenca over the summer. I hoped I had captured the essence of the country as the backdrop to my story but was well aware that the shadows lurking under the sunny surface might prove controversial. Had I gone too far, or simply got too much wrong?
 
For all that the British enjoy reading about themselves through foreign eyes - think how Bill Bryson has endeared himself to the nation with his mercilessly hilarious observations - I wondered how the proud Portuguese would react to a tale involving present day economic woes, wartime intrigue and several  real-life child disappearances on the Algarve coast.

To be fair, the two intertwined stories, past and present, concern the situations that foreigners in Portugal find themselves involved in, so their insights into the country are designed to be those of outsiders. First impressions are a key part of the narrative.
 
Well, apart from an opinion piece in the august Diario de Noticias, the Lisbon equivalent of The Times, in which Icelandic writer Yrsa Sigurdardóttir and I were the subject of a bit of a rant about foreign writers stereotyping the country's characters, possibly humorous, possibly not, hard to tell using Google translate and rudimentary word recognition - but great publicity for our books, so thanks for that - the reaction has been incredibly positive.
 
There was a lovely mention in SAPO's online summer crime reading round-up and here is a rough translation of a review from The Styland blog:
 
"The use of the town of Faro almost as a character is intense to the point of giving us details about our country which we probably never noticed but that the author somehow found them relevant to put in her book. And she does a fantastic job sending us mentally to all the scenarios with absolutely phenomenal descriptions. I confess that I had tears at times: but because the descriptions of our traditions are beyond reproach. It seemed as if the author lived here, but no. She just spent two weeks in Faro with her daughter, fell in love with our culture and managed to convey our story in a touching way."
 
 
In fact, many Portuguese reviewers and bloggers have loved the fact that the novel holds a mirror up to their country, with the reflection filtered through fresh eyes. I just adored this blog post by Fernanda on As Leituras da Fernanda (again, a very rough translation using Google):
 
"This book caught my attention for a simple reason: the fact that the author was not Portuguese. It seemed interesting to read about Portugal at the hands of a foreigner. Perceiving a little of what they see in this our little garden by the sea. And really, it did not disappoint me. I liked the author's voice very much. Very lyrical, but without pretentiousness, for the viewpoint of a simple tourist, not making value judgments, which is sometimes difficult for those who write. Although she never lived in Portugal she gives with enough consistency the Portuguese way of life, our traditions and our history." Though she does go on to write: "I'm just not sure she has understood what is missing." Now there's an intriguing suggestion - I want to know!
 
In the UK, 300 Days of Sun is available this month on the Kindle Monthly Deal promotion for only 99p. 
 

6 comments:

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

I bet you are relieved. They love it! Wonderful reviews, Deborah. Congratulations.

Mrs. Splapthing said...

I speak fluent Spanish, but for the last year or so have been craving to learn Portuguese. (I watch a lot of MMA, and many fighters are from Brazil.) Listening to the spoken language enchanted me - it's similar to Spanish, but so much more lush and mysterious. So glad the people approve of your creation! That must be a great feeling! I am taking 300 Days to Scotland with me... looking forward to getting into it!

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Thanks, Karen, I really appreciate that!

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Yes, you're right, Mrs S, the Portuguese language is very different to the ear. I wrote something about it in the book. Enjoy your trip to Scotland, and happy reading!

Yvonne Osborne said...

That's a great review. Good luck with this novel. My sister is traveling there in two weeks. Would I could go with her....

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Thanks, Yvonne. Hope your sister is having a wonderful time and comes back with lots of photos and stories to share.

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