This novel is a short one, set in 1938 Lisbon. Our protagonist is the Pereira of the title, a portly experienced journalist, concerned about his heart, who tries to ignore the world around him. He writes the culture page for Lisboa an evening paper and translates French novels. Into his life enters Monteiro Rossi, who against his better judgement he engages as his assistant to write obituaries. Rossi’s works are unpublishable, being too political, they wouldn’t get past the censor. Pereira pays Rossi out of his own pocket. Rossi is also connected with the International Brigade fighting Franco in Spain.
Pereira likes his omelettes aux fines herbes eaten in the Cafe Orquidea washed down with lemonade (his cardiologist advises against wine). There is a lot about Pereira’s eating habits. The novel begins at a leisurely pace as Pereira’s routine is explored in detail. As Pereira’s dealings with Rossi become more awkward and the shadow of Fascism spreads over Portugal the book gets darker. Pereira takes a spa break for some seaweed treatments and thalassotherapy, his doctor advises he look at his soul. Pereira’s editor in chief is concerned when he ends one of his pieces “Vive la France!“, France being the enemy of the fascists in Germany, Spain and Portugal.
As the story reaches his climax Pereira realises he can’t ignore what is happening in Portugal any longer and he has a wild idea.
The book is without speech marks which I find slightly irksome but it is an entertaining and engaging read.
My rating 4 out of 5