My rating: 3 stars
Lisbon has served as inspiration for numerous books. In A Cidade de Ulisses (City of Ulysses in the English translation), the Portuguese author Teolinda Gersão mixed the history of the city with a story about love and the visual arts. At first, this is an enthralling read, thanks to a rhythmic prose and various stimulating considerations. However, the fact that it tries to juggle various elements means that the events that are explored at each given time are not always the most interesting.
The narrator, Paulo Vaz, was invited to take part in an art exhibition about the city of Lisbon. Years before he had thought about doing something similar, but it never came to fruition. It was a project he had with a woman he loved, Cecília, whom part of the text is addressed to. He recalls their relationship, their conversations, sexual attraction and experiences. He was a graduate teaching assistant at the university she was studying in. They shared a love for art and discovering Lisbon. Cecília believed that love was simple and joyful. The narrator, on the other hand, considered that it also comprised sadness and melancholy.
It’s not only his relationship with Cecília that Paulo Vaz explores. He also remembers his parents. His father had never accepted his decision to become a painter, and his mother lost part of herself by continuing in an unhappy marriage. Their strained relationship still haunts the narrator for various reasons that are exposed later on. Continue reading