In a captivating ramble through what is destined to become this year's Provence, this leisurely explorer's eloquent and entertaining account of an erstwhile empire--which is today a refreshing refuge from the clamor and jostle of contemporay life--chronicles the adventures of two aging gentlemen, roaming the country in search of heroes, trout, green wine, and real bread. LIn a captivating ramble through what is destined to become this year's Provence, this leisurely explorer's eloquent and entertaining account of an erstwhile empire--which is today a refreshing refuge from the clamor and jostle of contemporay life--chronicles the adventures of two aging gentlemen, roaming the country in search of heroes, trout, green wine, and real bread. Line drawings....
|Title||:||The Last Old Place: A Search Through Portugal|
|Number of Pages||:||254 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Last Old Place: A Search Through Portugal Reviews
Globetrouter's Friendly View of Portugal First things first. I am a big fan of Portugal. I've been there many times. I have a reasonable, if sometimes rusty, command of the language. I do like fado music and innumerable Portuguese dishes. And, like the author of this very pleasant book, I admire the Portuguese people for their lack of pretension, their down-to-earth lifestyle, and their belief in hard work, family, and a bit of cynicism for the many phonies of this world. When he tries, Datus Proper can bring alive any episode from history, for example, the crucial battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. Cultural comparisons between Portugal and the USA are his forte; I really liked the way he handled them. Then too, Lisboa is one of my favorite cities in the whole world. So, with all this, how could I not like THE LAST OLD PLACE and its wry humor and insightful comments on Portugal, Portuguese history, and Portuguese people ? In fact I liked it a lot, was even sorry to reach the end and I suspect, if you give it a try, you will feel the same.However. I don't feel like excusing Portuguese deeds overseas by saying that, well, that was long ago, and we all had different standards then. Of course, that is true, but still, Portuguese colonialism in Asia and Africa was ugly, even if it was less ugly than that of some other, unnamed countries. A minor quibble, I mean, the book isn't about colonial deeds or misdeeds. The main point for most readers is the following....how interested in trout fishing are you ? Alas, I am not the slightest interested in it, so I was kind of "floundering" there, if you'll pardon me. The author travels around Portugal with a local friend-a kind of human equivalent of Steinbeck's Charley---a man we don't really get to know much about, but one who perhaps represents some old, now-vanishing Portuguese qualities, but more importantly, shares Proper's addiction to fly fishing in remote streams. So, to reach my conclusion rapidly, I would have liked a lot more of the author's clever, humorous, apt observations on Portugal and a lot less clambering around the rocks looking for the perfect trout hole.
Portugal is one of the loveliest countries in the world, both the people and the landscape. I've been many times, and it is not only an old place, but deeply romantic in the old-fashioned sense. The people seem equally gentle and resolute. There are mountain villages seemingly unchanged from the 18th century, with shepherds living in the same stone buildings as their flocks, and market days in town squares where farmers sell home-made cheeses and homespun ponchos. There are of course the world class beaches of the Algarve where Ferraris are as common as wine at dinner. There are dusty beautiful crennelated medieval castles now run by the government as affordable hotels. There's just... well, there's just a lot of everything to love.One of my favorite moments came at a bullfight which, although inherently cruel, differs crucially from the Spanish bullfight on one respect. Unlike Spain, in Portugal the object is not to slay the bull, but to wrestle the bull to the ground. After the picadors, four volunteers line up single file and rush the bull, the lead man literally trying to grab the bull by the horns. If the men are successful, they tie the bull's legs. If unsuccessful, and they usually are on the first attempt, they are essentially run over by the bull.I was at a bullfight one evening, when a group of young men tried to wrestle one bull to the ground. A woman behind me said something. Another woman responded. The whole crowd around me broke up into laughter. The friend I was with was a Portugese, and I asked what the women had been saying to each other. The answer: "Your son is so brave." "Yes, but his brother was braver."This book, by a State Department officer writing under a pseudonym, captures it all perfectly. The writer loves Portgual, and he is so right.
Looking at the book, reading the flap and back cover copy, you'd think that it was a typical travel literature book, along the lines of Paul Theroux. Like Theroux, the author, David Proper, writes about himself a bit more than the places he's writing about. He also clearly loves fishing; there were times when I thought I was reading a book about fishing rather than about Portugal. Proper, a pseudonym for a former State Department diplomat, is well-read, and knows the history and geography of Portugal very well. He does not use these powers to illuminate the land he writes about as well as he might. Rather, he illuminates the fact that he knows about these things. This gets in the way of Portugal itself. However, if you can stick with it - and its hard: my wife gave up - you get a glimpse of what was then a recent transition from socialism to capitalism, during the early days of Eurodollar funding of the growth and construction spurt that Portugal underwent in the nineties. I went there in 1996 and 1999 and witnessed this phenomenon first hand. Going to Portugal in 1996, I felt I had just missed seeing the last years of a nearly third world version of this European country. Lisbon, for example, looked like it was preserved under glass as a city in the 1930s. And many new houses in the countryside still had the older structure standing and decaying, as if to remind the land owners how fare they had come in a few short years. "Proper" does a sufficient job conveying what this feels like, but does not project it forward to help us understand where Portugal is going, which is what you'd expect from someone so steeped in the history, politics and economics of the place. The great book on Portugal remains to be found or written, for me.
I am a Portuguese American and am fluent in Portuguese. I am very picky about authors who choose Portugal as their subject and prefer Portuguese authors. With that said, I absolutely loved this book. No only does the author understand the culture, he also has great love for the people and the country. I recommend this book highly.
I am reminded by Proper's language and pacing of Steinbeck's in Travels with Charlie (which is on my favorite list here in GR). Although I am neither a fisherman nor a hunter, the narrative made me a comrade in those activities without my really noticing that I had given it permission. I would dearly love as insightful a book about modern Portugal to be written from the perspective of a woman, just to compare that one with this one.
Proper had lived in Portugal previously, returning to write a book that is less travel lit than a sociological, anhropological and historical background of the people. Reads well, and succeeds in laying the main premise: the Portuguese are a distinct people, looking outwards rather than toward the rest of Europe.
Well, I finished it. That was more a tribute to my desire to learn more about Portugal than the book. It was well written but more "The Compleat Angler" redux than information about Portugal and its people.
I got very annoyed with his writing and didn't finish more than two chapters. He takes every opportunity to denigrate Portugal's Catholic faith and heritage.