The OF Blog: No sea disponible in inglés: David Soares

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No sea disponible in inglés: David Soares

A few months ago, I was asked by a publicist for a Portuguese genre press, Safaa Dib, if I would be interesting in reading a couple of novels by one of Portugal's leading genre writers, David Soares.  I quickly agreed and a little over three months ago, I received three books, the two Soares novels, A Conspiração dos Antepassados and Lisboa Triunfante, and an anthology of stories either written in Portuguese or translated into Portuguese, called A Sombra Sobre Lisboa

Unfortunately, I became quite busy around the same time, as there were a lot of things going on in my now-former job that kept me from getting around to discussing these books like I would have liked.  I wish I had time to do a second reading before commenting, as my Portuguese, improved as it is, is still not as good as my Spanish.  But I had delayed too much in writing at least a short bit, so here goes.

David Soares, at least in the two novels that I read, displays a talent for mixing Portuguese history and literature, English literature, and horror elements together to create fast-paced but yet ponderous reads.  In his earlier novel, A Conspiração dos Antepassados,  set in large part in the early 20th century, he has Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa and English magician/Satanist Alastair Crowley teaming up to solve a centuries-old mystery.  Despite the oddity of this pairing, Soares manages to make the entire premise believable (well, as much as a mystery involving supernatural forces can be "believable") and the story rarely falters, even when the PoVs switch back and forth between Pessoa and Crowley.  I am looking forward to re-reading this one in the near future.

Lisboa Triunfante, the other Soares novel that I received, relies more upon the reader being aware of Portuguese history (thankfully, I have at least the required cursory knowledge).  The story is in equal parts a centuries-spanning romance and a detailed look at the history of Lisbon, from the pre-Roman days to the present.  Although I didn't have as strong of a historical knowledge as I would have wished, Soares made both the historical layers of Lisbon and his characters interesting to read.  Although I struggled a bit with the prose (my fault, since my reading comprehension in Portuguese is not at near-native levels, like it is with Spanish), I am also looking forward to re-reading this one soon as well.

Based on what I've read, I believe there would be a market in English translation for these novels, especially the first one.  Although the references to Portuguese history and literature might create a barrier for many readers, I suspect that barrier could also serve to make the setting and characters more exotic, making these novels appealing to those readers who enjoy cross-genre works that are neither fish nor fowl, but something enjoyable in-between.


Safaa said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed reading them, Larry! David's new novel "O Evangelho do Enforcado" (The Gospel of the Hanged Man) is already out and has been receiving a lot of critical praise. Some say it's his best work to date. I'll be sending it to you very soon.

Looking forward to you re-readings and thoughtful reviews. :)

Larry said...

Thanks! Sorry that I was a bit late on giving my takes on them, but I'll be checking my mailbox now :D

Fabio Fernandes said...

I'm very interested in reading David Soared - unfortunately he's also not known in Brazil, which is a damn shame.

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