There’s no doubt that this deserves its place on the 1001 books list. There’s no doubt that this is one of history’s greatest works, an epic poem of both literary and historical proportions rightly famed. And there’s no doubt that this is one of the most laborious books I’ve read in a long time.
This is a hagiography of early Portuguese explorers who not only did no wrong, but quite rightly stamped out any wrong they found, installing in its place enlightenment where there was before only darkness. The baddies are very definitely the conquered (although not referred to as such of course), the goodies, are, quite deservedly, the Portuguese.
No mention of genocide or syphilis here. No mention of forced abductions or looting of local resources. This depicts the first tantalising groundswell of world colonisation. Not only was there a divine mandate, the people themselves were in fact divine!
It must be a confusing text for the modern-day Portuguese to read. Much of what was their former empire is still riven with poverty and internal strife (think Madagascar and Mozambique). As my mother lives in the land of Lusitania, I’ve visited it many times. Lovely though much of it is, there is very little there to support the belief these days that they were descended from gods. It displays a far humbler countenance.
I certainly found this work confusing as much of the narrative consists of lengthy speeches by both dwellers of earth and heaven. As with much classical literature, the gods can’t help getting involved. Their speeches are even harder to fathom. Through this, in patches, you get glimpses of the voyages that da Gama undertook. But that’s certainly not easy to follow or the main thrust of the work.
A difficult text and one very much a product of the 16th century when the white man, it seemed, could do no wrong.
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style
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