The History of the Siege of Lisbon

Author: José Saramago

A proofreader tinkering with a historical text opens up a world of ambiguity and invention, as he finds the relationship between fact and fiction to be far from clear.

What happens when the facts of history are replaced by the mysteries of love?

When Raimundo Silva, a lowly proof-reader for a Lisbon publishing house, inserts a negative into a sentence of a historical text, he alters the whole course of the 1147 Siege of Lisbon. Fearing censure he is met instead with admiration: Dr Maria Sara, his voluptuous new editor, encourages him to pen his own alternative history. As his retelling draws on all his imaginative powers, Silva finds – to his nervous delight – that if the facts of the past can be rewritten as a romance then so can the details of his own dusty bachelor present.

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A proofreader tinkering with a historical text opens up a world of ambiguity and invention, as he finds the relationship between fact and fiction to be far from clear.

What happens when the facts of history are replaced by the mysteries of love?

When Raimundo Silva, a lowly proof-reader for a Lisbon publishing house, inserts a negative into a sentence of a historical text, he alters the whole course of the 1147 Siege of Lisbon. Fearing censure he is met instead with admiration: Dr Maria Sara, his voluptuous new editor, encourages him to pen his own alternative history. As his retelling draws on all his imaginative powers, Silva finds – to his nervous delight – that if the facts of the past can be rewritten as a romance then so can the details of his own dusty bachelor present.

Published by Vintage
Paperback
2000
ISBN: 9781860467226
Translated by Giovanni Pontiero