'Requiem: A Hallucination' by Antonio Tabucchi

An exquisite novella to saviour, Requiem sees our narrator travel through a virtually empty Lisbon on a hot summer Sunday when most people have headed for the beach. Having travelled in from Azeitao just outside of the city for a midnight rendezvous with poet and friend, he fills his day with encounters and meals with people both living and dead.

A homage to Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa and Portuguese culture in general, Requiem is an enchanting journey, a nostalgic memory as we travel around the city with the narrator, from the famed central Cafe Brasiliera to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, from the Largo do Cemiterio dos Prazeres to the coastal lighthouse of Guincho.

As he travels from place to place, visiting shared moments and people from times earlier in his life , the narrator falls into conversations with bar staff, taxi drivers, housekeepers, waiters, train conductors – the anonymous who are intrinsic to the character of the city.  The delights of the local (and unique) cuisine features heavily (there are even notes describing the likes of Sarrabulho a moda do Douro, Papos de anjos de Mirandela et al) – again, adding to the flavour [sic] of Lisbon.

On finally meeting his friend and poet (an unnamed Pessoa) at midnight on the banks of the Tagus, they discuss Kafka, postmodernism and the future of literature.

Written in Portuguese by the Italian Antonio Tabucchi (he lived for many years in Lisbon as the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute), the elegant Requiem: A Hallucination won the Italian 1991 PEN Prize.