|The ambassador directly and indirectly supports bilateral cultural exchanges as well as diplomatic negotiations in the countries dispatched based on authority granted by the head of state. The ambassador's words are regarded as the most reliable source of information about the country because the ambassador in the host country has the same symbolism. As part of the 'Reading Korea' campaign, the Reading Newspaper have prepared a time to learn about each country's culture and arts through foreign ambassadors stationed in Korea.|
There was a time when they thought that monsters lived beyond the sea. Europeans in the Middle Age regarded it as the end of the world because no one ever came back alive after crossing the Cabo Bojador (a cape located in the western Sahara of the Atlantic Ocean, where ships were often wrecked due to shallow water and deep eddies). people thought there was a terrifying monster living there. If you think about it now, it's such a childish idea, but it was out of the ignorance that existed back then. The fear has been there until 1434 when the Portuguese explorer, Gil Eanes crossed the Cabo Bojador and reached the continent of Africa.
So Portugal rescued Europeans from the fear and opened the gate to the Age of Discovery. Since then, Portugal established commercial and military bases in Brazil, the African coast, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, India, South Asia, and Japan, consolidating the world's spice trade. The history of the Portuguese Empire ended in the 20th century, but the Portuguese language is still so powerful that more than 250 million people in nine countries around the world have adopted it as their official one.
'Fatima', a sacred place where the Virgin Mary has emerged, 'Fado', a song that conveys the sentiment toward home and family separated all around the world, soccer player, 'Christian Ronaldo', situated at the western end of the southern European Iberian Peninsula, taking 13 hours by direct flight, a definitely want-to-visit place. H.E. Manuel Gonçalves de Jesus tells us stories about Portuguese books, travel, and food culture.
- You were chosen as an interviewee for ‘Republic of Korea: Hear from Ambassador’. Please say hello to the readers.
“Hello, Readers of Readers News! My name is Manuel Gonçalves de Jesus, the Ambassador of Portugal to Korea. It is a pleasure to meet you all.”
- Best-selling books tend to reflect society. What books are popular in Portugal these days? Why?
“In contrast with South Korea, Portuguese do not usually read self-improvement books. Korean Society is about healing and handling human relations because of busy life style but we prefer to read historical fiction and romance novel books as well as biographies. I think it comes from our history.”
- It has already been 10 years since the master Saramago passed away. Many books on Saramago have also been translated and published in Korea. His writing, which craves the reality of human identity, has also been a great echo in the Korean world, where humanity is drying up. Perhaps because of this, there are quite a few genuine readers of Saramagu in Korea. Is there a story that Koreans don't know well about?
“Well, Saramago is a very known Portuguese writer. As I said one of the reasons is that he was the first and still the only author writing in Portuguese to won Nobel Prize. He won the Nobel when he was already into the sixties years of age (like most of the distinguished...). Also interesting is the story of his life. With humble origins, self-educated, always politically engaged. Worker as a printer then with doing all kind of work in the newspaper the still exists in Lisbon (Diário de Notícias), from base to the top. In fact, although he starts early to write the recognition as a great writer comes only with middle age. He was a prolific writer after been over fifty, and then the Nobel. But I think he wrote the best books after the Prize, which is amazing, even when he was well advanced in age. And wrote till he died over eighty. That is what we will call now a resilient artist.”
- Is there a Korean author or book that is relatively well known in Portugal?
“After winning the Man Booker International Prize with her book 『The vegetarian』 in 2016, the South Korean writer Han Kang became quite known in Portugal. From that day forward, many of her books were translated into Portuguese, such as 『The Vegetarian』 in 2016, “Human Acts” in 2017 and more recently 『The White Book』. In addition, Han Kang participated in an annual book fair in Porto, the second biggest city in Portugal, called 'Feira do Livro do Porto' in 2017, to release her book 『Human Acts』. Furthermore, several big Portuguese newspapers referred Han Kang and her books, such as <Diário de Noticias> and <Público> and the general opinion about her work would be that ‘First you find it strange. Then you can’t get enough of it’.”
- The main emotion of the world-famous Portuguese music ‘Fado’ is ‘Saudade.’ It is a difficult concept to translate in a foreign language, but can it be said that it is similar to the sentiment of ‘한’(deep resentment) in Korea?
“Fado is Portuguese traditional music originated in Lisbon in the early 19th century. Many people left for the ocean in the Age of Discovery at that time and the left ones in Portugal were singing missing their family and friends. You can call that feeling as Saudade. Portuguese and Korean have been expressing their feeling with music very well. Han and Saudade can be linked on that sense. The feeling expressed by the word Saudade exists in all human being. We just needed to find the word to express it and we did it.”
- could you recommend a travel destination or a course that you personally recommend?
“If you love beach and leisure sports, I would recommend the South Region, Algarve . The Algarve is not well-known in Korea yet you can experience various kinds of activities. But, of course after a long journey, if you would like to experience traditional Portugal, I would recommend the North Region, Porto, Braga and the other cities. Porto is an old city with rich architecture and a wonderful scenery. Braga is the 3rd biggest city and the symbol of religion with the oldest Catholic church in Portugal. If you dare, you can visit Douro River traveling upstream, the region famous for the port wine.”
- Portuguese love for cafes is widely known.
“Drinking coffee in Portugal is an everyday part of life. There is a “café” on every corner, on every street and its cheaper to drink it out of the home since it doesn't cost more than 1€. In Portugal, we mainly drink a shot of black expresso and do not mix it with water or ice, though we might add a bit of milk or a bit of sugar sometimes. In addition, instead of franchise cafes, we like to go to the same little town cafe everyday so that we know the owner and the other customers and can have some light and friendly conversations with them while enjoying our coffee.”
“Portuguese people always have a million reasons to drink coffee; it can be after a meal, for a quick break, or an energy boost but most of all, we drink coffee to catch up with our family, our friends and our coworkers. In Portugal, every encounter, every meeting, every date comes with a cup of coffee, in such a way that we often use the expression “to drink a coffee” as a synonym for meeting people. If we run into someone we have not seen in a long time, we say, “We have to drink a coffee someday”. Moreover, when we go out with friends, we nearly always meet at the cafe, and if a friend is having a bad day, we say, “I'll buy you a coffee”. What is certain is that Portuguese people have a real special relationship with coffee and we will always find a reason to have plenty of cups a day.”
- Egg tart and marmalade, known to originate in Portugal, are also popular among Koreans. Like this, if you recommend Portuguese food that suits Korean taste. I am also curious about Portugal's food culture.
“I would like to say Arroz de marisco will be loved by Korean people. It is tomato soup with assorted seafood and rice similar to Korean food, Gukbab (국밥). I know it because my friend told me that. Depending on what the main ingredient is, there are a variety of types such as seafood rice, octopus rice, shrimp rice, and acorn rice. I cannot miss out bacalhau which is salted codfish and polvo grelhado which is grilled octopus. Anyway, Portuguese food is so diversified that I will not single out some of them. Unfortunately, we do not find many places here in Seoul to taste them.”
- I would like to ask you to introduce three books that you liked most or the books that will help us understand Portugal.
“It’s a difficult task. Not because I don’t know which books I like most, but because I have to limit myself to those translated into English or Korean. Portugal has wonderful literature in one of the most spoken languages in the world. I regret that most of my foreign friends won’t have the opportunity to read Portuguese.”
“For me, I would like to mention authors like Miguel Torga, Aquilino Ribeiro, Camilo Castelo Branco or Eça de Queirós, and many others. But of course, they don’t mean very much to your readers. So, let just mention Fernando Pessoa a great writer of the twenty century, in the particular his 『Book of Disquiet』(Livro do Desassossego), or, back in the sixteen century, Luís de Camões, the great epic, the poem 『Os Lusíadas』 anyway, would like to remind to read again José Saramago, the Nobel Prize. Some of his works translated into Korean, or most of them translated into English; like some books of Eça de Queiroz, from the nineteenth century, that wrote many books in line with the great French, English, or Russian literature of the time. His prose light and clear, with plenty of humor, in modern Portuguese, which give us a lot of joy and a fair idea of the Portuguese society of the nineteen century.”
Korean-English translation=Embassy of Portugal in South Korea