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Q: Sometimes in interviews writers get asked the same questions over and over. Also, is there anything in the reception of the book that has surprised you? I would have liked a question about Portuguese literature. And of course the great 20th century poet Fernando Pessoa, who wrote poems through his multiple personalities, casts a long shadow.

There a strong political undercurrent in the book—I write with frankness about my chagrin over the Bush administration, and what it was like as an American living abroad during those times.

Birth of the Moon

One reviewer thought I was being too harsh about Bush, while another actually thought I was defending him! That last view especially I find hard to understand. Many thanks Philip for the beautiful book and the interview! You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.

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Philip Graham – author of a travel memoir on Lisbon |

In a way it was the Portuguese version of A Year in Province , but more literary and less stuffy. A: Thank you for sharing that story—I love the idea of being a literary companion on a long plane flight! But the joy and frustrations of cultural encounter quickly took over my imagination, and with the exception of a second volume of an memoir of Africa I was co-writing with my wife, the anthropologist Alma Gottlieb, those monthly dispatches became my main project for the year, a window through which I could try to make sense of my experiences living abroad.

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Q: For those who have not read the book, how did you happen to spend a year in Portugal? So when a yearlong sabbatical came up for both my wife and me in , we took the leap and settled on Lisbon as our destination. So there was an immediacy with the posts that does not exist for readers of the book.

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If you went somewhere else for a year which venue would you use? Online or a book? With both books of African memoir Alma and I have written together, we waited many years before tackling the complex topic of living in a radically different culture, and I feel that was the right decision. While with The Moon, Come to Earth , I wrote much of the book as I lived it, and attempting to capture the immediacy, the sense of wonder of living abroad was important to me. I think a writer intuitively works his or her way into any material, deciding whether to wait, or jump right in.

Q: Are you superstitious? Did you take home any Portuguese legends or superstitions? Hannah is especially vigilant on this subject when we host dinner parties. But in general I have found the Portuguese to be a very spiritual people, and this is one aspect of the culture that attracts me.

The Portuguese also have a healthy strain of skepticism.

A Conversation With Philip Graham

I love the balance of the two. I like to get lost and then try to find a way out. As to where I work, well, I have an office at home where I do most of my writing, and that also serves as a library—lots of bookshelves! Q: You said your daughter became fluent in Portuguese in a short time since she went to public school.

How did it happen? Hannah made a number of friends, dived into the language, and by the end of the year was one of the best students in her class. She has maintained her relationships with three friends in particular, and visits with them on every return to Lisbon. Q: How do you handle potentially personal subjects when you use family as your subject? Did you get her permission? How does she feel about those passages in the book?

That first school had been a horror, but when we transferred Hannah to a much better school we allowed ourselves to think that all was well. We worked together as a family and helped our daughter, who with her usual strength of character worked her way out of her illness. She has often said that she believes her soul is in Lisbon. Q: What did you learn about parenthood from your year in Lisbon? And did writing dispatches help or hinder your job as a parent?

Q: Who are your favorite Portuguese writers? Can you share a significant line or passage and explain its importance to you? A: Fernando Pessoa, of course, is the great poet of inner travel. I teach this passage over and over again, and also find that it increasingly informs my writing and my sense of self—of course emotions have complex pedigrees, subtle flavors that need to be deciphered in ourselves as well as others.

Portuguese cheese? In , when we first met, he was already considered a major writer, had won important awards, been translated in a ton of languages, and recognition of his work has only increased around the world since then. Yet today he is still in the initial stages of being introduced in the United States. Q: Do you think there is such as thing as Portuguese-American literature as a separate canon. Like, for example, Cuban-American literature?

What elements or themes would you point out if you were classifying or teaching a course in PA literature?