The Greatest Portuguese, Russian "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

    "Life and Fate" is a sweeping epic that explores the human condition during the Siege of Stalingrad in World War II. The novel delves into the lives of a wide range of characters, from soldiers and scientists to children and victims of the Holocaust, providing a stark and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war, the brutality of totalitarianism, and the resilience of the human spirit. At the same time, it also examines themes of love, loss, and the struggle for freedom and dignity in the face of overwhelming adversity.

  2. 2. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

    "The Book of Disquiet" is a posthumously published collection of thoughts and musings of a solitary dreamer, who is a Lisbon-based bookkeeper. The book delves into the mind of a man who is discontented with his mundane life and finds solace in dreaming and writing. The narrative is a profound reflection on life, solitude, and the nature of humanity, filled with philosophical insights and poetic language. The protagonist's introspective journey and his struggles with existential despair make it a seminal work in the genre of literary modernism.

  3. 3. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by José Saramago

    The novel is a metaphysical narrative about a doctor named Ricardo Reis who returns to Lisbon, Portugal after learning about the death of his friend. He finds himself in a society on the brink of dictatorship, and as he navigates through his daily life, he encounters his deceased friend's ghost and a hotel maid with whom he begins a love affair. The book explores themes of identity, love, and the nature of reality, set against the backdrop of political turmoil.

  4. 4. Blindness by José Saramago

    In this dystopian novel, an unexplained epidemic of "white blindness" sweeps through an unnamed city, causing chaos and panic. The government responds by quarantining the afflicted in an abandoned mental hospital, where conditions quickly deteriorate into violence and squalor. Amid the despair, one woman mysteriously retains her sight and guides a small band of the blind, including her husband, through the harrowing ordeal. The novel explores themes of loss, human nature, and the fragility of civilization.

  5. 5. Baltasar and Blimunda by José Saramago

    "Baltasar and Blimunda" is a historical love story set in 18th century Portugal. The narrative follows a maimed soldier, Baltasar, and a young clairvoyant woman, Blimunda, as they navigate the hardships of life during the Inquisition. Their love story is intertwined with the construction of the Convent of Mafra, a grandiose project initiated by the King. The novel explores themes of love, faith, human resilience, and the struggle against political and religious oppression.

  6. 6. Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin

    "Summer in Baden-Baden" is a unique blend of fact and fiction that intertwines the author's own travels to Leningrad with a reimagining of Fyodor Dostoevsky's summer in Baden-Baden, Germany. The narrative shifts between the two journeys, exploring themes of obsession, identity, and the power of literature. The author's fascination with Dostoevsky serves as a lens through which he examines his own life and experiences as a Jew in Soviet Russia, while also providing a fresh perspective on the famous Russian author's life and works.

  7. 7. The Clay Machine-gun by Victor Pelevin

    "The Clay Machine-gun" is a surreal and complex novel that explores the nature of reality and illusion. The story is set in post-Soviet Russia and follows a protagonist who has multiple identities, including a poet in 19th-century Russia, a 20th-century psychiatric patient, and a 21st-century advertising executive. The narrative moves between these identities and realities, blurring the lines between them and creating a layered and philosophical exploration of Russian society, identity, and the human psyche.

  8. 8. Happy Moscow by Andrey Platonov

    "Happy Moscow" is a satirical novel set in the Soviet Union during the height of Stalinist rule, following the life of a young woman, Moscow Chestnova, who is named after the capital city. Despite the harsh realities of life under an authoritarian regime, she maintains a positive and optimistic outlook, symbolizing the Soviet Union's propaganda that promoted an image of a happy and prosperous society. The novel, through its characters and their experiences, explores the paradoxes and contradictions of the Soviet society, challenging the official narrative of happiness and prosperity.

  9. 9. The Gospel According To Jesus Christ by José Saramago

    This novel offers a provocative and humanized retelling of the life of Jesus Christ, diverging from traditional biblical narratives. It presents a Jesus who is all too human, grappling with the complexities of life, love, and a sense of destiny. Through a blend of biblical lore and imaginative fiction, the story explores themes of divinity, free will, and morality, challenging readers to reconsider the foundations of faith and the nature of storytelling itself. The narrative delves into Jesus's relationships, his encounters with figures such as God and the Devil, and ultimately portrays a deeply philosophical and introspective version of a figure central to Western civilization.

  10. 10. Soul and Other Stories by Andrey Platonov

    "Soul and Other Stories" is a collection of short stories that delve into the human condition and the struggle for identity in a world filled with political and social upheaval. The stories are set in a variety of contexts, from the harsh landscapes of Central Asia to the chaos of the Russian Revolution. The characters are often faced with existential crises, grappling with questions of purpose, meaning, and morality. The narrative is marked by a unique blend of philosophical inquiry, poetic prose, and a deep sense of empathy for the human plight.

  11. 11. Fado Alexandrino by António Lobo Antunes

    "Fado Alexandrino" is a complex narrative that follows the lives of four Portuguese men who meet at a dinner in Lisbon to commemorate their return from the colonial war in Mozambique ten years prior. Each man, representing different social classes, recounts his life before, during, and after the war, revealing their personal struggles and the impact of the war on their lives. The novel also reflects the political and social changes in Portugal from the dictatorship era to the revolution and its aftermath.

  12. 12. The History of the Siege of Lisbon by José Saramago

    This narrative revolves around a proofreader named Raimundo Silva, who, while working on a historical text about the Siege of Lisbon, decides to alter history by adding a single word to the text, turning the factual account into a fictional one. This act of rebellion leads him into a relationship with his boss, Maria Sara, and together they explore the consequences of questioning historical facts and narratives. The story also delves into the power of language and storytelling, and the blurred lines between history and fiction.

  13. 13. The Life of Insects by Victor Pelevin

    "The Life of Insects" is a surreal novel that explores the complexities of post-Soviet Russia through the lens of a bizarre seaside community of humans who transform into various types of insects. The narrative unfolds through a series of interconnected stories that delve into the characters' struggles, dreams, and fears, serving as a metaphor for the human condition. The book provides a satirical commentary on society's ills, touching on themes of capitalism, corruption, and the search for identity in a rapidly changing world.

  14. 14. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

    In a 1950s Soviet Union gripped by fear and paranoia, Leo Demidov, a dedicated officer of the state security agency, is faced with a chilling reality: a series of brutal child murders that the government refuses to acknowledge. As Leo defies his superiors and embarks on a dangerous investigation, he becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue and personal danger, risking everything to uncover the truth and protect those he loves. "Child 44" is a gripping thriller that explores the dark underbelly of a repressive regime and the resilience of one man determined to bring justice to a society plagued by secrets.

  15. 15. The Zone by Sergei Dovlatov

    "The Zone" is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows the life of a writer who is confined to a Soviet labor camp. Through a series of vignettes, the protagonist reflects on his experiences in the camp, the absurdities of the Soviet system, and the struggles of maintaining his identity and integrity in the face of oppression. With dark humor and sharp observations, the book offers a poignant and satirical portrayal of life in the Soviet Union.

  16. 16. The Return Of The Caravels by António Lobo Antunes

    In this novel, the ghosts of Portugal's colonial past return to haunt the present, as the caravels from the age of exploration sail back into the Tagus River, bringing with them the historical figures from the 15th and 16th centuries. The narrative weaves together the lives of these returned explorers with those of contemporary Lisbon's denizens, blurring the lines between past and present. Through a series of interconnected stories, the book explores themes of identity, nostalgia, and the complex legacy of colonialism, as characters grapple with the dissolution of the Portuguese empire and the reintegration of its former colonies, reflecting on the impact of history on individual lives and national consciousness.

  17. 17. Treaty Of The Soul's Passions by António Lobo Antunes

    "Treaty of the Soul's Passions" is a profound exploration of human emotions and the complexities of the inner self. Through a series of interconnected stories and reflections, the narrative delves into the depths of love, despair, joy, and suffering, painting a vivid picture of the human condition. The author masterfully weaves a tapestry of characters and experiences, each revealing different facets of the soul's journey through life. With poetic language and rich psychological insight, the book invites readers to confront their own passions and question the nature of existence itself.

  18. 18. Karingana Ua Karingana by José Craveirinha

    "Karingana Ua Karingana" is a collection of poetry that delves into the rich cultural heritage and history of Mozambique. Through vivid and evocative imagery, the author explores themes of love, loss, and the struggles faced by the people of his country. Craveirinha's powerful and poignant verses offer a glimpse into the complexities of Mozambican society, while also celebrating its resilience and beauty.

  19. 19. Pushkin Hills by Sergei Dovlatov

    The book is a tragicomic novel that follows the story of an unsuccessful writer and divorced father who takes a summer job as a tour guide at the rural estate of a famous Russian poet. As he immerses himself in the petty concerns and daily life of the museum staff and local villagers, the protagonist grapples with his own literary ambitions, the complexities of his personal life, and the cultural legacy of the poet whose memory he is charged with preserving. The narrative is infused with sharp wit and a deep sense of irony as it explores themes of artistic integrity, cultural heritage, and the absurdities of Soviet life.

  20. 20. On The Golden Porch by Tatyana Tolstaya

    "On The Golden Porch" is a collection of short stories that delve into the lives of various characters in Soviet Russia, exploring themes of memory, history, and the complexities of human experience. The narrative weaves through the mundane and the extraordinary, painting vivid portraits of individuals as they navigate the peculiarities of their existence. With a blend of magical realism and sharp social observation, the stories capture the essence of Russian culture and psyche during a time of great change, revealing the resilience and richness of the human spirit in the face of the absurdities of life.

  21. 21. The Stone Raft by José Saramago

    In this surreal exploration, the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from the rest of Europe and begins to drift across the Atlantic Ocean. As the governments and international community scramble to understand and respond to the phenomenon, five disparate individuals find themselves drawn together on a journey across the newly isolated landscape. Through their experiences and interactions, the narrative explores themes of identity, nationality, and the arbitrary nature of borders.

  22. 22. Medea And Her Children by Lyudmila Ulitskaya

    "Medea And Her Children" by Lyudmila Ulitskaya is a powerful and emotionally charged novel that delves into the complex relationships between a mother and her children. Set in Soviet Russia, the story follows the lives of three generations of women as they navigate the challenges of love, sacrifice, and the oppressive political climate. Through vivid and compelling storytelling, Ulitskaya explores the universal themes of family, loyalty, and the enduring strength of a mother's love.

  23. 23. The Time: Night by Ludmila Petrushevskaya

    The book is a stark portrayal of the struggles faced by a multi-generational family living in the cramped quarters of a Moscow apartment during the twilight years of the Soviet Union. The narrative is driven by the matriarch, a poet who is both resilient and weary, as she navigates the complexities of caring for her mentally unstable daughter and her neglected grandson. The story delves deep into themes of maternal sacrifice, poverty, and the relentless passage of time, painting a grim picture of domestic life and the burdens of womanhood in a society that is as unforgiving as it is oppressive.

  24. 24. Terra Sonâmbula by Mia Couto

    "Terra Sonâmbula" by Mia Couto is a captivating novel set in war-torn Mozambique, where two individuals, a young boy and an old man, cross paths and embark on a journey that intertwines their lives. Through their encounters with other characters and their shared experiences, the book explores themes of loss, displacement, and the power of storytelling to heal and provide hope in the face of adversity. The lyrical prose and magical realism elements create a rich and evocative narrative that immerses readers in the complex and haunting world of post-colonial Mozambique.

  25. 25. Hurramabad by Andrei Volos

    "Hurramabad" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel set in contemporary Russia. The story follows the lives of three young men who find themselves entangled in a web of corruption, violence, and political intrigue in the city of Hurramabad. As they navigate through the complexities of power and loyalty, the characters are forced to confront their own moral dilemmas and make difficult choices that will shape their futures. With its vivid portrayal of a corrupt society and its exploration of themes such as friendship, love, and the pursuit of justice, "Hurramabad" offers a compelling and immersive reading experience.

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

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