Fernão Mendes Pinto
Author: Fernão Mendes Pinto
Title: Pilgrimage (Pérégrination)
Destination: Africa, Asia
Length: 21 years
Type: mostly by ship
clogged up freshness
This book was a big success in Europe during the 17th and 18th century. It was published a few decades after FMP’s death and describes the quixotic ways of his life.
great long voyage
The story: shortly after the European discoveries in the Americas, the young Portuguese gets on a ship to the East. He meets pirates and emperors, missionaries and natives, gets to the Middle East, India, Indonesia, China and Japan. After all this, he eventually returns to Portugal claiming – among other things – to have introduced the firearm (and Christendom) to the Japanese.
The German edition that I’m holding is about 400 pages, which are divided into 33 chapters, covering everything from FMP’s youth to his thirteen times in prison and seventeen times in slavery, until his return home after 21 years at sea.
overload of politics
Now this might sound like an epic adventure story and an awesome read, but the style of writing is very old school, so it’s a bit hard to enjoy. While the book is not quite as anecdotal (and slow) as the one by Marco Polo, it’s still weighed down by an overload of detail about warfare, diplomacy and political stuff, and eventually the storyline gets the worst of it. It feels… clogged up.
So yes, FMP does have an interesting story to tell. His observations about the native population are relatively fresh and unprejudiced, and you could easily interpret some of it as subliminal criticism of colonialism. But with all the additional abundance of information, it’s a pretty difficult read (at least for me).
Fernão Mendes Pinto’s character shining through
Sometimes his character shines through though: “But I am writing mainly for my children, for them to know what I have suffered through,” he tells us, and it’s one of the precious parts that made this book worthwhile for me. I wish there had been more of them.
I am going to rate this book a bit lower than Marco Polo’s, because this one was written much later and I would have expected it to be a bit more fun to read.
So it’s a 6 out of 10.