Lello Bookstore celebrates 116 years and launches Arabic editions of Portuguese classics at Expo Dubai

Porto’s most famous bookshop, Lello, on Thursday launched at Expo Dubai editions in Arabic of two Portuguese literary classics, ‘The Lusiads’ by Luís de Camões and ‘Message’ by Fernando Pessoa, and expressed its readiness to publish more works in the language in future with a view to promoting Portuguese literature abroad.


“This idea dates back to 2019, when we were invited to participate in the Portugal Pavilion [at Expo], as a showcase of our country,” said Lello’s manager, Aurora Pedro Pinto, speaking to Lusa at the pavilion. “At that time, it was clear to us that it would be through books: it is our mission. If it was through books, it had to be with the translation of a work into Arabic.”


Livraria Lello & Irmãos, as it is called in Portuguese, is located in Porto’s historic centre and is famous for its elaborate neo-Gothic decor, especially its double spiral staircase. It this year marks 116 years since it first opened.


According to Pinto, the choice of works “is pertinent” and takes into account the fact that they are a “very good example” of Portuguese literature for the world’s more than 274 million Arabic speakers.


She also said that Lello is willing to go ahead with the publication of more translated titles, should there be a market. “Our path will always be internationalisation to increase the number of readers,” she said.


On the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pinto noted that there are at the moment queues of up to two hours to visit the main space of Lello, and stressed that the bookshop is overcoming the impact of the past two years “calmly”. She stressed that people are already taking a different attitude to the pandemic, adapting to the new reality.


“What we did, throughout this period, was to remain a living bookshop,” she said. “As early as March [of 2020] we did a ‘drive thru’ to offer books to the city. We also did a competition and we are developing a series of activities to increase our collection [and] grow in books and authors.”
For the coming years, Lello’s objectives are to continue to promote Portuguese literature, “transform visitors into readers” and present the bookshop and the country to the world, she said.


Following the presentation of the Arabic editions of 16th-century saga ‘The Lusiads’ and the 20th-century Modernist milestone ‘Mensagem’ – which was streamed live in the bookshop itself – there followed in the protocol room of the Pavilion of Portugal at Expo Dubai the obliteration of a postcard issued by Portugal’s national postal service, the CTT, marking the country’s participation in the event, which runs until the end of March.