Our next guest in this series, where we invite prominent people to share their most powerful reads with us, is Mozambican fashion designer Taibo Bacar. He tells us about the book that’s made an enduring impression on him…
What’s the title of the book? A Millionaire in Lisbon by José Rodrigues dos Santos. How old were you when you discovered it? 28. How did you come across it? I love the work of José Rodrigues dos Santos, and whenever a new book of his is released, I make sure to get a copy.
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He’s the bestselling author in Portugal. So I had been looking out for this book. Can you give us an idea of the story? The book tells the story of a poor man who, after various sacrifices, made his fortune. He became one of the richest men in the world, and amassed the most refined and unique art collections. Thanks to his intelligence, he became a key person in the distribution of oil throughout many countries. He was an adventurous, ambitious man, in love with beauty, who wanted to live more than 100 years. After travelling around the world, he discovered Lisbon, where he chose to spend the last days of his life. Was there a particular character who grabbed your imagination? The main character, Kaloust Sarkisian (based on the real-life Armenian millionaire Calouste Gulbenkian).
He had an amazing life! What emotions did it inspire in you? It made me want to grow as a person, made me see my life in perspective, and gave me a vision of who I wanted to become. It sparked an ambition to become a better person and realise greater things. OTHER BOOKS ON MY PERSONAL SHORT LIST… The Seventh Seal by José Rodrigues dos Santos, Vagabundos de Nós by Daniel Sampaio; Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Is there a person or event in it that stood out for you? The passage where the Muslims and Christians are fighting and killing each other. It made me very sad to think that people can kill each other over something so subjective.
I was also impressed to realise how much influence oil has had in the world economy and in our daily lives. What did you think after you’d turned the last page? I immediately wanted to visit Lisbon and visit all the places the book mentioned to understand the main character and his motivation better. It also prompted me to start making long-term projects for my personal and professional life. And, along the way, it made me appreciate the real value and meaning of ‘beauty’. Did it influence your views in any way? I fell in love with art. I started asking all my friends to give me artworks instead of any other kind of gift for my birthday or on special occasions.