The extraordinary story of two generations in a Lisbon family of carpenters and of a father’s attempt to outrun his fate in the marathon at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912.
Set in the working-class district of Benfica in Lisbon, The Piano Cemetery tells the story of a family, and especially of the hopes and fears of the fathers who pass the baton of the generations on to their sons.
The Lazaro family are cabinet-makers who would rather be piano-makers. They have a carpentry shop in the Benfica district of Lisbon and there at the back is the ‘piano cemetery’ piled high with broken-down pianos that provide the spare parts needed for repairing pianos all over the city. It is a mysterious and magical place, a place of solace, a dreaming place and, above all, a trysting place for lovers.
The Piano Cemetery is a wonderfully accomplished novel in which the true story of the Portuguese marathon-runner, Francisco Lazaro, is woven into a rich narrative of love, betrayal, domestic happiness and dashed hopes. Narrated in part by the father of Francisco Lazaro on the day his grandson is born and the day he himself dies and in part by his son as he runs the Stockholm marathon of 1908, remembering his family and his loves as he struggles against the heat and strives to outrun death itself. It is a beautifully constructed tale, that is by turns, violent and tender, funny and moving, with flashes of true insight, startling imagery and an instinctive understanding of families and their ways.
The Piano Cemetery establishes José Luís Peixoto not only as the leading Portuguese novelist of his generation, but as a major figure on the international literary scene.