Category Archives: Observations: Writing, History, Travel and Culture

Pedro José Lobo

A man’s love for Macau

Pedro J. Lobo 1892-1965

A biography of P. J. Lobo, the businessman and philanthropist who also served as Macau’s Director of Economic Services is being written by his grandson, Marco Lobo.

Commissioned by the International Institute of Macau (IIM) the book covers the life and times of one of Macau’s greatest sons.

Born in Timor in 1892, Pedro Lobo was sent to Macau for schooling at the age of 9. From then his love for the former Portuguese colony grew and he lived there his entire life, helping to guide Macau through some of its darkest years.

Please feel free to leave your comments and to visit this page for updates about the release date of this book, expected to be at the end of 2019.


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The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival


More than 60 guests joining The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival

Jung Chang, acclaimed author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (1991), which the Asian Wall Street Journal called the most read book about China; Mao: The Unknown Story (2005, with Jon Halliday), which was described by Time magazine as “an atom bomb of a book”; and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (2013), is joining the The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival 2018 edition, scheduled to happen from March 10-25, at the Old Court Building, Macau.  Along with Jung Chang, the Festival will bring to town more than 60 writers, translators, musicians, filmmakers, performers and visual artists.

A most prestigious contemporary author, Jung Chang is one of the many add-ons to The Script Road’s 7th edition programme, that previously announced the attendance of guests such as North Korean defector and human-rights activist Hyeonseo Lee, undercover author Suki Kim, and former secret service agent and novelist James Church, as well as Peter Hessler, Leslie T. Chang, Rosa Montero, Han Dong, A Yi, Rui Tavares and Julián Fuks, amongst others.

Jung Chang’s books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. She has won many awards, including the UK Writers’ Guild ‘Best Non-Fiction’ and ‘Book of the Year UK’, and has received a number of honorary doctorates from universities in the UK and USA. Jung Chang was born in Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) she worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor”, a steelworker, and an electrician before becoming an English-language student at Sichuan University. She moved to the UK in 1978 and obtained a PhD in Linguistics at the University of York – the first person from Communist China to receive a doctorate from a British university.

One of the many other highlights of the Macau Literary Festival 2018 is the attendance of Li-Young Lee (1957, Indonesia), a multi-awarded American poet, author of several poetry collections and the memoir The Winged Seed: A Remembrance. Born of Chinese parents in Jakarta, Lee learned early about loss and exile. Right after Sun Yat-sen’s provisional period, his great grandfather was China’s first republican President, Yuan Shikai; and his father, a deeply religious Christian, was physician to Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Lee’s parents moved to Indonesia. In 1959, his father, after spending a year as a political prisoner in President Sukarno’s jails, fled Indonesia with his family to escape anti-Chinese sentiment. After a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964.

Marco Lobo, a Tokyo-based writer and descendant of the Lobo Macanese family, will also join The Script Road. His interest in the Portuguese diaspora springs from a multicultural upbringing that began in Macau and Hong Kong, and then continued across Asia, Europe and the Americas. The experience allowed him to closely observe the diverse societies in which Portuguese culture has spread, thrived and influenced. His historical novels, The Witch Hunter’s Amulet and Mesquita’s Reflections, explore themes of cultural conflict involving race and religion.

With a strong focus on China, The Script Road is proud to announce guests such as Lijia Zhang, a factory-worker-turned writer, social commentator and public speaker. One of the few Chinese who write regularly in English for international publications, her articles have appeared in The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Newsweek and The New York Times. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Socialism Is Great! which details her experience in a rocket factory, and her debut novel Lotus, on prostitution in contemporary China, was published by Macmillan in January 2017.

Other guests at this year’s Festival include Miguel Syjuco, novelist, journalist, and university professor from the Philippines – his debut novel Ilustrado was a NY Times Notable Book of 2010 as well as the winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize; Su Wei, acclaimed essayist and novelist and a native of Guangzhou; Lenora Chu, a Chinese-American journalist and author of Little Soldiers; and a number of acclaimed Chinese and China-related authors, translators and academics, such as Yu Jian, A Yi, Hu Xian and Yin Lichuan; Nicky Harman, Jeremy Tiang, Austin Warner, Wolfgang Kubin and Duncan Clark, biographer of Jack Ma (see full guest list and bios below).

Local authors will again form an important part of The Script Road programme. Poet, scholar and media columnist Jenny Lao-Phillips, children’s literature author and scholar Paul Pang, poet Rui Rocha, poet and historian Fernando Sales Lopes and fiction author Isolda Brasil will be taking the stage on different occasions during the two weeks of the Macau Literary Festival.

A number of special sessions will also take place, with poetry readings and jam sessions – one of them with the special presence of renowned Chinese poet Bei Dao.  A panel session entitled “History of Macau Press: Cross Perspectives” (March 14) will be held in partnership with the Macau Portuguese and English Press Association (AIPIM). There will also be an afternoon devoted to Architecture and Urban Planning, with a discussion entitled “River Cities Crossing Borders: History & Strategies” (March 16).  Additionally, a Poetry and Jam Session will be held at Grand Lapa, and a Children’s Literature Session at St. Regis. On March 24, The Script Road welcomes a talk on “Women’s Voices”, led by Bloomberg’s top news editor in Hong Kong, Jodi Schneider, again in partnership with AIPIM.



As usual The Script Road Concerts will be back, with two acts and tickets on sale within this week (exact date to be announced soon) at and the Macau Portuguese Bookshop.

On Saturday March 10, 9pm, at Pacha Macau, JP Simões-Bloom will take the stage, followed by DJ Selecta Alice. Pacha, the hottest club in town, is partnering with the Macau Literary Festival to showcase the talent of Bloom, the new pseudonym of JP Simões, a singer and Portuguese composer, who has been involved in several projects such as Pop dell’Arte, Belle Chase Hotel, Quinteto Tati and lately has been working solo. The search for a new sound has taken him on musical paths very different from his usual work. Tremble like a Flower is the name of his first solo album that crosses folk and blues in psychedelic landscapes.  He will perform songs from the album in a duet with musician, composer and producer Miguel Nicolau at The Script Road. Later, DJ Selecta Alice will take control of the dance floor. She is one of the promoters and pioneers of getting World Music in DJ sets in Portugal. Curator of the Sacred Fire stage at Boom Festival, in her sets, Selecta Alice pays tribute to the culture of partying and celebrating life through music and the ritual of dance. The rhythms of Africa, Latin America, the Balkans and India are mandatory stops in her sound travels around the world.

On Sunday March 18 at 8pm, it is time for Zhou Yunpeng to take to the stage of Dom Pedro V Theatre, in the city centre, with his songs. He is a folk singer and poet born in Shenyang in 1970, who became blind at the age of 9. When he was 10, he went to Shenyang Blind Children School, and then to the Special Education Institute in Changchun University (1991), majoring in Chinese Language. After graduating, he moved to Beijing and began his singing career. He has released several albums: The Breath Silent as a Secret (2004), Chinese Kids (2007), Fried Bitter Cucumber (2008), Cattle and Sheep Down From the Mountain (2010) and Old Town in April (2014). He is also the author of books such as Spring Blame (2010), Green Train (2011) and Get up to Listen to the Silence at Midnight (2017). In 2011, he was awarded the ‘Best Folk Singer’ and ‘Best Lyric Writer’ by Chinese Media Music, and his poem The Wordless Love was considered the ‘Best Poem’ by People’s Literature magazine. He also took part in the film Detective Hunter Zhang and composed its soundtrack – the film won the ‘Best Film’ award at the Golden Horse Film Festival (Taiwan). In 2017, he wrote the soundtrack for the film At the Dock.



On the visual arts side, The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival will host a series of exhibitions as in previous years. A group show curated by Architect Maria José de Freitas and putting together a number of works by local artists and architects such as Ung Vai Meng, Carmo Correia, Adalberto Tenreiro, António Mil-Homens, Chan In Io, João Miguel Barros, Francisco Ricarte, Gonçalo Lobo Pinheiro and Manuel Vicente – also entitled River Cities Crossing Borders: History & Strategies – will be presented at the Old Court Building.

Local artist João Ó will showcase Model for an Impossible Black Tulip, part of a larger project entitled Memory Palace. João Ó presented it for the first time at the Portuguese National Museum of Natural History and Science. This project reflects on the character and the achievements of the priest and scientist Matteo Ricci, the Italian Jesuit who used Macau to establish himself in mainland China during the XVI century. The piece shown at The Script Road is a rotating sculpture entirely made of bent bambu, simulating an infinite spiral of lines. Its name evoques the Complete Geographical Map of all the Kingdoms of the World, drawn by Ricci in 1584 and printed on wood in 1602.

At the Macau Portuguese Bookshop, The Script Road will be presenting Literary Landscapes of a Traveler, an exhibition by Portuguese artist Rui Paiva, who lived in Macau years ago. Together with his artworks and a collection of objects, Paiva will be launching his recently published book, White Cloud, both an Artist Book and a summary of his life. Since 1988, Rui Paiva has been participating in solo and collective exhibitions in Portugal, Macau, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. He has illustrated books of Macau poets, having published an illustration book in 1982.

Two exhibitions organised by long-standing partners of the festival, Orient Foundation and Creative Macau, will also be part of The Script Road programme. Faces of Poetry, by Chinese artist Chen Yu, will open on March 13 at Casa Garden, followed by a poetry reading. Punacotheca, by local cartoonist Rodrigo de Matos, will be held at Creative Macau from March 22 to April 21.



The Macau Literary Festival will be screening a total of five films this year, both at Cinematheque Passion and the Portuguese Consulate-General. Leading Chinese filmmaker Ju Anqi is traveling to Macau with his latest film, Poet on a Business Trip; writer and director Han Dong will be showing At the Dock; and poet Yu Jian will present his documentary Jade Green Station. Portuguese director Rita Azevedo Gomes will be coming to town to showcase Correspondências, a film based on the letters exchanged between two leading Portuguese poets, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen and Jorge de Sena. The Macau Literary Festival will also screen The Revenge of a Woman, by the same filmmaker.

The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival 7th edition has the support of the Macau SAR Government, Macau Foundation, several diplomatic missions from countries such as Portugal, the U.S.A, Spain, the Philippines, Brazil and the U.K., and a number of private sponsors and supporters including: SJM – Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, MGM Macau, Sands China, Wynn Resorts (Macau) S.A., Galaxy Macau, Melco Crown Entertainment, ICBC, CTM, Air Macau, Ascott Macau, Starwood Hotels, Grand Lapa Macau, Pousada de Coloane, Pacha Macau, Cotai Water Jet and Turbo Jet. Orient Foundation and IPOR – Portuguese Oriental Institute,  Institute of European Studies, University of Macau, Macau Polytechnic Institute, AIPIM, Casa de Portugal and a large number of Media Partners are also lending their valuable support to the Macau Literary Festival.



The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival was founded in 2012 by local newspaper Ponto Final and is based in the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR). The Festival is the largest gathering of literati from China and Portuguese-Speaking Countries ever organised in the world. In recent years, it has gained in popularity, becoming an international event that welcomes renowned writers, publishers, translators, journalists, musicians, filmmakers and visual artists of various nationalities. The 2017 edition of the Macau Literary Festival brought together authors from different geographies, including 2016 Man Booker Prize finalists Madeleine Thien and Graeme Macrae Burnet, as well as many writers from China and Portuguese-speaking countries. The Macau Literary Festival has the support of the MSAR Government and Macau Foundation, as well as that of several private entities. A number of companies, local associations, schools and universities also support this literary event. The Diplomatic Missions of some of the countries represented by writers attending the Festival also lend important support to The Script Road.

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Mesquita’s Reflections to be Released in Chinese and Portuguese

Interview in Portuguese (English follows)

“Chegar a leitores portugueses e chineses de Macau é uma inspiração para continuar a escrever”

Marco Lobo vê-se como um contador de histórias, à semelhança do seu avô, Pedro José Lobo. A publicação de uma biografia dessa figura lendária da história de Macau poderá estar entre os seus próximos projectos.










Ricardo Pinto:

No centro do seu mais recente romance, “Mesquita’s Reflections”, está Vicente Nicolau Mesquita, soldado macaense, figura controversa que atraiu Marco Lobo do mesmo modo que tantas outras personagens cravadas de defeito, mágoa e ousadia. Na mesma narrativa, a figura preponderante do antigo governador Ferreira do Amaral e as sucessivas tensões que enformaram uma cidade historicamente atravessada de elementos nefastos. A inspiração para a literatura, continua a buscá-la o autor nas raízes portuguesas, chinesas e escocesas, mas também no papel que a religião e a tecnologia desempenham nas sociedades subjugadas. Filho de Sir Roger Lobo, o escritor é também neto de Pedro José Lobo, figura incontornável na Macau do século XX, cujo vazio de produção biográfica poderá vir a contornar. Marco Lobo vai marcar presença na 7ª edição do Festival Rota das Letras. Uma oportunidade, assume, para alcançar leitores chineses e portugueses.

PONTO FINAL: O seu mais recente romance, cuja acção decorre na Macau do século XIX, tem o seu enfoque numa figura muito polarizante e controversa, um soldado do exército macaense, Vicente Nicolau Mesquita, encarado historicamente como um herói ou um vilão, dependendo da perspectiva. Como é que o descreve e o que o fez escrever sobre a sua vida?

Marco Lobo (M.L): A maioria das coisas que li sobre ele pintaram-no como uma alma conflituosa – torturada pelos seus próprios demónios, que eventualmente assumiram o controle da sua psique, acabando com a sua vida em tragédia. Eu descrevo o jovem Mesquita como um macaense típico (multirracial, como eu), e o mais velho como um miserável auto-delirante (espero que não seja eu mesmo). Estou atraído por escrever sobre personagens defeituosas e heróis acidentais. Ele desempenhou um papel fundamental numa “tempestade perfeita” que envolveu as ambições políticas de Portugal e a fraqueza militar da China, alimentou de ambos os lados uma colisão de culturas.

O romance trata em grande parte dos eventos que levaram ao assassinato do governador Ferreira do Amaral, ele mesmo uma figura muito polarizadora na história de Macau. O que o fez escolher Mesquita em vez de Amaral, como personagem principal do romance?

M.L: Na verdade, nunca pensei em Amaral como a figura central da história. As acções que ele tomou, as coisas que resultaram no seu assassinato foram catalisadores do que eu vi como a história “real”; a incursão de Mesquita na China e o sucesso militar inesperado.

O seu romance foi publicado apenas em inglês e agora será lançado em Macau, tanto em traduções em chinês como em português. Espera que seja recebido basicamente da mesma forma pelos leitores chineses e portugueses locais?

M.L: A minha esperança é que os leitores de qualquer substrato estejam interessados no desdobramento de um romance histórico –mais como uma história de aventura. Escrevi do ponto de vista de várias personagens de ambas as culturas sem ter a intenção de deixar uma mensagem. Numa versão anterior, comecei o romance do ponto de vista da estátua de Mesquita, observando a multidão enquanto as tensões se elevavam e, então, derrubando-as. Essa abordagem, eu senti que me levava mais longe na política daquele tempo do que eu queria ir. Acabei por descrever os acontecimentos de 1966 no final do romance, mais como um epílogo.

Fale-nos das fontes que usou na pesquisa para este romance. Foi surpreendido por factos particularmente intrigantes de que tomou conhecimento durante o processo?

M.L: A coisa mais desafiadora foi tentar ser historicamente preciso, particularmente ao representar o ataque ao forte chinês. Eu li vários relatos da batalha, nenhum dos quais meu deu detalhes suficientes para eu escrever sobre isso. As fontes nas quais eu confiei eram, portanto, coisas como história militar, armamento, tácticas e também métodos de construção de fortificações chinesas. Não é uma surpresa, mas seguir um fio histórico em termos de mudança de atitudes políticas e culturais ao longo de alguns séculos foi um bom abrir de olhos. Por exemplo, o momento e a motivação de erigir as estátuas de Mesquita e Amaral e a mesma situação para a destruição da estátua de Vicente em 1966 e a remoção da de Amaral em 1992.

Descreve no romance uma cidade de Macau onde as prácticas imorais, como os “culis” e o comércio do ópio, são generalizadas. No entanto, tem-se a impressão de que a condenação dessas práticas é de alguma forma apenas moderada no livro. É como se Macau não tivesse outra alternativa senão tornar-se uma cidade do pecado?

M.L: Repreendi-me por não ter tido mais força na condenação do comércio de “culis” e da escravidão. No entanto, como um pano de fundo para o bem da narrativa, confiei bastante nesses elementos nefastos. A descrição de uma Macau pacífica e tranquila, habitada por bons católicos e uma população harmoniosa, foi, penso eu, enganadora.

A Igreja Católica, representada pelo Bispo da Mata, reprovou as políticas de Amaral, já que estavam a afectar os seus planos na China. De facto, uma relação pacífica entre os portugueses e os chineses em Macau foi considerada essencial para a expansão da Igreja na China, e o seu romance ocasionalmente sugere que o bispo da Mata estava preparado para fazer o que fosse necessário para remover Amaral do poder. No entanto, essa linha narrativa de conspiração não foi totalmente explorada no livro. Acredita que o governador Ferreira do Amaral acabou por ser morto pelo mais impaciente dos seus muitos inimigos?

M.L: Essa é uma possibilidade interessante, mas apoiar essa narrativa complicaria ainda mais um tema já complexo. O facto de que o substituto de Amaral, Pedro Alexandre da Cunha, durou pouco mais de um mês também suscita algumas possibilidades intrigantes, e, na verdade, é um assunto com que lido no meu actual trabalho em andamento.

Você usa reflexões de Mesquita para comparar o governador Amaral com o herói imortal de Cervantes, D. Quixote de la Mancha; e depois enfatiza uma diferença significativa entre eles: em vez de combater inimigos imaginários, Amaral subestimou o poder dos inimigos reais que criou. Ele estava delirante e totalmente fora de contacto com a realidade – no romance até coloca o bispo da Mata a submetê-lo a uma sessão de exorcismo – ou estava conscientemente a procurar um destino trágico, por se sentir profundamente angustiado pelo declínio de Portugal como potência mundial?

M.L: Eu vi Amaral como um homem iludido pela sua auto-percepção; um herói conquistador cujas ambições foram frustradas pela realidade da sua situação. Se não tivesse sido assassinado, poderia ter sido ele próprio a liderar o ataque ao Forte de Baishaling (Passaleão), e talvez não tivesse sido bem sucedido, quem sabe? Que Hong Kong tinha sido cedido aos ingleses não muito antes, só tornou mais urgente para ele provar que Portugal poderia fazer o mesmo com Macau. A referência a Cervantes foi mais em termos de Mesquita como o companheiro desajeitado.

A estátua de Ferreira do Amaral, que ficou em frente ao Hotel Lisboa até o início dos anos 90, foi enviada para Portugal na sequência de uma decisão das autoridades portuguesas, que temiam que fosse destruída se fosse deixada para trás. Na verdade, eles acreditavam que teria um destino semelhante ao monumento alusivo a Mesquita, na Praça do Senado, que foi removida por manifestantes durante os tumultos em 1966 contra o governo colonial português. As duas acções eram inevitáveis, tendo em mente o que Amaral e Mesquita representam na história de Macau? Como acha que sociedades multiculturais, como Macau, devem lidar com esse tipo de tabus históricos?

M.L: Se não fosse destruída, certamente teria sido objecto de protestos indesejados. De certa forma, é uma situação semelhante à controvérsia actual que envolve as estátuas da Confederação nos estados do sul dos Estados Unidos – simbolismo que alguns vêem como insensível e prejudicial. Deve haver diálogo e compromisso que levem à compreensão, em última análise, para permitir que diferentes culturas não apenas coexistam, mas sejam abraçadas por todos os habitantes.

Acompanhou a evolução social e política de Macau após a transferência de soberania, em 1999? Alguma reflexão que queira partilhar connosco?

M.L: Vivendo no Japão, segui as mudanças de Macau como um observador distante. Como parte da China, o foco transferiu-se de Macau como território independente onde os cidadãos se batiam pelas suas próprias esperanças e sonhos, para o que são os planos da China, o que não é tão claro para mim. Mas qualquer um pode ver as mudanças económicas que resultaram da concessão das licenças de jogo e da criação do ‘playground’ da China; certamente isso trouxe benefícios financeiros, mas, ao mesmo tempo, a imagem de uma “cidade do pecado” tornou-se mais prevalecente.

As suas raízes familiares portuguesas sempre estiveram presentes nas primeiras fases da sua carreira como escritor. Antes de “Mesquita’s Reflections”, publicou um primeiro romance situado na Goa do século XVI, durante os dias da Inquisição e, mais recentemente, lançou uma colectânea de contos sobre a introdução do Cristianismo no Japão, também durante o século XVI. Fale-nos desses dois livros, da racionalização e do planeamento por trás da sua publicação. Os assuntos relacionados com a portugalidade manterão um papel central em projectos futuros?

M.L: Continuarei a mergulhar nas minhas raízes portuguesas para inspiração, mas também nas minhas raízes chinesas, bem como na ascendência escocesa. O Amuleto do Caçador de Bruxas, situado em Goa, era sobre hipocrisia e um certo senso de direito ao privilégio reinante nas potências coloniais. Um tema comum em toda a minha escrita explora o papel da religião, bem como o papel da tecnologia. A tecnologia inicial eram armas superiores, navios e dispositivos de navegação e o papel que desempenhavam em sociedades subjugadas com formas mais primitivas delas.

É neto do falecido Pedro José Lobo, uma figura lendária da história do século XX de Macau. Que memórias guarda dele? E tendo sido ele próprio também uma figura controversa – para muitos, o governador de facto de Macau ao longo de três décadas -, como descreveria o seu papel na história deste território?

M.L: Lembro-me do meu avô como um homem atencioso e generoso. Nunca o vi como político ou empresário, mas mesmo enquanto crianças reconhecemos que ele era alguém especial. Ouvindo histórias sobre ele e a sua influência, fiquei a achar que ele trouxe algo especial para Macau, da mesma forma que os primeiros colonos com meios e inteligência trazem para um novo lugar a que querem chamar casa, ou seja, trabalhar para construí-lo como um bom lugar para gerações futuras.

Ele era uma estranha combinação de funcionário público, empresário, mediador de conflitos, artista e filantropo, eventualmente acumulando funções que hoje seriam consideradas incompatíveis. Nesse sentido, diria que ele era um produto de seu tempo?

M.L: Eu acredito que ele era um homem que fazia as coisas porque via a necessidade de que elas fossem feitas. Nos meus escritos, abordei a questão da ineficácia dos governadores coloniais, olhando para o seu papel como temporário, como etapas a caminho de coisas melhores, como meros regentes. Ele era um produto de seu tempo porque deparou-se com um vácuo de poder, algo que talvez não fosse possível se um Governo mais forte tivesse existido.

Se falta alguma coisa na produção literária de Macau, é uma biografia do seu avô. Sim, ele era impressionante o suficiente para que, aparentemente, tivesse inspirado o romance “Goldfinger” de Ian Fleming, mas infelizmente nenhum trabalho sério sobre ele, com boa investigação, foi ainda publicado. Já pensou em fazer isso?

M.L: Sim, eu considerei isso e pode estar no meu horizonte. No entanto, ele era um homem muito zeloso da privacidade e não tenho a certeza se aprovaria. É um projecto que eu teria que discutir com a minha família alargada a fim de obter o seu acordo.

Uma palavra também sobre o seu pai, Sir Roger Lobo, que ajudou a fundar a companhia aérea Cathay Pacific e liderou durante muitos anos o Urban Council, em Hong Kong. É justo dizer que ele, um pouco como o seu avô, foi uma espécie de vulto ignorado da história recente de Macau? Como gostaria que fosse lembrado?

M.L: Tal como o meu avô, o meu pai era um indivíduo muito dado à privacidade. Tudo o que fez foi para o bem da sua família e da sociedade, e não para o auto- enriquecimento, para o qual teve amplas oportunidades e sempre recusou. Ambos deixaram-nos um nome de família de que espero que a minha geração e as próximas saibam estejam à altura, e, dessa forma, perpetuar as suas memórias.

Voltando a si, como é que um professor universitário de Economia se tornou um autor de romances históricos? Teve experiências anteriores que o encorajaram a começar a publicar os seus escritos?

M.L: Os meus pais eram contadores de histórias, contando-nos as suas vidas e dos seus antepassados, contos sobre guerras e muitas outras leituras para nós, crianças. Eu fiz o mesmo com os meus filhos e suponho que a progressão natural a partir daí foi colocar isso no papel.

Nos vários géneros que queira mencionar, quem foram os escritores que mais o inspiraram? Alguns autores preferidos entre chineses, portugueses e macaenses?

M.L: Em termos de autores portugueses, eu teria que mencionar José Saramago primeiro, a sua escrita tem uma qualidade de sonho mágico. Quanto à ficção histórica, eu gosto de James Clavell. O romancista britânico Hari Kunzru também é um dos meus favoritos, assim como Joanne Harris pelas suas maravilhosas descrições de comida. O escritor chinês A Yi, é um escritor divertido, como é o sino-americano Li Yiyun. São tantos, demasiados para mencionar.

O que significa para você ter o seu romance “Mesquita’s Reflections” traduzido para chinês e português, e participar no Festival Literário de Macau, onde essas edições serão lançadas?

M.L: Estou muito entusiasmado e honrado por fazer parte do Festival. Ter a oportunidade de chegar a leitores chineses e portugueses em Macau com as minhas histórias é uma inspiração para continuar a escrever para eles.

              Interview, English version

  1. Your most recent novel, the one set in nineteen century’s Macau, focus on a very polarising and controversial figure, Macanese army soldier Vicente Nicolau Mesquita, who historically has been seen as a hero or a villain depending on who’s perspective we consider. How would you describe him and what made you write about his life?

Most things I’ve read about him painted him as being a conflicted soul ― tortured by his own demons that eventually took control of his psyche, ending his life in tragedy. I describe the young Mesquita as a typical Macanese (multiracial like myself), and the older one as a self-delusional wretch (hopefully not like myself). I am drawn to writing about flawed characters and accidental heroes. He played a pivotal role in a ‘perfect storm’ that involved Portugal’s political ambitions and China’s military weakness, fueled on both sides a collision of cultures.

  1. The novel in a large part deals with the events leading to the assassination of Governor Ferreira do Amaral, himself a very polarising figure in Macau’s history. What made you choose Mesquita instead of Amaral as the main character of your novel?

In truth, I never really considered Amaral as the central figure of the story. The actions he took, things that resulted in his assassination were catalysts to what I saw as the ‘real’ story; Mesquita’s foray into China and unexpected military success.

  1. Your novel was published only in English and will now be released in Macau, both in Chinese and Portuguese translations. Do you expect it to be received basically in the same way by local Chinese and Portuguese readers?

My hope is that readers of any background will be interested in the unfolding of a historical tale ― more of an adventure story. I have written from the viewpoints of several characters of both cultures without the intention of delivering a message. In an earlier version, I began the novel from the point of view of Mesquita’s statue, observing the crowd as tensions rose and then tearing it down. That approach, I felt was taking it further into the politics of the time than I wanted to go. I described the events of 1966 at the back of the novel, more of an epilogue.

  1. Tell us about the sources you’ve used on the research for this novel. Were you caught by surprise by any particularly intriguing facts you learned during the process?

The most challenging thing was attempting to be historically accurate, particularly in depicting the attack on the Chinese fort. I read several accounts of the battle, none of which gave enough detail for me to write about it. The sources I relied on therefore were on things such as military history, weaponry, tactics and also construction methods of Chinese fortifications. Not so much a surprise, but following a historical thread in terms of changing political and cultural  attitudes over a couple of centuries was quite an eye-opener. For instance, the timing and motivation of erecting both Mesquita’s and Amaral’s statues, and the same situation for the destruction of Vicente’s statue in 1966 and removal of Amaral’s in 1992.

  1. You describe in the novel a city of Macau where immoral practises such as the collies and the opium trade are widespread. Nevertheless, one has the impression that the condemnation of those practises is somehow just moderate in the book. Is it like Macau had no alternative than becoming a sin city?

I have chided myself over not having been more forceful in the condemnation of coolie trading and slavery. However, as a backdrop for the sake of storytelling, I relied on those nefarious elements quite strongly. Describing a peaceful, calm Macau, inhabited by good Catholics and a harmonious population would, I think, have been misleading.

  1. The Catholic Church, represented by Bishop da Mata, disapproved Amaral’s policies, as they were affecting their plans in China. In fact, a peaceful relationship between the Portuguese and the Chinese was considered as essential for the Church expansion in China, and your novel occasionally suggests that Bishop da Mata was prepared to do whatever necessary to remove Amaral from power. Yet, that conspiracy narrative line was not fully explored in the book. Do you believe that Governor Ferreira do Amaral was killed by just the more impatient of his many enemies?

That’s an interesting possibility but supporting that narrative would have further complicated an already complex theme. The fact that Amaral’s replacement, Pedro Alexandro da Cunha lasted little more than a month in his post also raises some intriguing possibilities, and in fact is a subject I deal with in my current work-in-progress.

  1. You use Mesquita’s thoughts and reflections to compare Governor Amaral to Cervante’s immortal hero D. Quixote de la Mancha; and then you stress a significant difference between them: instead of fighting imaginary enemies, Amaral underestimated the power of the real enemies he has created. Was he delusional and totally out of touch with reality – in the novel you even have Bishop da Mata submitting him to an exorcism session – or was he consciously seeking a tragic destiny, for feeling deeply distressed by the decline of Portugal as a world power?

I saw Amaral as a man deluded by his self-perception; a conquering hero whose ambitions were thwarted by the realities of his situation. If not killed, he might well have been the one to attack Baishaling Fort, and perhaps not as successfully, but who knows? That Hong Kong had been ceded not long before, only made it more urgent for him to prove that Portugal could do the same with Macau. The Cervantes reference was more in terms of Mesquita being the bumbling sidekick.

  1. Ferreira do Amaral’s statue, which stayed in front on Hotel Lisboa until the early 90s, was shipped to Portugal following a decision of the Portuguese authorities, who feared it would be destroyed if left behind. In fact, they believed it would meet a similar fate as Mesquita’s monument, at the Senado Square, which was removed from its location by protesters during riots in 1966 against the Portuguese Colonial Government. Were both actions inevitable, having in mind what Amaral and Mesquita represented in Macau’s history? How do you think multi-cultural societies such as Macau should deal with this kind of historical taboos?

If not destroyed, it certainly would have been the subject of unwanted protest. In some ways, similar to the current controversy that surrounds US Confederate statues in southern US states ― symbolism that some see as insensitive and hurtful. There must be dialogue and engagement that will lead to understanding, ultimately to allow different cultures to not just coexist, but to be embraced by all inhabitants.

  1. Have you been following the social and political evolution of Macau after the handover, in 1999? Any reflections you wouldn’t mind to share with us?  

Living in Japan I have followed Macau’s changes as a distant observer. As part of China, the focus has transformed from Macau as an independent territory where citizens strove for their own hopes and dreams to what China’s plans for it are, which are not so clear to me. But anyone can see the economic changes that have come from gambling licences and China’s playground, certainly that has brought financial benefit, but at the same time the image of a ‘sin city’ has become more prevalent.

  1. Your Portuguese family roots have been always present at the first stages of your career as a writer. Before “Mesquita’s Reflections”, you have published a first novel set in sixteen century Goa, during Inquisition days, and more recently you’ve released a collection of short-stories about the introduction of Christianity in Japan, also during the 16th Tell us about these two books, and the rationale and the planning behind their publication. Will Portuguese-related subjects keep a central role in future projects?

I will continue to draw on my Portuguese roots for inspiration but also my Chinese roots as well as Scottish ancestry. The Witch Hunter’s Amulet, set in Goa was about hypocrisy and a sense of entitlement of colonial powers. A common theme in all my writing explores the role of religion as well as the role of technology. Early technology being superior weaponry, ships and navigational devices and the role they played in subjugating societies with more primitive forms of them.

  1. You are the grandson of the late Pedro José Lobo, a legendary figure in Macau’s twenty-century history. How do you remember him? And, again, himself a controversial figure – for many, the de facto Governor of Macau throughout three decades – how would you describe his role in the history of this territory?

I remember my grandfather as a kind and generous man. I never saw him as a politician or businessman, but even as children we recognized that he was something special. Listening to stories about him and his influence, I think he brought something to special to Macau much in the same way that early settlers with means and intelligence bring to a new place they want to call home i.e. working to build it as a good place for future generations.

  1. He was an intriguing combination of civil servant, businessman, powerbroker, artist and philanthropist, eventually accumulating functions that today would be considered incompatible. In that sense, would you say he was a product of his time?

I believe he was a man that did things because he saw a need for them to be done. In writing I’ve explored the issue of colonial governors being ineffective, seeing their roles as temporary, as stepping stones to better things, as care takers. He was a product of his time because he stepped into a power vacuum, something which may not have been possible if stronger government had existed.

  1. If there’s something missing in Macau’s literary production, it’s a biography of your grandfather. Yes, he was impressive enough to apparently inspire Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger, but unfortunately no serious and well-researched work about him has been published yet. Have you ever considered doing it?

Yes, I have considered it and that may be on the horizon. However, he was a very private man and I’m not sure he would approve. It is a project in which I would have to discuss with my very large family, and to get their agreement.

  1. A word also about your father, Sir Roger Lobo, who helped found Cathay Pacific airline and led for many years the Urban Council in Hong Kong. Fair to say he was a bit like his father a sort of unsung hero of Macau’s recent history? How would you like to see him being remembered here?

As with my grandfather, my father was a very private individual. He did things for the good of his family and for society rather than for self-enrichment, which he had ample opportunity for and declined. Both of them left us a family name that I hope my generation and the next ones will uphold, and in that way perpetuate their memories.

  1. Going back to you, how did a Business and Economy University Professor become an author of historic novels? Had you had previously any particular experiences that encouraged you to start publishing your writings?

My parents were storytellers, telling us of their lives and ancestors, tales of wartime and often reading stories to us kids. I did the same with my children and I suppose the natural progression from there was to put pen to paper.

  1. In as many genres as you may want to mention, who have been the writers that have most inspired you? Any favourite Chinese, Portuguese and Macanese authors?

In terms of Portuguese authors, I would have to mention Jose Saramago first, his writing has a magical dream-like quality. As for rollicking historical fiction, I like James Clavell. British novelist Hari Kunzru is also quite a favourite as is Joanne Harris for her wonderful descriptions of food. The Chinese writer A Yi, is an entertaining writer as is the Chinese-American Li Yiyun. So many, too many to mention.

  1. What does it mean for you to have your novel “Mesquita’s Reflections” translated to Chinese and Portuguese, and to attend the Macau Literary Festival where those editions will be released?

I am thoroughly thrilled and honoured to be part of it. To have the opportunity to be able to reach Chinese and Portuguese readers with my stories is an inspiration for me to continue writing for them.

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kiss of the oceans (4)

In my current work-in-progress, a detective novel set in the 1850s, the protagonist travels from New York to San Francisco via the Panama Route, i.e. opting to cross from Atlantic to Pacific overland rather than sail all the way round the tip of South America. Here is an excerpt:

AT DAWN, THE DOWNPOUR SOFTENED to a drizzle and with a calmer sea, I began to feel safer from the retreating squall. Then, as if in defiance, the storm released a deep, slow rumble — nature telling me with a belch that it had its fill. It shook me to the core before ebbing away.

Under another burst of light, purple welts lined the sky. Panama seemed to wink at me; a weary gesture from her bruised eyelid that said, “So, now you too.”

Hers was a story of turmoil. Thrust off the seabed by its cataclysmic coupling, she was smothered in layers of sludge. Driven ever upwards, she eventually broke surface. With first breaths she conjoined the landmasses to either side, cleaving the Earth’s ocean into two.

Coveted as a prize long before she was named, her slender neck was what made her so alluring. Separating Atlantic and Pacific by only 50 miles at her narrowest point, she so served as a bond between them. For centuries, conquistadores, mercantilists, and pirates fought to have her. Even my former homeland Scotland had tried its luck at setting up a colony on her Atlantic shore in order to establish an overland trade route. The 17th Century Darien Scheme failed miserably after only a few years, resulting in the destruction of the finances of the entire country.

Panama had declared independence from Spain just thirty years earlier and was now part of Colombia. Given the recent interest in California, I wondered if America had designs on her. There was already talk of constructing a railroad across her back to link the two great oceans.

And so, yes, now me too, I thought in reply.



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Birth of the Sierra Nevada


TEN MILLION YEARS AGO, a massive block of the earth’s crust ripped through the surface as it tilted to the west. Rivers cut deep ravines on both sides of the new mountain range. Lava boiled up and then flowed down into canyons which over millennia, eroded to leave high plains along the ancient river channels.
Still, the gods were not done sculpting. Glaciers carved out crescent-shaped gorges throughout the range. Working in unison, river and glacier exposed the uppermost portions of the plutons forming the Sierra’s crest.
Long before Garcí Ordóñez de Montalvo dreamed of gilded Amazons, or the Franciscan missionary and chronicler Pedro Font, named the serrated peaks ‘Sierra Nevada’, the mountains were home to America’s native peoples. In Yokut lore, the birth of the peaks is explained:
There was once a time in the world when nothing existed but water. At the place where Lake Tulare is now, a pole stood far out of the water. This pole provided a perch for Hawk and Crow.
First, Hawk would rest on the pole for a while, then Crow would knock him off and sit on it. Thus, they took turns sitting on the pole above the water for a very long time. At last, they created the birds which prey on fish; Kingfisher, Eagle, Pelican, and others. They also created Duck. Duck was very small, but she dived to the bottom of the water, filled her beak with mud, and then died when trying to return from the depths. Duck floated on the water, lying dead. Then Hawk and Crow took the mud from Duck’s beak and began making the mountains.
They began at the place now known as Ta-hi-cha-pa Pass, with Hawk building the eastern range and Crow forming the west one. They tamped the mud down hard into the water and piled it high, working toward the north. Finally, Hawk and Crow met at the place we call Mount Shasta. Their work was done, but when they looked at their mountains, Crow’s range was by far larger than Hawk’s.
Hawk said to Crow, “How did this happen, you rascal? You have been stealing earth from my bill. That is why your mountains are biggest.”

Crow laughed at Hawk.

Then Hawk chewed some Indian tobacco and it made him wise. At once he took hold of the mountains and turned them around almost in a circle, putting his smaller range where Crow’s had been. And that is why the Sierra Nevada Range is larger than the Coastal Range.

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New Book – Atavist

My new book ‘Atavist’ is now available on Kindle.
The short stories in this collection are set in 16th Century Japan. Each of the tales has been written as a stand-alone vignette, but each also provides a glimpse into the story that follows. Beginning with a pirate’s sea battle, it leads to the birth of a pearl on the sea floor far beneath the carnage. Could an object such as a pearl be ‘evil’? If so, then could it also imbue other objects with malevolence? The stories also touch on the theme of early Christianity in Japan. European traders — particularly the Portuguese and Spanish — introduced guns to Japan, something Japanese warlords couldn’t get enough of. They also introduced Christianity. The new religion originally flourished, but eventually met with strong resistance that resulted in it being banned, resulting in thousands of Christians being persecuted.
The book is illustrated with Japanese artwork depicting the theme of each story. There is also a bonus section which provides more illustrations as well as explanations into the background of each tale.
The word ‘atavist’ refers to the recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form.

Kindle Atavist

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Mesquita’s Reflections’ a New Historical Novel by Marco Lobo

Marco Lobo’s new book, Mesquita’s Reflections has just been released, available at leading bookstores around the world.

Read a sample of the book at Freado.

Mesquita book cover

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