Five Days, Five Nights

(4 customer reviews)
Author: Manuel Tiago


With this book we are pleased to present a literary talent heretofore unknown in the English-reading world.  Tiago’s use of language is rich and exuberant, his characterizations are empathic and intuitive. Like a master painter, he supplies enough suggestive detail to fill out a larger picture of Portuguese society.

SKU: 9780717807895 Category: ISBN: 9780717807895.


The Portuguese Communist Party is, proportionate to the size of the country’s population, one of the largest in the world, certainly in the capitalist world. It must have come as something of a surprise for Portuguese readers to learn that its longtime leader, Alvaro Cunhal, had made a sideline career for himself as a neorealist fiction writer. This book is the first to appear in English. International Publishers, renowned for its historic catalogue of publications of non-fiction, including Marxist theoretical studies, fiction, memoir and poetry, is proud to present this unusual novella as a long overdue expression of gratitude for Alvaro Cunhal’s self sacrificing leadership of the Portuguese Communists during most of the half-century of fascism in his land.

Stylistically, Five Days, Five Nights approximates something of the 1940s and ’50s noir writers’ and filmmakers’ hyperrealist sensibilities, though any direct influence on the writer is not likely, for Cunhal wrote this book while imprisoned in Portugal in the 1950s. He was able to slip it past the censors, who saw little specifically political in it, merely the story of an emigrant escaping the country, a common occurrence at the time. Notably, there is no reference to the Party as such, though readers are welcome to infer its presence in the background.

The manuscript of this novella was found in the archives of the Forte de Peniche, where Cunhal had been imprisoned. Cunhal had left it behind when he escaped on January 3, 1960, although he did take with him the manuscript to another, much longer and more specifically political novel, Até Amanhã, Camaradas. After the 25th of April 1974 Revolution that brought an end to fascism in Portugal, the military officers in charge of the fort returned the manuscript to Cunhal, and he published it in 1975 under the pseudonym Manuel Tiago, with a fictitious indication that it had been found in the “author’s” papers after his death (an explanation he also used for Até Amanhã, Camaradas). At the time the true authorship of these books was known only to the Party leadership. Only later in life, in 1994, did Cunhal acknowledge that he was “Manuel Tiago,” pseudonymous author of several books (whose titles are noted in the biography of the

Cunhal had obviously heard many stories of his comrades’ clandestine emigration across the border. Possibly, too, there may be some autobiographical content to the story given the author’s involvement in the Portuguese student movement in Lisbon in the very early years of António Salazar’s Estado Novo.

Estado Novo or— “New State” was a version of fascism and a setting of the story in the early 1930s would seem probable. Furthermore, it seems to predate the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and Francisco Franco’s subsequent fascist regime, if we are to accept the logic of an escape over the border from the oppressive Portugal to an untroubled Spain as described in the book. However, If we understand the story as existing outside of a specific time, involving archetypal situations, relationships and circumstances, then to that extent it achieves a certain universality, standing in for similar, parallel conditions almost anywhere in the world at any time.

In the final analysis, Five Days, Five Nights surely was written to remind readers not only of the sacrifices made by fascism’s resisters, but of the loss of creativity and intelligence that Portugal suffered due to fascism’s
erosion of talented, hardworking citizens.

Additional information

Weight 4.176 oz
Dimensions 8.5 × 5.5 × .201 in

4 reviews for Five Days, Five Nights

  1. Barbara T. Russum

    Beautifully translated by Eric A. Gordon.
    Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator (from Portuguese) of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He holds a doctorate in history from Tulane University. He chaired the Southern California chapter of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 UAW (AFL-CIO) for two terms and is director emeritus of The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District. In 2015 he produced “City of the Future,” a CD of Soviet Yiddish songs by Samuel Polonski. He received the Better Lemons “Up Late” Critic Award for 2019, awarded to the most prolific critic.

  2. Barbara T. Russum

    About the Illustrator
    Artist Ilse Gordon lives in Cos Cob, Connecticut, where she is known for her local landscapes of public parks and private gardens. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she continued her studies at the Art Students’ League and The National Academy of Design. Her work can be found in both private and public collections, including in the permanent collection of Greenwich Library’s Main Branch. Greenwich Magazine featured one of her paintings on its cover. Beyond drawing, painting, and printmaking, she also creates threedimensional art, making numerous screens and tiled and painted furniture. Her website is

  3. Ruthie Buell

    “Five Days, Five Nights”: A review

    “Five Days, Five Nights”: A review

    It is always risky to construct an organic whole, a single all-inclusive meaning or, more boldly, a single metaphor for an entire book. But a larger definition leaps out at me. First, and most important, Five Days, Five Nights succeeds and does so beautifully, giving us exactly what the author intended — an almost perfect piece of fiction. I say “almost” not because I found fault, but because I am certain the author would use that word. Authors are always self-critical, even of that which they would consider completed.
    I loved Five Days, Five Nights by Manuel Tiago, known to his Portuguese Communist companheiros as Álvaro Cunhal, long-time leader of the Portuguese Communist Party. I hung on every word. Indeed, on almost every page there was a cliff for just that purpose!
    Cunhal wrote Five Days during an 11-year imprisonment in Forte de Peniche, from which he heroically escaped on January 3, 1960. He took with him a longer manuscript titled Até Amanhã, Camaradas (Until Tomorrow, Comrades) but left behind Five Days. When fascism ended in Portugal, the manuscript was returned to him, and he published it in 1975 under the pseudonym Manuel Tiago. The plot is described in People’s World:
    Five Days, Five Nights is the fictional story of 19-year-old André and his attempt to flee to Spain from oppression in Portugal. To cross the border he enlists the help of the shady, dangerous, older criminal Lambaça. They must cross the rough border terrain, passing through villages and encountering a few peasants along their way.
    I have to offer praise for the seamless translation by Eric A. Gordon, for it is hard to tell where where the Portuguese leaves off and the English begins, which may be the very definition of any really successful translation.
    Five Days, Five Nights was a joy to read, and in a single reading at that (with a short lunch break). I see this work as a single subtle and well-crafted metaphor, political, yes, but much more. The words “poetic” and “poignant” come to mind.
    The exact spot where I felt the story to be not just political, but comradely communistic, was in chapter 13 when the two main characters, Lambaça and André, take their leave of Zulmira, a beautiful country girl with whom they overnighted, who picks up a little extra money “working”: “The girl then said goodbye with her hand, in a gesture so sad and forlorn, that he would never stop thinking about it, nor ever stop feeling its pain.” (The edition issued by International Publishers also includes illustrations by Ilse Gordon, who lovingly captured this particular moment.)
    The tale is, I believe, a metaphor for revolution. I see, in both plot and the personality of each character, that which is part of all revolutions. One quality common to revolutions, uncertainty, runs through the story. André cannot tell us exactly why he is on this journey or what his final destination will be. Also, he is young, as are all revolutions, hence the great degree of uncertainty, with much room for the maturation to come. Zulmira symbolizes the sadness of the oppression that must be overcome. And Lambaça holds within him both the nobility and the sometimes oppressive nature of revolution. We cringe at times at his gratuitous harshness and human flaws, but these are part of all revolutionaries. Please enlighten me, someone, if history has yet recorded a perfect revolution.
    The novella ends with André about to enter a new country and a new life. We hope to meet him again and learn more about both him and revolution. And we will, because this is only Manuel Tiago’s, or Álvaro Cunhal’s, first novel to appear in English. A series of “Manuel Tiago” novels and stories are forthcoming from International Publishers, and we will meet many other characters who, like Lambaça and André, will pursue in their own ways the goal of overturning Portuguese fascism.
    As a reader and lifelong political activist (I turned 90 this year!), I have to wonder why a man of such prominence in the Portuguese resistance would spend so much of his time writing fiction, but if Five Days, Five Nights is but the first sample of his writing accessible to English readers, with much more to come, I think I understand why.
    Thanks to the efforts of the translator, I now not only have a new book but have met a new author, friend, and comrade. So may we all — that is my fervent hope.
    A People’s World interview with the translator, Eric Gordon, can be read here.
    Five Days, Five Nights
    by Manuel Tiago (Álvaro Cunhal)
    New York: International Publishers, 2020
    Image: cyclingshepherd (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

  4. Michael Berkowitz

    Álvaro Cunhal had a little secret. It was a good thing that he did. Living under the fascist Salazar dictatorship of mid-20th-century Portugal for the first half of his life, Cunhal needed secrecy. After all, for decades he was a leader and ultimately the Secretary General of the Portuguese Communist Party, which waged a life-and-death struggle against the fascist regime.
    So, Álvaro Cunhal was forced to go underground into hiding. After he was caught, he was imprisoned for 11 years, eight of them in solitary confinement. He was routinely tortured and starved. After his daring 1960 escape from Forte de Peniche Prison, this revolutionary was driven into exile from his native land, where he served the cause from abroad. He returned in 1974 after the revolution that finally, after almost half a century, overturned fascism, and that immediately led to the independence of the Portuguese colonies.
    Once again, he became politically active in his native country, a public figure never to be ignored or forgotten. When he died at 91 in 2005, half a million people crowded the streets of Lisbon to celebrate his life.
    Most of those celebrants could probably tell you something of his daring adventures, of how he devoted his life to the service of the Portuguese people. But very few knew Cunhal’s secret—Manuel Tiago!
    It turned out that Cunhal had used his prison time, and later his exile time and still later his freedom back home, quite well. Aside from his political writings, he had become an accomplished artist, a translator of Shakespeare and, under the pen name of Manuel Tiago, the author of nine books of fiction, one of which (the present book under review) was later adapted to film and another into a popular TV series. The authorship of Cunhal’s books was known only to Party leadership until much later in his life.
    Clearly, a Communist who gave his life to the cause must have had a higher purpose in leaving the world such a body of fiction. Now, readers of English have their first opportunity to find out.
    Thanks to the adept translation of Eric Gordon, cultural editor of People’s World, we now have Manuel Tiago’s Five Days, Five Nights. This novella had been preserved, left in the archives of Peniche Prison when Cunhal escaped. After the 1974 Revolution, the military officers who ran the prison handed the manuscript back to Cunhal, and it was published the following year.
    Five Days, Five Nights is the fictional story of 19-year-old André and his attempt to flee to Spain from oppression in Portugal. To cross the border, he enlists the help of the shady, dangerous, older criminal Lambaça. They must cross the rough border terrain, passing through villages and encountering a few peasants along their way.
    Cunhal etches his characters sparsely, but as sharply as the rugged landscape. André’s youthful optimism, high sense of morality and energy contrast with Lambaça’s evasive, secretive manners, perhaps cultivated as a response to the corrupt, fascist order. Their relationship is of constant mistrust, occasionally violently flaring to the surface. The plot is driven by this conflict which threatens the outcome of André’s flight from the country. Through such dramatic tension, we see the struggle of the old order against the promise of a new progressive age.
    Yet Cunhal is a shrewd teller of his tale. If André is an impatient youth, is he perhaps too naïve and impetuous for his own good? And if Lambaça is so crude and immoral, why does he trouble to take this young rebel over the border at such risk?
    “André…spoke of the importance of the crossing, of responsibilities, cooperation. Now he spoke with a calm, persuasive voice, and leaning forward, attempted to discern in Lambaça some expression or gesture.
    “In the dark of the night, Lambaça, still as a stone, did not react. Only when André had finished did he say, his words drawling with contempt, ‘I’ve known all that for more than twenty years.’”
    The neo-realist noir novella takes pains to detail aspects of the modest lives along the border. Hardscrabble border-runners, vulnerable prostitutes, herders and villagers comprise the repressed underclass of fascist Portugal. Cunhal purposely doesn’t set his characters in too specific a place or time. But clearly the border represents hope and the possibility of change.
    Gordon, the translator, has done an admirable job bringing to life Cunhal’s words describing the border flight which now defines the status of more and more of the world’s at-risk population. The publication benefits immensely from the accompanying series of illustrations by the artist Ilse Gordon (the translator’s sister), whose drawings round out our impressions of the principals, lending them humanity while placing them firmly in the context of rural hinterlands.
    The book also features an informative foreword, author, translator and illustrator biographies, a map of Portugal, and an unusual feature at the end, “Some Questions to Ponder and Discuss,” obviously meant to spur the reader’s inquiry into the deeper meanings of the story.
    International Publishers has begun with Five Days, Five Nights, and further “Manuel Tiago” books are reportedly coming. This will be a progressively staged publishing event I, for one, will be most interested in following.
    A vote of gratitude is owed to the Gordons for their success in realizing and broadcasting Álvaro Cunhal’s secret, the description of the struggle for change against an oppressive order—lessons hard learned and well expressed.

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