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Ler Devagar, Lisbon. Making use of what’s around, a multipurpose bookstore

Founded in the year of 1999, Ler Devagar was an concept prompted by Pinho towards his peers. An intent in founding a space that functioned in multifarious modes

The People and Person Behind Ler Devagar

Explicating the ideations and the birth of the bookstore in this interview is Pinho. The primary founding member of the multi-faceted bookstore. Founded in the year of 1999, Ler Devagar was an intent in founding a space that functioned in multifarious modes. For instance, As Pinho states, the bookshop acted and continues to persist; as the exterior of what the public knows Ler Devagar to be. «Beneath the prompt of Ler Devagar is a bookshop. But also a library, a gallery, an auditorium, a music store, a restaurant and a bar». Having a brand extension as such and co-existing alongside to a variety of business models, affixed within the skeleton of a non-functioning printing press in the R. Rodrigues de Faria neighborhood of Lisbon. 

The bookstore’s infancy

Over its twenty-three-year existence in the city of Lisbon, the existence of Ler Devagar has persevered through the assistance of its shareholders and contributors. The bookstore has accrued a concluded amount of one hundred and fifty shareholders over the years. When inquired on the founding members of Ler Devagar, in the bookstore’s infancy, the owner collated his funds with a group of twenty peers. An effort maintained to this day. The founders, while not from the bookselling business; have a shared ardor that has allowed for the bookstore such as Ler Devagar to persist across locations in Portugal. Pinho elucidates that a number of the founders are business owners; lecturers at universities; editors; doctors; and a number who were.

Lampoon Review: The Meaning & Existence

When inquired on the origins of the esoteric name of the bookstore. Pinho shares that the name of the establishment was not one that was contrived by the owners or himself. Rather one obtained from an existing publication. Having had an editorial role in a magazine from the locale called ‘Devagar’, which Pinho explicates to hold the meaning of «slowly»; the owner was compelled by its name. While this is one of the definitive reasons as to why the bookstore was named after a publication; Pinho goes on to say that the thesis behind the name of the bookstore is an aspiration to what he intended it to reflect.

Galeria Zé dos Bois

Following along with this ethos, Ler Devagar has made itself malleable to the physical changes of the world whilst remaining true to its given stance of existence. Having begun in the remains of the lithography building, the bookstore prompted into the Galeria Zé dos Bois. «The gallery was located in the Bairro Alto area as well. We were initiated into leaving our space in the lithography building». Upon having established themselves in this area for the span of a few years, Pinho and his team of partners affixed themselves into the space provided for by Eterno Retorno – a bookstore selling used philosophical books.

«The bookstore’s name, when translated into the English language brings forth the meaning ‘Eternal Return’. It is worth noting that Ler Devagar was affixed within a bookstore in an abandoned-arms factory in the east of the city». Pinho adds that in the two years of having been in a partnership with Eterno Retorno; Ler Devagar effaced themselves from the environs and situated themselves in the west of Lisbon. Here, Ler Devagar placed themselves in the LX Factory where they have since remained. «During our time here, we founded the Óbidos Literary Village». Located a few hours from the north of Lisbon; representing itself through its name. The literary village now is host to nine independent-bookstores and organizes two literary festivals throughout the year – FOLIO and Latitudes. 

Lampoon, Books’-selected-by-Ler-Devagar,-Lisbon-
Books’-selected-by-Ler-Devagar,-Lisbon-

The Ethos of Ler Devagar

The pivot in which Ler Devagar functions through Pinho’s intent was in curating a center; who’s role is on the dissemination of culture. Within the confines of this space Pinho began the business as a bookstore retailing books and publications from publishers that ceased to exist. For instance, customers were able to walk through and pay a visit whilst browsing through the available catalogue of reads. Offering their customers an opportunity to purchase these publications and books as well; Pinho presses on the efforts of Ler Devagar acting as a library to the public. Along to this, the team members behind Ler Devagar formatted the space to host arts and crafts sessions. By offering exhibitions; concerts; theater productions; cinema screenings; book launches and presentations that occur in closed and open settings. 

Ler Devagar relocation into the LX Factory

The relocation was facilitated through an invite from the owners of the property – one that they have worked with before. These owners would, in the years to come – as Pinho states – elicited the formation of an erotica library in the Cais do Sodré area. Having implanted themselves in the environs of the Rodrigues de Faria area of Lisbon, it is worth noting that the location in which Ler Devagar exists in mimics their ethos. Once a fabric mill, the LX Factory was a printing press. Having had the space restored to the liking of the develope. This is to say Ler Devagar now exists in a hybrid industrialist structure edified into a cultural one. Offering literary works in Portuguese and in varied languages, Pinho’s role in being a herald of culture and promoting the locale has been his aim. One followed through in Ler Devagar’s twenty-three-year existence. 

The Design and Curation

Pinho states that the internal design language was one they tackled in the beginning. Having a four-story rotary newspaper and magazine printer; the team made the decision to limit the fitting of shelves and tables that would constrict the space for visitors and their employees. In doing this, Ler Devagar curated room for the expansion of the brand; inculcating a bar, a restaurant and a permanent gallery showcase. «At this time, we have two resident artists showcasing their works. Kinematic objects constructed by Pietro Prosépio and works from Michel Pétaochnock». Furthermore, in selecting the literary materials that  are sold in the confines of the bookstore Pinho shares that the decision making is a unanimous one. Chosen by the Reading Council that consists of Ler Devagar’s shareholders; peers of the bookstore and the employees that dedicate their time to the upkeep and day-to-day operations.

Pinho overseeing the day-to-day operations

«It was through this collaborative nature that allowed us to carry works that we considered recondite». Carrying works in the genres of history; essays; the arts; poetry and literary works from countries like Africa, Brazil and those in Portugal. Pinho realized design in signifying authors and their works from the past years into the ‘classics’ in the literary realm. Pinho’s role now includes the overseeing the day-to-day operations alongside to his staff members. He states, «My role in choosing reading materials have become unnecessary as of late». The owner shares that he has limited his suggestions towards esoteric reads and puts his efforts towards ‘must-read’ items. Along to selling reads, Ler Devagar offers stationary items and postcards to its customers as well. «There are concept items that we carry for sales – items in which reflect the identity of the bookstore». 

Ler Devagar 

R. Rodrigues de Faria 103 – G 0.3, 1300-501 Lisboa, Portugal

A two-story bookstore located in the R. Rodrigues de Faria, Ler Devagar has altered its physical locations over the span of twenty-three years since its inception.

Pravin Nair

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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