Simao Carneiro studied wine-making and was a professor of chemistry but he got tired of it. He met several publishers at book fairs, and that’s how he began his professional relationship with books. He was already an avid reader. One day he left his job to follow his dream: to set up a bookstore. What he really wanted to do was feel free.
Simao found a tiny place on the steps of Sao Cristovao, in the old part of Lisbon, a place where people don’t expect to find a bookshop –unless they come looking for the smallest shop in the world. It often happens: tourist guides show up at the door and begin to proclaim in English that this, and none other, is the world’s smallest bookshop; that it’s in the Guinness Book of Records.
Simao doesn’t much care that his shop is the world’s smallest. It wasn’t his intention to set the record, and in this sense he would have preferred not to have attracted any attention. He was simply looking for a place in the old part of Lisbon to put thousands of books, and there was only one available. He didn’t find a bigger one but he thought this one would serve his purpose.
At first Simao wanted to call it Trieste, after a book by the Italian poet and bookseller Umberto Saba. But then he remembered that he doesn’t like to name things, so even though the shop was advertised with the Trieste name, it came to be called Livraria do Simao. For Simao, that’s the equivalent of not having any name at all.
The places measures just four square metres and has more than 3,000 books in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian, Chinese and Japanese. They are all gathered around a kind of altar dedicated to the best-known Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa. Inside, only one person can fit, and he has to move sideways.
Today Simao lives by doing what he wants to do, and he feels free, although he is always very disciplined in his work. He’s aware of the fact that people don’t need books to live. So he calmly accepts those days when he doesn’t sell anything. For him, doing things passionately is the best way to overcome daily setbacks.