Notes on José Saramago
Notes on José Saramago
Copyright 2016 Evelyn C. Leeper.
Saramago had his own ideas about punctuation, particularly for dialogue. He did not use quotation marks, or even periods. Dialogue is written as one really long sentence--when the speaker changes, he puts in a comma, and capitalizes the first letter of the new speaker's words. It sounds hard, but it is no more difficult than reading a book like Riddley Walker or Feersum Endjinn.
As for themes and even style, the closest English-language science fiction author might be James Morrow.
Early works to which I have no access:
- Terra do pecado:1947:Land of Sin:
- Os poemas possíveis:1966:Possible Poems:
- Provavelmente alegria:1970:Probably Joy:
- Deste mundo e do outro:1971:This World and the Other:
- A bagagem do viajante:1973:The Traveller's Baggage:
- As opinióes que o DL teve:1974:Opinions that DL had:
- O ano de 1993:1975:The Year of 1993:
- Os apontamentos:1976:The Notes:
Manual de pintura e caligrafia:1977:Manual of Painting and Calligraphy:1993:
- Saramago uses a trope that recurs throughout his works, the unnamed (or mostly unnamed) protagonist. (In this case, he is known as just "H.")
- There are allusions to Borges and to what John Searle calls
"The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse", as well as to alternate history.
- This is basically a realist novel.
Objecto quase:1978:The Lives of Things:2012:
- "The Chair": the story of a chair eaten away by
beetles, thinly veiled story of the death of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
- "Embargo": a horror story centering around the OPEC
oil embargo of 1973
- "Reflux": a story about the attempt to avoid any reminder of death
- "Things": another story about the treacherousness of inanimate objects, though in a very different way
- "The Centaur": the tale of the last centaur
- "Revenge": ???
Levantado do chao:1980:Raised from the Ground:2012:
- Ursula K. LeGuin compared it to Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Grapes of Wrath as a great "novel of the oppressed."
- Though not translated until 2012 this is one of Saramago's earliest novels, and not at all fantasy. In fact, it is the last truly realist novel Saramago wrote. After this, all his novels--at least all those I have read--have at least an element of fantastika to them.
Viagem a Portugal:1981:Journey to Portugal:2000:
- A non-fiction work that I have not seen.
Memorial do convento:1982:Baltasar and Bluminda:1987:
- This is a novel of magical realism, if not out-and-out fantasy. One person is building a flying machine, another has what appears to be X-ray vision, and a third, by means of prosthetics for his missing hand, has superhuman abilities in handling things. (For example, his hook--insulated by leather--can handle hot objects without being burned and sharp objects without being cut.)
- The flying machine is based on reality--Bartolomeu do Guzmao was a real aviation pioneer.
O Ano da morte de Ricardo Reis:1984:The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis:1991:
- Ricardo Reis (a pen name for Fernando Pessoa) meets a woman of the same name as that in his poems, and is also visited by the ghost of Pessoa.
- Saramago has said that he wanted to write a book in which the read moved back and forth between the real and the imaginary without asking which was which.
A Jangada de pedra:1986:The Stone Raft:1994:
- Iberia breaks off from Europe and floats across the Atlantic.
- This has more humor than many other Saramago works.
- Saramago has said he wrote this because he thought that Iberia was really closer culturally to the countries of Latin America than of the rest of Europe.
História do cerco de Lisboa:1989:The History of the Siege of Lisbon:1996:
- A proof-reader inserts the word "not" into a sentence, changing it from saying that the Crusaders will help the Portuguese retake Lisbon from the Moors to saying that the Crusaders will *not* help the Portuguese retake Lisbon from the Muslims. The result is an examination of counterfactuals (alternate histories). Ultimately Silva feels obliged to have the end result be the same--Lisbon is taken by the Christians from the Moors.
- Saramago seems to endorse the philosophical theory that all times--past, present, and future--have a real existence and we are merely traveling through these pre-existing times, rather than that the past is passing into non-existence, and the future is being created, as we progress.
O evangelho segun do Jesus Cristo:1991:The Gospel According to Jesus Christ:1993:
- This is Saramago's (first) critique of the Catholic Church (and presumably Christianity in general).
- Not surprisingly, this was criticized by the Catholic Church when it was published.
- It follows in the mold of John Milton and James Morrow in re-telling Bible stories. (See also Cain.)
Ensaio sobre a cegueira:1995:Blindness:1997:
- This is a much more horrific--and realistic--picture of the results of (near-)universal plague of blindness than books such as John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids; not a "cozy catastrophe".
- The plague is never explained, the city is anonymous and isolated, and the characters are never named.
- He thinks the emotions of the blind are different from those of the sighted.
Todos os nomes:1997:All the Names:1999:
- This is another anonymous city, with only a first name for the protagonist.
- The Central Registry is both Borgesian and Kafkaesque.
"O conto da ilha desconhecida":1997:"The Tale of the Unknown Island":1999:
- This is a short story, rather than a novel or even a novella.
A caverna:2000:The Cave:2002:
- This is set outside a large, unnamed city, as part of a trilogy along with Blindness and All the Names, which are similarly dislocated.
- It has the same respect for manual labor and "the work of the hands" as Raised from the Ground and The Elephant's Journey.
- The major themes are commercialism, and the replacement of the government by a large commercial entity.
A maior flor do mundo:2001:::
- [no access]
- This is a children's picture book.
- This has been made into a short film available on YouTube, both with and without English subtitles.
O homem duplicado:2002:The Double:2004:
- Tertuliano Afonso Maximo sees an actor who is his exact double, and who also has a third, private identity; Tertullian invented the term "the Trinity" and the phrase "three persons, one substance,"
- The book is full of digressions on science fiction, history, and other topics.
- There is a subtle reference to Blindness.
- This was made into the film Enemy (the novel has no giant spiders).
- Jonathan Carroll thinks The Double is winking too much at genre rather than embracing it.
Ensaio sobre a lucidez:2004:Seeing:2006:
- This is a sequel to Blindness, thoguht that is not apparent for quite a while.
- It also has its own independent fantastical premise, which starts with (almost) everyone in the capital casting a blank ballot in an election, and then proceeds as they withdraw more and more from the the political structure.
- Saramago seems to be contradicting a major premise of Blindness: In Blindness, people left on their own with no government or police descend into savagery; in Seeing, they continue to function in a perfectly civilized manner.
Don Giovanni ou o dissoluto absolvido:2005:Don Giovanni, or, Dissolute Acquitted::
As intermiténcias da morte:2005:Death with Interruptions:2008:
- "Death Takes a Holiday"
- It is also a long discourse on religion.
As pequenas memórias:2006:Small Memories:2010:
A viagem do elefante:2008:The Elephant's Journey:2010:
- This has as a main character a real figure in proto-aviation.
O caderno:2010:The Notebook:2010
- Originally published as Saramago's blog
- Not the same as Os Apontamentos (The Notes) (1976). which is a novel.
- Saramago muses on the (possible) union of Spain and Portugal, which has echoes of The Stone Raft.
- This is Saramago's last novel.
- Cain travels through space and time to all important Pentateuchal events.
- This is Saramago's critique of all Abrahamic religions.
- It follows in the mold of John Milton and James Morrow in re-telling Bible stories. (See also The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.)
- This was Saramago's first book and has no fantastical elements.
Jose Saramago en sus palabras:2010:::
- A Spanish-language volume of quotes from Saramago, translated from the original Portuguese, and from Italian and French translations of the original Portuguese.
Similar "literary" authors:
- Franz Kafka
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Haruki Murakami
- Italo Calvino
- Julio Cortazar
- Jorge Luis Borges