The militant magician | Books | The Guardian
in the baroque magic-realist historical novel “Baltasar and Blimunda” to illustrate the relationship between small causes and great effects. Baltasar and Blimundaby José SaramagoTHE LITERARY WORK A novel set in Baltasar and Blimunda, an ordinary couple, become involved in the plan of .. and take care of the living, a sound piece of advice should any such calamity. It wasn't until his fourth novel, Baltasar and Blimunda, that he received Jesus as a flawed man who has a contentious relationship with God.
At that age and as we all do at some time, needless to say, I imagined my grandfather was master of all the knowledge in the world. The roof was made of clay tiles, the walls were basically hard sand, and there was no toilet.
And he was very happy. Spending his evenings in the school and public libraries in Lisbon, "reading at random, with no guidance, no one to advise me", at 17 he made the discovery in a magazine of some poems by a Portuguese poet called Ricardo Reis - a name he didn"t immediately recognise at the time as one of the heteronyms of the reclusive genius Fernando Pessoa.
He talks about reading Reis as the beginning of his imaginative journey, though his autodidact's reading was also contributing to a Marxist analysis of his, and his country's, situation. After working for two years as a mechanic he obtained a civil service post, but lost his job the first of several for political reasons in Already, in at the age of 24, he had published a novel, Terra do Pecado Land of Sinbut after two further efforts he abandoned all writing, remarking later that this was "maybe one of the wisest decisions of my life.
It was becoming quite clear that I had nothing worthwhile to say. For 19 years, tillwhen I published Possible Poems, I was absent from the Portuguese literary scene, where few people can have noticed my absence. She now lives in Funchal, Madeira, and works as a biologist. His modest participation in the literary scene continued with another collection of poetry, Probably Joy, and two books of essays.Two and a Half Men - Couples Counseling [HD]
His marriage lasted untilthe divorce roughly coinciding with the beginning of his most turbulent decade: His disregard for his own safety during the struggle against the Salazar dictatorship is remembered by the Lisbon novelist Mario de Carvalho: His political convictions and ideals go on, they don't change, they don't twist. He was a communist when it was very difficult to be a communist. According to the Wall Street Journal more than 20 years later, the Stalinist future Nobel laureate "was a strident promoter of 'true socialism' against 'bourgeois democracy', overseeing the saneamento or purges of so-called fascist elements from the Portuguese media".
Saramago was the voice of the typographers, of the printers, of the sellers on the streets. For several months he lived in a village in the Alentejo, one of the poorest parts of Europe, a province of harsh weather and poor soil and a prime target for land reform.
The novel that resulted, Levantado do Ch"o, a chronicle of three generations of a peasant family, was the first fruit of his long wait to have something "worth telling".
It introduced his characteristic narrative method - an astringent discursiveness, a style that is omniscient and restrained, a musical and apparently ageless language, a light touch with irony, and dialogue that dispenses with the rules of punctuation. According to Zeferino Coelho, his editor, "Saramago was known mainly as a political activist, and when Levantado do Ch"o was published it was a book with a strong political message, but its literary value was evident. Nobody had written a book like it before.
In the late s he sided with a reformist rebellion whose protagonists were expelled, but he remained within the party, cultivating a personal friendship with the party patriarch Alvaro Cunhal; in Octoberreturning to Lisbon to receive the freedom of the city, he stayed the following day to take part in a vigil by the left-wing union confederation CGTP-IN against revision of the employment laws, and the same month in Oporto took the stage with Fidel Castro to protest against the Cuban blockade.
How can a writer, who has described his own literary advice as "Begin with the imagination, but from then on let reason prevail", continue to be a communist after Stalin and the gulag - after the Berlin Wall has crumbled? I carry inside me a hormone that means I have no other choice than to be a communist. You can ask, 'against everything'? What about the barbarities and crimes committed? My answer is that there is probably no difference between the negative, criminal, horrendous, horrible things done in the name of communism and everything that the human being has done throughout history in the name of the best intentions.
Christianity is a good example: Forgiveness, love and compassion are things we're able to show now and then, but they have ended up being submerged by the mass of badness that we also carry. That is why I logically continue to be what I am. Despite his political disclaimer, strong messages are passed to his readers.
In Baltasar and Blimunda, we are educated in the vanity and cruelty of the 18th century, extenuated by love and the dreams that "hold the world in its orbit"; in The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis we are led back to Lisbon into the creation of Salazar's fascist militias, to confront Pessoa's poet with his own bitter aphorism: In his latest novel, The Cave, we are drawn into a village potter's struggle against 21st-century economic forces. But we know what globalisation is like.
Nobody can delude themselves any longer about what its final project is. Today human mentality is formed within another large space called the shopping centre. And the illusion there is constant. He radiates a courtly calm and is capable of great warmth in gesture and conversation.
Read around the world, he is probably read least in France and Britain. John Banville suggests that this might be due to an "involuntary small sigh of foreboding" among British readers at the European vagueness of his narratives.
But without the grist of quotidian reality, the mills of fiction grind very dull. In her view "the roots of Saramago's tales run deep, tapping into a European tradition of exemplary fictions, in which the human soul resists the encroaching forces of dehumanising bureaucracies". But she also thinks that "for a reader raised on the English-language tradition of the novel, Saramago's passionate and insistent moral messages can sometimes feel coercive". In an interview two years ago he admitted, not without irony, that "Probably I'm an essay writer who, as he doesn't know how to write essays, writes novels instead.
But any ideology is ruinous for a novelist. Carlos Reis, the author of Dialogues with Saramago, says that "From the dramatic point of view this is an important and accurate novel [but] when a new situation arises, like this shopping centre, you tend to ask 'what now?
I must confess that I prefer his first books. But there is no doubt that he is a writer for the future. It has been clear since he published Baltasar and Blimunda that he believes love is what makes life bearable. The Cave shows a man overwhelmed by vulnerability when he understands that society no longer needs him: In the house Saramago and Pilar have built on one of the bleached hillsides of Lanzarote overlooking the Atlantic, he has resumed a daily routine of work after the disturbance of the Nobel Prize.
Recently he finished a new novel, O homem duplicado The Duplicate Manan enquiry into what can happen when two people exist who are duplicates of each other. Standing on their Lanzarote terrace, Saramago is quick to make clear his wife's role as his ideal reader. Saramago's efforts to track down his grave some 70 years later, while collecting information for his memoir, fed his novel All the Names. Since his family could not afford to keep him at grammar school, he went to technical school to become an apprentice mechanic.
Yet he read "at random" in public libraries, and worked at a publishing company in the mids. He translated Tolstoy, Baudelaire and Hegel among others, before becoming a journalist. Joining the underground Portuguese Communist party in - the main opposition to the dictatorship - he risked jail and assault.
It was "a very intense period, when the Communist party was finally legalised. There was social unrest". His reputation as a Stalinist dates from this period, when he was said to have purged non-communists from the paper.
But after a radical leftwing coup was thwarted inSaramago was himself sacked. His debut novel, The Land of Sin, was published the same year,that his only child, Violante, was born. After a long gap, he began to publish poetry and plays in the 60s. But, jobless inhe spent time in rural Alentejo, and returned to fiction.
The militant magician
Saramago thinks the revolution failed. Yet it was thanks to that failure, when he was fired, that he had to write to survive. It was his only option. His English translator Margaret Jull Costa says his "seamless narrative voice" is meant to sound like speech. He orchestrates sounds and pauses. The novel widely seen as his masterpiece, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, gives human form to one of the poet Fernando Pessoa's pseudonyms, or "heteronyms", imagining him returning from Brazil inafter Pessoa's death.
Reis sees his postmodern fiction of the 80s as taking stock, alongside other writers after the revolution, of "Portugal's origins and destiny, and its ambiguous relationship with Europe". For Reis, The Stone Raft posed a question: But unlike many Portuguese, he values Spain - one of his favourite writers is Cervantes.
He sees the peninsula as a conglomeration of different cultures under the EU. I don't make excuses for what communist regimes have done - the church has done a lot of wrong things, burning people at the stake.
Interview: José Saramago | Books | The Guardian
But I have the right to keep my ideas. I've found nothing better. In Reis's view, "Saramago lives his communism mostly as a spiritual condition - philosophical and moral. He doesn't preach communism in his novels. But for Jull Costa, its strength is in his "writing so humanely about ordinary people and their predicaments".
In Seeingset later on in the same country as Blindness, the majority cast blank ballots in a protest that leads to a state of emergency. For Saramago, democracy was in need of regeneration, since economic power determines political power.
People are called in every four years, and in between, the government does what it wants. That's not specific to Portugal. It's a kind of revolution. We all know we'll die, but not the circumstances. Allowed home, he immediately resumed writing. No one would guess how I was feeling at the time. He used to write for newspapers, he says, "but now I'm writing every day, and there have been a million visits - which I find astonishing - but I'm doing it all for free.
He has described Del Rio as his "home", and calls her "the most important thing in my life - maybe more than my work. I see our relationship as a love story that has no need of being turned into a book".
The bureaucratic oddity would not be out of place in his fiction. Saramago on Saramago "Wearing the new dress that she bought yesterday in a shop downtown, death goes to the concert. She is sitting alone in the box, and. Just before the lights went down, when the orchestra was waiting for the conductor to come, he noticed her. He wasn't the only musician to do so.
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Firstly, because she was alone in the box, which although not rare, wasn't that frequent an occurrence either. Secondly, because she was pretty. And finally, because her lone figure, there in the box, surrounded by emptiness and absence on every side, as if she inhabited a void, seemed to be the expression of the most absolute solitude.
Proust may have seen death, or thought he did, at the foot of his bed, in the guise of a fat woman dressed in black, but death has no substance unless we push against the limits of the possible to gain access to a different level of seeing, to the inner scenario of the imagined where everything makes sense.
In this novel, death buys a new dress to wear to a concert.