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Baltasar and Blimunda
José Saramago

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🦋 To give meaning to all of this

As in tales of yore, a secret word was uttered and before a magic grotto there suddenly arose a forest of oak trees that could be penetrated only by those who knew the other magic word, the one that would replace the forest with a river and set thereon a barge with oars. Here, too, words were uttered, If I must die on a bonfire, let it at least be this one, the demented Padre Bartolomeu Lourenço had once exclaimed, perhaps these bramble thickets are the forest of oak trees, this woodland in flower the oars and the river, and the distressed bird the barge, what word will be spoken that will give meaning to all of this.
This scene feels like a critical juncture. Baltasar and Blimunda have already been into the sky and back to land, back to Malfa and the drudgery and toil of building the convent, and now for the first time they are venturing together back to the wrecked airship. And suddenly Saramago is speaking in terms of a fairy tale and wondering what word can be spoken that will give meaning to all this. This passage illuminates his earlier efforts to give meaning to the labour of the six hundred men transporting a stone from the quarry to the construction site, by naming them and telling their story; it casts a subtle light on Saramago's project in telling this story.

posted evening of Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
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