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Monday, February 11th, 2008

🦋 Sight regained

One thing I spent a lot of time wondering about while I was reading Blindness was, how is Saramago going to end this story? It seemed like it would be really difficult to pull off without being either corny or dull, or both. Saramago came through, I'm glad to say, and managed to make what could easily have been a rote, formulaic ending vital. The doctor's wife's moment of doubt and fear in the final paragraph will blow your mind -- it is the whole book contained in a few sentences.

Saramago has a later book called Seeing, which I bought in December when I bought Blindness, intrigued by the similar titles -- it turns out the first few pages of that are printed in the end of this edition of Blindness -- it is another story featuring some of the same characters, and with reference to this one. How exciting! That will be my next read, assuming I can figure out where I put it down, which was predictably not "on the bookcase".

(Woo-hoo! Found it!)

posted evening of February 11th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about José Saramago

Friday, February 15th, 2008

🦋 The Polls

Saramago's Seeing is a terrific (or depending on how you feel about black humor, "horrible") book to be reading during the election year. I'm pretty sure, based just on the first chapter, that I would recommend it to Americans in 2008 before Blindness -- which I would certainly recommend, it's just not timely in the same way. It doesn't seem (so far) like knowledge of the previous book is vital to understanding this one.

posted morning of February 15th, 2008: Respond
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Sunday, February 17th, 2008

🦋 Vacation Reading

Taking two books along this week: Seeing and Never Let Me Go. As noted below, I won't be blogging; but I am hoping to take notes the old-fashioned way, and compose some good posts on my return.

posted morning of February 17th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about Never Let Me Go

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

🦋 Vacation reading

I finished both books that I took along with me to read on the beach; each was in its own particular way, a satisfying, affecting read, and I want to post some of the notes I kept about them, particularly about Saramago's Seeing. This will take a few days to get done -- the notes are not in a particularly readable format right now but it's my hope that I can coax them into one.

I want to retract my earlier suggestion that you ought to read Seeing whether or not you have read Blindness; I think that the two books are at their best when read in sequence and that while you could enjoy either one of them by itself, that would take away a bit from the great beauty of the pair. I was thinking while I read about various ways of arguing for one book or the other as the better of the two -- they are different from one another in such a way as to invite that kind of argument I think -- but in the end the only thing to say is that they complement and perfect each other.

There is also a lot to say about Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go -- and that is the book that I find myself emailing and calling people to recommend -- I don't know how much of it I will be able to get down on paper before I read the book a second time. This book just sucked me in -- I found it completely impossible to put it down and take notes on what I was reading. I can't remember the last time I read a book that so strongly fit the term "page-turner".

posted evening of February 27th, 2008: 2 responses
➳ More posts about Blindness

🦋 Belly laughs

They weren't conspirators, they were simply afraid.

The first half of Seeing is different from the rest of these two books in that it is not tightly focused on particular characters -- the events being related take place at large in the city. This portion of the book strikes me as broad political satire, and here is where the highest frequency of really hilarious punch-lines is to be found. Mixed naturally with frightening images like the detainees being interrogated about their conversations on election day.

Saramago's punch-lines hit especially hard because of the rhythm of his voice -- the way he strings sentences together can become hypnotic, so as I'm reading along it's like listening to a chant recited -- then the punch-line breaks into that and snaps me out of the sing-song, and I laugh.

posted evening of February 27th, 2008: Respond

🦋 Source?

...And I would be the proudest of wives, whispered his wife, slithering closer to him, as if touched by the magic wand of a rare brand of lust, a mixture of carnal desire and political enthusiasm, but her husband, conscious of the gravity of the hour and making his the harsh words of the poet, Why do you grovel before my rough boots? / Why do you loosen your perfumed hairs / and treacherously open your soft arms? / I am nothing but a man with coarse hands / and a cold heart / and if, in order to pass, / I had to trample you underfoot / then, as you well know, I would trample you underfoot, abruptly threw off the bedclothes and said, I'm going to my study to keep an eye on developments, you go back to sleep, rest.

I am wondering who "the poet" is -- is this piece taken from a poem that exists outside Seeing?

I notice that Margaret Jull Costa, translator of this book, spoke about translating Saramago at the occasion of his receiving the Nobel prize; a transcript is available online.

Later: well I sent Ms. Costa a letter c/o the publisher, inquiring about the source. Fingers crossed! I have not tried to contact a translator like this before. (Was going to ask Ms. Holbrook about the frontspiece to The White Castle, but the book ended up leaving me cold enough that I did not bother.)

posted evening of February 27th, 2008: 1 response

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

🦋 Voto en blanco

Somewhere, José Saramago is laughing -- reports that the town of Bello in northern Colombia will be repeating its mayoral elections after no-one won the vote -- no-one won the vote because 56.7% of the voters marked their ballots as blank. (Reinaldo Spitaletta of El espectador writes that he knew something was going on when he saw a lot of people in Bello reading Saramago's Seeing before the elections.) Thanks for the link, Jorge!

posted evening of December 18th, 2011: Respond

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