Book 773 Jose Saramago – The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis




For some weird reason , I cannnot write below the picture So I guess this will have to make do for now. First of all I’m very sorry for the lack of updates.  I know this year posts have been sporadic but bear with me. Eventually things will be back on track. I don’t know when but it will happen.  I feel quite guilty when I don’t write for a few weeks , let alone a month!  At the moment reading is becoming a bit of a struggle, however I WILL persevere. Hopefully by the end of the uear i’ll be over and done with the 80’s section.  Now on with the book.

The Year in the Death… is one of those books that is about everything and nothing at both the same time. Ricardo Reis (who was the alter ego for the poet/novelist Pessoa) returns to Portugal after a long stay in Brazil. Once he arrives to his hotel , he falls in love with the chambermaid and a sophisticated women and by the end of the book he must choose the right person. Portugal is going through a bad time ( I guess history does repeat itself) as it is entering its communist phase.

This whole relationship plot is a Maguffin. In reality this novel is a huge love letter to Portugal. We learn about its history and eventual dictatorship under Salazar.  When Reis walks along the streets us readers get an intimate view of Portuguese way of life and mentality.

Now my gripe with the novel is that I had trouble relating, such is  love for his country so intense , that it builds a metaphorical wall between him and the reader. I was not born and bred in Portugal so a lot of things went over my head despite the research I did beforehand. Really I didn’t love the novel so much, I can see why he is loved in his home country but this love cannot be shared by an outsider like me so its resonancy falls a bit flat.

Book 836 Jose Saramago – The History of the Siege of Lisbon

I have heard a lot about Saramago, I remember when I used to work in a bookstore, his novels used to literally fly off the shelves and I was always a bit curious to see what he’s about.  Well here we are!

Raimundo Silva is a lonely proof reader, one day in a fit of fancy he decides to insert a negation in a book about Lisbon’s 1147 siege that he is correcting. In a way by doing this he is altering history. He then hands the proof in.

Eventually his mistake is discovered, however instead of being reprimanded, his boss, Maria Sara asks him to rewrite Lisbon’s siege to his liking and in the process they fall in love with each other as this new history develops.

Despite his popularity I do not find Saramago an easy writer to digest, his sentences are long and unwieldy but his plot structure is so addictive that ou cannot help but read on in order to see what will happen next, plus the premise of history being manipulated is fantastic and the love sub plot is a sweet addition. I do admit though that at times I felt that the novel dragged but I did soldier on and I was satisfied.

I’m not going to say that this book is going to be a favourite of mine but I am definitely intrigued and there are two more Saramagos in the list so we’ll see how I fare with them.