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The Works of José Saramago

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This summer will mark ten years since the passing of Portuguese author and Nobel Laureate José Saramago and, as Mariner books has recently reprinted many of his quintessential novels with handsome new jackets (designed by prolific book cover designer Christopher Moisan), now is as good a time as any to revisit, or discover, the works of one of the more unique voices in contemporary European literature. 

One of the most notable aspects of Saramago’s work is his narrative style, featuring winding sentences contained within long, fluid paragraphs. Adding to the flow is his deliberate omission of capital letters and the quotation marks to differentiate dialogue from narrative. Saramago also moves freely between the first and third person, shifting his tenses and points of view unexpectedly and arbitrarily, so that there is a sense of following a process of consciousness rather than a conventional, realistic narrative. The effect is, at first, a bit jarring, but this flow of description, dialogue, and commentary eventually produces a dreamlike or even trancelike effect and the reader is soon immersed in his unforgettable worlds.

There isn’t a single work of Saramago’s that isn’t worth exploring, but below are a few titles to get started.

Blindness Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156007757
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 7 - 14 business days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 1999

Probably the most well known, and given current events, a seemingly prophetic work, Blindness follows the story of seven people who are quarantined along with 300 other people in an abandoned madhouse after their city is beset by an epidemic of the "white sickness," a disease that instantly turns everyone blind.

Baltasar and Blimunda Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156005203
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - October 16th, 1998

Saramago’s first major success (at age 60!) about a one-armed man, a woman with superhuman powers, and a priest who wants to build a flying machine, all living in the 17th century in the Kingdom of Portugal. A delightful, though somewhat tragic, historical romance.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156001410
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - September 28th, 1994

As one might expect by the title, this is one of Saramago’s most controversial works. This humanistic perspective of Jesus focuses on his early “missing” years. The portrayal of Mary Magdalene, a conflicted Joseph, the apostles, (particularly the infamous Judas Iscariot), as well as God and Pastor are absolutely fantastic, and weave a wonderful tale.

The Stone Raft Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156004015
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 7 - 14 business days
Published: Mariner Books - June 14th, 1996

All of Saramago’s works feature some level of magical realism, but this one especially so. The Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal, break off from Europe and begin drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. Five people and a dog, all of which have experienced bizarre incidents that may or may not be connected with the breakaway peninsula, meet and begin a journey together. This book has a fantastical but engaging plot, likeable and interesting characters along with deep political and philosophical underpinnings.