Tuesday, 16 June 2009
THE STONE RAFT
THE STONE RAFT
Jose Saramago amazes me each time I read him. THE STONE RAFT is the fourth novel of Saramago I have read and believe me dear readers, these are four of the hundred books you should have read in your lifetime. I do not mean to exaggerate. Harold Bloom, eminent literary critic has rightly called Saramago, ‘the most important living writer’ of our times.
Reading any of Jose Saramago’s books is no easy task. He is not for the average reader. Add to it, his unusual punctuation, and you have difficult reading on your hands. Though his topics are metaphysical and fantastic, Saramago embellishes his writings with unbelievably realistic details. Not even for a moment does the reader feel that he is reading a fantasy, or a tale narrated in the magical realistic genre, which they definitely are.
In SEEING, a democratic election throws up more than eighty percent of blank votes, jeopardizing the polity into frenzy. It is a politician’s ultimate nightmare. (After I read it, I badly wanted something of the sort to happen in my democratic country, but as always, people of India rise to the occasion, saving democracy as well as our faith in electoral politics.) In BLINDNESS, a whole city plunges into a white blindness, an allegory unparalled in imagination. This book was later made into a movie by the same name, which unfortunately did not do well. ( I have not watched the movie, though the DVD is available to those who buy the book on line.) THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO CHRIST is written in a style which cannot be delinked from history, though it is fictionalized. (This is my favorite Saramago, so far.)
THE STONE RAFT which I finished reading yesterday is a splendidly imagined epic voyage, written in the quirky Saramago narrative style, that I have grown to like immensely. It is enchanted prose.
The Iberian Peninsula, comprising of some parts of Spain and parts of Portugal gets fractured and unmoors from the European continent and begins to float in the Atlantic with a will of its own. The broken away land resembles a stone raft gliding on sea, raising several questions, political, social and emotional. Three men, two women and a dog begin a voyage leading to nowhere in a country in great turmoil.
Impossible situations abound in the book, but they are covered in highly realistic details. It has to be read to be believed.
Told in a deceptively simple, naïve style this tale of fixed points and shifting goals is a superb vehicle for Jose Saramago’s shrewd and witty dissection of contemporary Europe.
‘Confirms Saramago’s reputation as Portugal’s leading novelist…Tremendous wit is always apparent in his imaginative conceits, comic digressions and verbal and narrative games’ IAN CRITCHLEY in SUNDAY TIMES.