Tuesday, 16 June 2009






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, na├»ve 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.



redkazim said...

Sounds interesting. Definitely try to find its paperback ed.
By the way, these days I am reading non-fiction -- particularly stuff on racism -- just finished Racism, Resistance and Revolution by Peter Alexander. Found it very informative.
Next one is going to be Anne Frank's Diary. Have you read it?

Chandini Santosh said...

Yeah, I read Anne Frank's diary when I was her age.

Your reading reminds me of my other journo friend Mohamed Nazeer, who reads up all these stuffs and bores me with it!!

redkazim said...

My senior at work says that one should have read the diary at the age of 16 -- I am 24 -- and that my slow reading is nauseating.

blue said...

your frequent posts about books u have read or r reading makes me green with envy...but mind you, i have also joined the bandwagon.I have started out on YOU ARE HERE by meenakshi reddy madhavan and kamila shamsies BURNT SHADOWS is on the pipeline.. It will take some doing to outsmart me..

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Sounds fascinating, Chandini! I get the impression that if one can read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one can handle his style. But since I have't read him, I'm in no way suggesting there are similarities!
A must read for me, Chandini! Thank you for sharing!

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend, dear lady! :))

Chandini Santosh said...

I am parked at the Silicon Garden city of India - Bangalore for week. Here, you get to meet lots and lots of people with differing views.

Keralites in plenty. Infact, they run the IT industry. My sis-in-law tells me that they are called THE MALLU MAFIA. Keralites are perhaps the most globalised human species. you find them everywhere.

redkazim said...

Haha -- one of my friends who now works in Manama says that the "Mallu mafia" is very much present in that small Arab country as well.

chocolateman said...

Hi Chand,

The whole of Middle East is known for the Mallus....(sans mafia....)
The Arabs would be totally handicapped but for their assistance, vision, cunning outlook, smart and positive attitudes.....and the willingness to do the job (even though he might be doing it for the first time.....) The "no problem attitude".....has taken them up to the moon (Chand in Hindi...).By the way I am the only Keralite in my company.....full of whites and local Omanis.

Chandini Santosh said...

I am sure all of you heard the joke about how Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed up on the moon and was welcomed by a Mallu Chaiwala?Just in case someone lands up you see!!!!!!!!

Hot tea anyone?