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Small Memoriesby Jose Saramago
When the great José Saramago passed away last spring at the age of 87, the renowned Nobel Laureate left behind a diverse and accomplished body of work. Small Memories is a rich, touching memoir of Saramago's childhood in Portugal. Doleful, poignant, and often jocular, this moving work conveys the essence of Saramago's arduous and curious youth. With the resplendent prose that characterized his fiction, Small Memories is a charming glimpse into the writer's early years.
Synopses & Reviews
José Saramago was eighteen months old when he moved from the village of Azinhaga with his father and mother to live in Lisbon. But he would return to the village throughout his childhood and adolescence to stay with his maternal grandparents, illiterate peasants in the eyes of the outside world, but a fount of knowledge, affection, and authority to young José.
Shifting back and forth between childhood and his teenage years, between Azinhaga and Lisbon, this is a mosaic of memories, a simply told, affecting look back into the authors boyhood: the tragic death of his older brother at the age of four; his mother pawning the familys blankets every spring and buying them back in time for winter; his beloved grandparents bringing the weaker piglets into their bed on cold nights; and Saramagos early encounters with literature, from teaching himself to read by deciphering articles in the daily newspaper, to poring over an entertaining dialogue in a Portuguese-French conversation guide, not realizing that he was in fact reading a play by Molière.
Written with Saramagos characteristic wit and honesty, Small Memories traces the formation of an artist fascinated by words and stories from an early age and who emerged, against all odds, as one of the worlds most respected writers.
"Weaving together memories of his Portuguese childhood, Nobel Prize — winner Saramago (1922 — 2010) presents a lyrical portrait of the artist as a young man. Born in the small village of Azinhaga and raised in Lisbon, Saramago recounts his early days not in the traditional linear fashion but as snippets of reminiscences that flow from one topic — and time period — to another. The days spent in Azinhaga, exploring the countryside with a child's keen eye for adventure and spending time in his maternal grandparents' cottage, are beautifully depicted and resonate even more deeply when Saramago describes the modernization that has made his boyhood home unrecognizable. Readers will also recognize the trademark undercurrent of wit in Saramago's stories, such as how a village joke resulted in his surname being recorded incorrectly on his birth certificate ('Saramago' means wild radish) and how an early attempt to master French was actually a childhood introduction to MoliÃ¨re. Yet all is not merry as Saramago recalls the tragic death of his older brother, Francisco, at age four, which causes him to explore the concept of so-called 'false memories,' as well as his family's poverty. With its poetic style, this posthumous memoir is the perfect coda to Saramago's distinguished career. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"The opening pages of this posthumously published memoir of early childhood by Saramago are rapturously enthralling..." Kirkus Reviews
"The memories are not only small and immediate, vignettes with a sense of being interjected rather than relayed, but told with the immediacy of a child's gaze, so very different from an adult's reflection...[An] homage to Saramago's family and homeland, but also...the endlessly renewable life of the mind." The Independent (UK)
"A moving account of his childhood and adolescence." The Spectator (UK)
"In Small Memories, Saramago examines the richness of his early experiences, taking pleasure in writing his past as the work of the man that he finally became." World Literature Today
"One of Mr. Saramago's last books, and one of his most touching," (—NYT), this posthumous memoir of his childhood, written with characteristic wit and honesty, traces the formation of an individual into an artist, who emerged against all odds as one of the world's most respected writers.
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award International Bestseller "[An] ingenious work that circles around the rise of a state, the tragic destiny of a mother, a boys creation of a new self." — The New Yorker A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mothers suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation. "One of the most enchanting and deeply satisfying books that I have read in many years." — New Republic
“One of Saramagos last books, and one of his most touching.”—New York Times
From Small Memories There you were, grandma, sitting on the sill outside your house, open to the vast, starry night, to the sky of which you knew nothing and through which you would never travel, to the silence of the fields and the shadowy trees, and you said, with all the serenity of your ninety years and the fire of an adolescence never lost: "The world is so beautiful, it makes me sad to think I have to die." In those exact words. I was there.
About the Author
José Saramago is one of the most acclaimed writers in the world today. He is the author of numerous novels, including All the Names, Blindness, and The Cave. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Margaret Jull Costa has established herself as the premier translator of Portuguese literature into English today.
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