I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Child That I Am

The Child That I Am

Ana Paula Arnaut
As Pequenas Memórias, by José Saramago, Caminho, 149 pp, €9.45, ISBN: 972-2118315 The Nobel literature prizewinner José Saramago was born in 1922 in Portugal’s Ribatejo province. Best known in the English-speaking world for his novels from the 1980s and 1990s Baltasar and Blimunda, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, The Stone Raft, The History of the Siege of Lisbon and Blindness, Saramago came late to international acclaim. His novels, often written in the form of allegory, present subversive versions of historical events, emphasising the experience of the common man as opposed to the official version. Saramago lived most of his adult life under the right-wing Salazar and Caetano dictatorships. Since 1969 he has been a member of the Portuguese Communist Party, widely seen as one of the most “unreconstructed” in Europe, and he has appeared on the party lists for elections to the European Parliament. After a bitter dispute with the Portuguese church and state over his novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (1991) Saramago went to live in voluntary exile in Spain’s Canary Islands. It isn’t good to look back to the past. The past is that cupboard full of skeletons that the English – a discreet people who see little sun and even less excitement – refer to. But at times memory, through pathways we cannot explain, brings past images, colours, words and figures to the present day. Deste Mundo e do Outro (Concerning this World and the Other, 1985) In spite of these words from the chronicle “O amola-tesouras”, José Saramago has now published, in As Pequenas Memórias, an account of several episodes from the first fifteen to sixteen years of his life. Readers have already had access to some of this material in chronicles published in newspapers during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It seems that to a certain extent what Saramago is now doing is reordering some of those episodes so as to present a cohesive and coherent whole. One should not assume, however, that this presiding autobiographical register will offer us a clear and absolutely linear timeline – nor indeed should one expect a guarantee of the absolute veracity of all that is recounted here. If the account he articulates is an unfolding, based on memory, of the itinerary of his early life, this is achieved through a narrative that is like a series of small pictures, small discrete and dispersed watercolours from a childhood revisited and re-encountered in…



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