Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: Small Memories

Small Memories

Author: Jose Saramago
Translator: Margaret Jull Costa
Publisher/Format: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 2011)  176 page
Setting: Azinhaga and Lisbon Portugal
Genre: Memoir
Source: electronic galley from publisher via Net Galley

This is Jose Saramago's last work.  Looking back on his childhood with fondness, this little book is essentially the rambling memories of an old man as he comes to terms with his parents, grandparents, neighbors, schoolmates, aunts and uncles, and a variety of animals, all of whom helped to shape him into the adult he became.  The anecdotes offer insights into the basis for some of his fiction works, and give us a glimpse of the political atmosphere shaping his later attitudes toward politics and government.

We see a family so poor his mother pawned their blankets every spring, only to buy them back in the autumn. We are allowed into the author's psyche to see how the death of his older brother at the age of 4 (Jose was only 18 months old) cast its influence.  We witness a father who is stern but who in the end is able to tell his son of his pride in him.  The story is not well organized, and scenes bounce back and forth between his life with his parents in the city (Lisbon) and with his aunt and uncle in the village of his birth.  There is no attempt to tie any of the stories together, nor does there need to be.  What Saramago gives us is himself: his memories, his attitudes, and his stories.  They may be small memories, but they color in the huge story of the influences of his life and his writings.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't heard of this book but your review is great. I think Saramago was a terrific, unique, beautiful writer. This memoir sounds like a conversation with Saramago or, like you said, the man giving us his memories.
    Thank you for reviewing this book!


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