20 April 2006

Worthy of Trust

Ursula LeGuin on Jose Saramago:
Some years ago a reliable friend told me I should read Jose Saramago's Blindness. Faced with pages of run-on sentences and unparagraphed dialogue without quotation marks, I soon quit, snarling about literary affectations. Later I tried again, went further, and quit because I was scared. Blindness is a frightening book. Before I'd let an author of such evident power give me the horrors, he'd have to earn my trust. So I went back to the earlier novels and put myself through a course of Saramago.

It's hard not to gallop through prose that uses commas instead of full stops, but once I learned to slow down, the rewards piled up: his sound, sweet humour, his startling imagination, his admirable dogs and lovers, the subtle, honest workings of his mind. Here indeed was a novelist worthy of a reader's trust.


  1. That was exactly my first experience with Saramago. But the boy can write!

  2. I loved Blindness--read it right before he won the Nobel. But haven't had time to read anything of his since, unfortunately.
    Ellen Datlow

  3. I would also suggest "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ". It is Saramago at his finest, though I would not recommend it to anyone who is easily offended by its unorthodox portrait of Christ. Still, it is a work of extraordinary narrative power and filled with vivid and emotional scenes (I read it in the original language, so I can only hope that english translations do justice to Saramago's literary skills).


  4. Maybe I live on another planet, but I found Blindness to go by very quickly and smoothly, in large part because the imagery is so concrete. Admittedly, this comes from someone who's a fan of Bernhard, Musil, Proust, and Donoso, so I may simply be uncalibrated.

    His other books have disappointed me in lacking that sheer viscerality, sometimes for the sake of a more limp political outlook. I haven't picked up "Seeing" for that reason....

  5. Yes, Gospel According to Jesus Christ is amazing stuff.