Portugal, 1711: an amorous friar is pursued naked through the rubble-strewn streets of Lisbon; an enthusiastic procession of flagellants roars with pleasure over the damnation of adultery; a royal prince uses hapless sailors for target practice; and women dressed in colorful finery watch as lapsed converts and sorcerers are put to death by flames. In the midst of the terrors of the Inquisition and the plague, a seemingly mismatched couple discovers the wonders of love. This poetic tale, graced with exquisite historical detail and full of magic and adventure, is a tapestry of human folly and human will. The best-loved of all of the great Jose Saramago's works, this novel radiates with achievement.
"Much reverberates in memory after reading this enchanting novel, but most of all the love story which soars over the rest of the action like a flute above a heavy orchestra. Mr. Saramago, a writer of sharp intelligence, keeps this love story under strict control, free of pathos or sentimentality. It is a of, and on, the earth." (Irving Howe, The New York Times Book Review)
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This is a very memorable story if read in Portuguese but understandably hard to get into if you are not immersed in the Portuguese ethos. I was disappointed with the clinical quality of the translation but could have dealt with that. In a book such as this, which manages to run the gamut of the language's poetic edge, it is rare to find the skill set required to produce an equally nuanced version in another language. What really killed the joy for me was the choice of narrator. This person not only has no knowledge of Portuguese, she had no coaching whatever. Oh, the nouns... When you hear a narration of a translated work, you expect the nouns to be pronounced somewhat accurately. She shreds them all with abandon. She is clueless with a vengeance. She is not shy about her utter ignorance or inaptitude to narrate even in English. This is an insulting narration, if that is possible. I want my credit back.
Nobel Prize my Patootie