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La caverna = A caverna (Punto De Lectura) (original 2000; edition 2002)
by Jose Saramago, Pilar Del Rio (Translator)
The Cave by José Saramago (2000)
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this book gave me huge aching smiles on my face.
This is a sardonic condemnation of the commercialization, relentless and dehumanizing technological development, and desensitizing inflexible bureaucracy of capitalism. A potter, his daughter, and his son-in-law live in a small, antiquated village outside the city, where the ever-expanding Center, representing all that is modern, looms. The family depends for its livelihood on the Center, where the potter sells his wares and the son-in-law works as a security guard, awaiting a promotion that will allow the family to move in permanently.
Saramago, as always, treats his characters with irony and tenderness. He also made me laugh out loud with his self-referential observations about writing and narrative, like this one, which is even funnier if you're familiar with his idiosyncratic punctuation and his habit of seemingly irrelevant but often most illuminating digressions:
"The trouble with digressions is the ease with which the digressor can become distracted by diversions, making him lose the thread of words and events, as has just happened to Found [the dog], who caught only the second half of the following words spoken by Cipriano Algor, which is why, as you will notice, they do not start with a capital letter, that's it, I won't go running after her any more, said the potter, obviously he wasn't referring to the above-mentioned capital letter, since he doesn't use them when he speaks, but to the woman called Isaura Estudiosa."
One would think that reading a book without quotation marks or paragraphs separating speakers would be very difficult and confusing, but this one wasn't. In fact it carried me along quite nicely. Perhaps because the old man and his daughter had lived together long enough that they knew what each other would say and there was no need to separate who said what. Perhaps because their voices were different enough that it was generally obvious who said what. This is not a relationship I have ever experienced, but it is one I almost envy, if 'envy' weren't a pejorative word.
It is a story of common people, villagers, with a simple daily life revolving around their work in their family pottery. Yet Cipriano's regular journeys to the big town show us that this village is on the edge of a zone of environmental destruction caused by the mega-corp that is taking over the city. We don't know where this is located and therefore can easily imagine it is here in our country. We know such a mega-corp. We fear for the continuation of our own village life.
In the first 50 pages I had jotted down dozens of homely aphorisms, charmed by new ways of looking at daily existence. Lo and behold, the author now speaks to the reader (p.56), acknowledging his use of aphorisms and how useless they are in difficult circumstances. I am charmed by the author acknowledging my existence, and, in later passages, taking the time to interrupt his story to explain what he will or will not tell us, meanwhile giving the story time to unfold as it will.
I enjoyed getting to know Cipriano, Marta, and Marcal; their love and support for each other, their good humor in trying times, their acceptance of what the other needs. And even tho I didn't learn enough to become a potter myself, we do learn quite a bit about the steps in creating items from clay the old-fashioned way.
I was, however, very surprised at the ending. Since Cipriano called the repository where he put his reject work a 'cave,' I had imagined people discovering these rejects and cherishing them as unique/quaint/charming. Well, what else could happen to provide a livelihood for this village family?
Eh. Saramago is a great writer, but this was well-written & tedious.
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El balancí (Edicions 62) (394)
Keltainen kirjasto (347)
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A number of 1998 Nobel Prize Laureate José Saramago's great works in a convenient pocket format. Text copyright 2003 Lectorum Publications, Inc.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)869.342 — Literature Spanish and Portuguese Portuguese Portuguese fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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Protagonist Cipriano Algor, an artisan living in the country with his daughter and son-in-law, sells his handmade tableware to the Center. The Center’s agent tells Cipriano his services are no longer required, so he attempts to find another way to make money from his skill as a potter. It is a story of everyday life involving a family, a stray dog, a budding relationship, and how these people deal with change.
This book requires patience, as the meaning of The Cave is not apparent until the end. It is not for anyone looking for plot-driven action. As is typical of Saramago, it is written in stream-of-consciousness without quotation marks or separation of dialogue, so the reader has to keep track mentally. He strings together a series of words to convey many shades of meaning.
It is a story of human (and animal) connections in uncertain times, how people can deceive themselves, and how we maintain our illusions rather than confronting the truth. It is a social commentary on the increasing artificiality of our world. I think it is particularly pertinent to our present time.
I embark annually on a project to read five works from a notable author. This year I picked Portuguese author José Saramago, recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature. This is the fifth of five for the year. I just loved it and am adding it to my list of favorites.
In case anyone is interested, these are the others I have read. His work is consistently high quality.
[a:José Saramago|1285555|José Saramago|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1497455560p2/1285555.jpg]: 2020
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- [b:The History of the Siege of Lisbon|13065136|The History of the Siege of Lisbon|José Saramago|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1328325338l/13065136._SX50_.jpg|1109068] - 3 stars - My Review ( )