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Before Rafah

Yitzhak Laor: Israeli militarism, 3 June 2004

... so there was no choice but to destroy as much of Rafah as possible, and as soon as possible. José Saramago, visiting Israel in March 2002, before the invasion in which Israel reoccupied the territories, said that Israel had two problems. The first, he said, is that the settlements need the army. Everyone agreed. The second is that the army needs ...


Michael Wood, 23 March 1995

The Stone Raft 
by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
Harvill, 263 pp., £15.99, November 1994, 0 00 271321 7
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... for writers like Calvino and Kundera, to say nothing of Eco. And to say something, now, of José Saramago. Saramago, born in 1922, has published seven novels. Five of them are available in English (Baltasar and Blimunda, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, The Manual of ...

At the Video Store

Daniel Soar: Saramago, 2 December 2004

The Double 
by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill, 292 pp., £15.99, August 2004, 1 84343 099 1
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... All José Saramago’s novels tell a story. Each is predicated on a suggestive and compelling hypothesis: what would happen if the Iberian peninsula were to become detached from the European mainland (The Stone Raft), what would happen if everyone in a country lost their eyesight (Blindness), what would have happened if the crusaders had refused to help the beleaguered Portuguese in 1147 (The History of the Siege of Lisbon)? From these impossible premises, more or less logical consequences follow, more or less fabulously narrated; with light digressions, tense asides and much moody self-reflexiveness ...

Who will punish the lord?

Robert Alter: Saramago’s Cain, 6 October 2011

by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill Secker, 150 pp., £12.99, July 2011, 978 1 84655 446 9
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... José Saramago’s last work of fiction, published in Portugal in 2009, the year before he died, created something of a furore there. It is less likely to ruffle feathers in the English-speaking world, where scathing critiques of the Bible, in fiction and even in biblical scholarship, have been commonplace since the 18th century ...

Where Forty-Eight Avenue joins Petőfi Square

Jennifer Szalai: László Krasznahorkai, 26 April 2012

by László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes.
Atlantic, 320 pp., £12.99, May 2012, 978 1 84887 764 1
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... by placing him in the capacious context of such postwar avant-garde novelists as Thomas Bernhard, José Saramago and David Foster Wallace, only to acknowledge that, despite a shared affinity for ‘very long, breathing, unstopped sentences’, Krasznahorkai was ‘perhaps the strangest’ of them. The writer is ‘peculiar’; his work is ‘strange and ...

Like a Mullet in Love

James Wood: Homage to Verga, 10 August 2000

Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Stories 
by Giovanni Verga, translated by G.H. McWilliam.
Penguin, 272 pp., £8.99, June 1999, 0 14 044741 5
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... an old gossip from the village. And a foolish one, too, censorious and witless at the same time. (José Saramago is the contemporary novelist most fond of this technique.) Giovanni Verga was a patrician, and he did not always write like this. He was born in Catania, in 1840, into a landowning family. At school, a patriotic teacher inspired him to write ...

Back from the Underworld

Marina Warner: The Liveliness of the Dead, 17 August 2017

The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Princeton, 711 pp., £27.95, October 2015, 978 0 691 15778 8
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... now. In All the Names (1997), his poignant novel about the yearning to encompass everyone, José Saramago issues a warning. The protagonist tries to stop a nurse washing a minor scrape on his knee, but she says: ‘No no, I have to clean them.’ He replies: ‘Once mine have healed, they’ll leave nothing but a few small scars that will ...

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