Okay, I’ll just say it. World’s Smallest Book Group LOVES Jose Saramago. And we totally LOVED this book! What a master!! You should immediately go out and read it. I’m not kidding. Right now. That’s okay, I’ll wait…
Oh, you’re back? So we were right, huh? I KNEW you would love it too…
So the book is about a man in his mid-60s who has been a potter all his life. He has a little pottery studio at his home in the countryside outside a large city. The city has a number of zones (all fairly grim) but the center of it all is The Center. I imagined it as a Mall of America kind of place… everything is artificial and controlled and ordered and big brother is watching every move everyone makes. The son in law is a security guard at the Center and when he gets a promotion to residential guard, the family can move to the Center. Much of the book describes the evolving status of the family’s economic circumstances and their consequences.
The characters are so interesting and real. We so loved the old man and his daughter. And the dog 🙂
And the writing. Ahhhhh, it is so beautiful and satsifying. It draws you in ever so gently, then carries you up and down along the little waves that carry water along a river, now up, then down just a little, then tipping slightly to the left, enough to notice but not enough to throw you over, it’s best if you let yourself be carried, trust that the words will take you where you need to go…
Let me show you what I mean, I’m going to just open to a random page and copy one random sentence so you can see for yourself:
Cipriano Algor shrugged as if so say that he wasn’t interested and said again that he was going to have a wash, but he did not move, he did not take the step that would carry him out of the kitchen, a debate was going on inside his head between two potters, one was arguing that it was our duty to behave naturally under all circumstances, that if someone is kind enough to bring us a cake covered with an embroidered napkin, it is only right and proper to ask whom one should thank for this unexpected generosity, and if, in reply, we are told to guess, it would look most suspicious if we pretended not to hear, these little games played in families and in society are not of great importance, no one is going to draw hasty conclusions if we guess correctly, mainly because the number of people who might give us a cake is never going to be that large, indeed often there might be only one, that, at least, is what one of the potters was saying, but the other replied that he was not prepared to play the part of fall guy in some silly circus game of riddles, that is was precisely because he did know the name of the person who had brought the cake that he would not say it, and also because the worst thing about conclusions, at lest in some cases, is not that they might occasionally be hasty, but that they are precisely that, conclusions.
The family does in fact end up moving to the Center. It is truly a horrifying place. Then there is a cave discovered, and it changes everything. You’ll see.
Yes, the cave is a reference to Plato’s cave. Made me wish I remembered my college Humanities class better, I wrote a paper about Plato’s cave. There are also echoes of Kafka in the places in the story. And props to the translator: Margaret Jull Costa.
I will leave it at that. Except for this: Jose Saramago is a masterful writer and thinker. He totally deserved that Nobel Prize for Literature. This is the third Saramago book we’ve read in book group (also read All the Names and Blindness). After discussing The Cave, we decided that WSBG will read a Saramago book every year forevermore.
I can’t wait!