Saturday, June 19, 2010

The History of the Siege of Lisbon

A magical tale of love, memory, and the revision of things past from of the world's greatest writers

Raimundo Silva, an innocuous bachelor, has chosen the safe occupation of proofreader at a distinguished publishing house. One day he inexplicably takes it upon himself to alter a key word in a history text. His alteration leads him into an affair of the heart that changes the course of European history. Around a seemingly minor incident Jose Saramago has constructed one of his most ambitious, sweeping novels to date: a broad, multifaceted tableau involving meditations on historiography, the uses and abuses of language, and life under authoritarian rule. This rollicking love story is a delight for readers of Jorge Luis Borges, Salman Rushdie, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I've had this book in my TBR pile for ten years or so...It was one of those books I always meant to read but never got around on doing so, until I bought 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. It just happens that The History of the Siege of Lisbon is part of the list. I guess it was the incentive that I needed.

Raimundo leads a "grey" tedious life, he does his work and is proud on how well he does it. He has no relationships outside his job. He's proofreading a historical accounting of the Siege of Lisbon, when he suddenly goes against all he believes and changes one little word, actually he add a word. He knows that he will be caught but he's willing to live with the consequences, even if he cannot truly explain why he did it. When the error is found he is placed in a sort of probational time and supervised more closely by a superior he didn't know he had, Maria Sara. Maria Sara gives him the option to actually write the history of the siege the way he sees it. He had mixed feelings about this and about Maria Sara, he feels a connection to her and doesn't know how to react or how to proceed.

I admit I found the first few chapters hard to read and the story itself difficult to follow, but once I got used to the super long sentences and how the dialogue was written I finally was able to get a better understanding of the plot. And even enjoy the way the author wrote it. Interesting isn't it? The thing that kept me from enjoying the book in beginning is the same that I enjoyed the most...

It has definitely sparked my curiosity on the history Portugal. I learned the basics in school but now I want to learn more.

The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago (4.5/5) General Fiction; Translated from Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero; Published: Originally published by Editorial Caminho (1989); 1001 You Must Read (78); Books 2010 (64);

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