Friday, April 4, 2014

"All the Names" by Jose Saramago

This book was lent to me by a friend. It is written by a Portuguese author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. I'm not quite sure what to write down about this book. The writing style is very unusual, punctuation is minimal, it is very descriptive in places and other times very abstract. Some passages of the book I found fascinating and insightful, but other sections I just wanted to skip pages that seemed to drag on. 
The story is about a clerk, Senhor Jose, who works in the Central Registry for births, deaths & marriages. The main character is a lonely character, living alone, next door to the Central Registry, and it appears that his work is his life, with very little else of interest to him. The story is told by Senhor Jose, often through dialogues he has in his head with himself, or with inanimate objects like the ceiling in his house, or imagined conversations with other characters he encounters in his life. He becomes fixated with an unknown woman whose birth, marriage and divorce are recorded on a card that he happens to pick up. He decides he needs to find out everything about this unknown woman, and sets off on a detective mission to track her down. For such an introverted, unadventurous person, Senhor Jose embarks on this adventure which includes breaking and entering, stealing, and all sorts of unusual and sometimes criminal behaviour in order to satisfy his curiosity about this anonymous woman. 
Some aspects of the book I really enjoyed, at times the writing was beautiful, and the insights into the (mad?) mind of Senhor Jose are really thought-provoking. However, I did find some sections very slow and hard to get through.

Started reading: 3rd April 2014
Finished: 10th April 2014
My score: 6.5/10

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