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Baltasar and Blimunda
by Jose Saramago


Synopsis:
Best loved novel of 1998 Nobel Prize winner Jose Sarmago.  
Portugal, 1711. In the midst of the terrors of the Inquisition and the
plague, a seemingly mismatched couple discovers the wonders of 
love. This rich, irreverent tale, full of magic and adventure and 
graced with extraordinary historical detail, is a tapestry of human 
folly and human will--a fabulous cross between One Hundred Years 
of Solitude and The Name of the Rose.

Irving Howe, The New York Times Book Review
"Much reverberates in memory after reading this
enchanting novel, but most of all the love story which soars over the
rest of the action like a flute above a heavy orchestra. Mr. Saramago,
a writer of sharp intelligence, keeps this love story under strict
control, free of pathos or sentimentality. It is a of, and on, the
earth." 

Walter Goodman, The New York Times 
"Saramago has produced a novel that is deeply imbedded in the
history of his land yet moves in mystical realms. It is a romance
and an adventure, a rumination on royalty and religion in 18th
century Portugal and a bitterly ironic comment on the uses of power." 


Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (1 of 2), Read 8 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, May 15, 2000 09:04 PM I logged on this evening hoping to see a thread about B&B. I like the book, but I can't say that I loved it. Since I don't have much time to post this evening, I am hoping that someone else will discuss the meaning of this book. The cover of the books has this quote, "A romance and an adventure, a rumination on royalty and religion in 18th century Portugal and a bitterly ironic comment on the uses of power." I thought that the Inquisition might play a bigger role than it did here. The most important thing that the Inquisition did was to bring B & B together in the book. They somehow escaped until the very end. What do you make of the flying machine and the captured wills? Out of time, Jane
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (2 of 2), Read 6 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, May 15, 2000 09:32 PM I'm just halfway thru, Jane. It's not a fast read. At times I'm utterly amused and beguiled by the digressions. Other times, I find myself wishing he'd just get on with it. But I try to restrain myself. My feeling is that in this book, it's the journey that counts, more than the destination. Ruth
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (3 of 5), Read 11 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 06:45 AM I'm about one-third through. I'm glad you started the thread, Jane. I'll have more to say when I have more time to read. I can't seem to read this book here. It takes too much concentrated effort and time. Not a book to sneak in here and there. Sherry
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (4 of 5), Read 10 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 07:53 AM Sherry, I have had the advantage of you on this one because I have been leisurely trekking through it for weeks now. It ain't no airplane book. That's for sure. José Saramago has developed his own brand of magical realism. I find it quite different than that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I cannot quite yet put my finger on the nature of the difference. However, the book goes down much more easily once one absorbs the fact that one has entered a time when magic was a very real part of life. As you approach the end of the book, you will read about the construction of Dom João V's huge convent. I found this the most vivid and entertaining part of the novel. It really does take on the air of an epic in that section. Jane, when I first ran into this idea of capturing human "wills" with which to power the flying machine, my immediate reaction was, "Whao! That was bizarre!" Aside from the weighty message of that, one soon becomes used to the idea in a pretty matter-of-fact way. It clearly is the image, for lack of a better word, that permeates the whole novel. I, too, will be interested to hear others' reactions to this. Steve
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (5 of 5), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 08:56 AM Steve & All: I'm moving very slowly through B & B. Definitely a concentrated read, but I'm really taken by the sheer originality of it. By the way, my annoying lack of a second language leads me to ask for a translation of the Marguerite Yourcenar quote in French from the epigraph. I can catch just enough to know that it's very heavy, as is the quote about the gallows above it. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (6 of 11), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 03:26 PM B&B is the type of book one must savor...a tough job for those of us who read quickly. I was glad to be forced to slow down and soak up the images, but like Ruth, I was alternately amused and annoyed. I, too, expected more "action" from the Inquisition, but it did seem to hang like a curtain over everyone's lives, which was probably the reality of the times. And, I felt comfort in the enduring love of B&B... I would not have read this book were it not for CR. While I have not completely formulated my thoughts on B&B, I'm happy I came along for the ride. Anne Reading is life...the rest is just details
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (7 of 11), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 05:03 PM Dale, It was the sheer originality of this book that appealed to me. It was certainly not easy reading. Reading Henry James had broken me into paragraph long sentences, but Saramago sometimes goes over a page. This forced me to reread parts. Do you suppose that was the intent? Ann
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (8 of 11), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 08:59 PM Dale, Here is my translation of the quote by Marguerite Yourcenar. I know that I fall into the unexplainable when I affirm that reality - this notion that is so indistinct - the most exact knowledge possible of beings is our point of contact, and our means of access to things which go beyond reality. I hope that this helps. I found that this novel was a lot of work as well. Diane Freeman and I have talked about B&B at work and we agree that we had to reread many sections. If you lose track of who is talking, you are lost. I love the devotion that B & B felt for each other. Jane
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (9 of 11), Read 18 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 09:54 PM Well, it was a real chore following the transitions when Virginia Woolf changed characters from one paragraph to the next, but Jose Saramago changes within a paragraph. And many times. And using commas as breaks, takes a whole lot of getting used to. Not as bad as ending a sentence with a preposition, but still. I'm finding it a bit slow going, and not totally due to my ever fading faculties, but I persist. I've never actually ran into this particular writing style and wonder if it was for the one book or if this Saramago's trademark. EDD also renewing my acquaintance with Cellini and starting a John Leslie mystery (NIGHT AND DAY) for sanity.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (10 of 11), Read 18 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000 11:47 PM I think this is a book best read in little tastes. And since there doesn't seem to be an earth-shaking plot, I don't think we have to milk those interminable sentences for every ounce of their meaning. I do love the kind of stream-of-consciousness linking of ideas, but I can't settle down to a good long read. I just keep dipping my toe in. Ruth, who normally zaps off a book this size in a few days, and who expects to finish this one before 2001
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (11 of 11), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, May 17, 2000 09:09 AM Jane: Thanks for the Yourcenar translation. I was right, it is heavy. {G} I think what she's saying boils down to this: The most exact knowledge possible of beings is our means of access to things which go beyond reality. Definitely a sentiment that a fiction writer, or reader, can get behind. I'm sure I'll get more out of it as Saramago's story proceeds. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (12 of 18), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 07:57 AM This is a very difficult book to discuss in any substantive way, isn't it? It is really more of an epic poem than a novel. I find my own response to the great scenes portrayed in it to much more emotional than logical and therefore very difficult to describe without sounding nutty. I thought I might just mention some of the scenes that moved me for reasons I cannot explain. The first was the chapter devoted to the auto-da-fé. It starts with an explanation of why Dona Maria Ana will not be able to attend and a description of the sumptuous feast that the King and Chief Inquisitor will enjoy after the ritual slaughter (51 men and 53 women). There is a nice description of the nature of this festivity. Then Sete-Sóis and Blimunda meet for the first time as they watch her mystic mother take a flogging. Shortly thereafter, good ole Padre Bartolomeu Lourenço marries them on the spot, and the chapter closes with Blimunda making the sign of the cross on Sete-Sóis' chest "near his heart" with her own blood after losing her virginity. It was at this point that I first said to myself, "Whoa! This is something way off the beaten path." These images coming hard upon each other produce a strange effect. I mean, it's almost better than sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. Steve
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (13 of 18), Read 25 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 08:45 AM I've not been reading the posts on B&B because I am only 1/2 way through. However, I'm beginning to think that what plot there is, is very thin, and that the purpose of this novel is the running commentary on the nature of religion, relationships, and power. Of course, there is a lot of historical insight into the day to day lives as well. I have found the heavy sarcasm and ironic asides to be quite funny at times. As to the stream of consciousness from one character to the other, I think there is also an overall kind of omniscient, timeless "I." I am referring to the all seeing predictions into how things turn out in the 20th century. I will probably finish the book, as I'd like to understand why it won a Pulitzer. Any insights, CR?
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (14 of 18), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 08:56 AM Kay: I agree with your assessment of Baltasar and Blimunda--a supple and shapely narrative, it ain't, and the language and ideas often seem near chaos. My thoughts on why it garnered a Pulitzer relate to something William Faulkner once said, "A writer should be judged not just by what he creates, but by what he attempts." I think the scope of what Saramago attempts, here, is grand indeed, and even (especially?) the darkness and sarcasm appeals to the humanity in us all, at some very primal level. As for my reading pace, I'm hoping to finish it on the plane on the way to the CR convention.{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (15 of 18), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 09:22 AM Hold it--I don't think this book won a Pulitzer. Saramago did eventually get some Nobel thing, though. David, who found the book heavy going for awhile, but thinks it really takes off in the middle...
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (16 of 18), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 10:06 AM "Some Nobel thing," David? I love that and thank you for my first laugh of the day. Steve
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (17 of 18), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 10:33 AM David: Methinks you are right. My info says Saramago won the Nobel in 1998, but as I recall that's for a lifetime body of writing rather than a specific work. I would be interested, though, to know how representative B&B's style is of his other fiction. Garcia-Marquez, for instance, wrote one novel (AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH, maybe?) which was a single uninterrupted paragraph, but to my knowledge hasn't used that approach again, since. >>Dale in Ala., whose continual snubbing by the Nobel committee is a mere oversight, I'm sure {G}
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (18 of 18), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 02:21 PM Sorry about that, David. It was the Nobel. Perhaps I should try some of Saramago's other work - as long as B & B is not representative of it. So it really takes off in the middle, huh? I'm there, and nothing has caused me to soar into the heavens yet. However, it is entirely possible that Blimunda "saw" my lessening will to finish, and gathered what remained to act as a catalyst for all that ether Lourenco is gathering.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (19 of 19), Read 1 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Thursday, May 18, 2000 11:50 PM When I read B&B (a couple of years ago, I think) there were portions that took off for me, but the book as a whole really never did. Now the most memorable remaining bit had to do with moving a gigantic slab of stone (or marble?) to a building site. I think I felt every bit of tension and saw every drop of sweat in that section. At the time this was a major disappointment, since I read it shortly after Blindness, the book published just prior to his winning the Nobel. Blindness took off from page 1 and even left me entranced for weeks after. Tonya
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (20 of 25), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Gail Singer (gailsinger_gross@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, May 19, 2000 06:42 PM greetings TONYA.. i was excited to read BLINDNESS after J.M. won the PULITZER... i think you liked the book much more than i did however it rolls...more than the one you all are immersed in at the moment!!! i was told not to miss B$b.... hmm.. after reading your posts.. i am not enthused.. gail..lurking as usual...reading ..A GESTURE LIFE by change-rae lee....
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (21 of 25), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, May 19, 2000 10:50 PM I love this book, which is why I nominated it for Constant Reader. I just started my reread a few days ago. I know its lack of standard punctuation (something which generally irritates me no end) makes it a slow read. But this work transports me into another world, part 18th century Portugal and part a magical place which exists only in the author's imagination. For me, this place is fascinating. I am also very attached to Baltasar and Blimunda. The little people are obviously the heros of this book, and the constant barbs directed at the rich and powerful really hit the mark. The book is full of irony and striking images. Here is just one that struck me: ... this is the mysterious thing about prayer, we address them to heaven with some private intention, but they choose their own path, sometimes they delay, allowing other prayers to overtake them, frequently they overlap and become hybrid prayer of dubious origin, which quarrel and argue among themselves. This explains why a little girl is born when everyone had prayed for a boy... What do you think of the shifting narrator? There is consistently one voice, but in one place the narrator refers to himself as a soldier and in another it is Blimunda's mother.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (22 of 25), Read 16 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Sunday, May 21, 2000 05:33 PM I confess, Ann, that I nominated this one for some list or other, too. I think Sherry recalls my confusion in thinking I had nominated it for this one. My earlier characterization of it as an "epic poem" doesn't feel quite right. What I was trying to get at is that it certainly is not a novel in any conventional use of the term. I am right with the consensus here that it requires a great deal of effort and a lot of getting-used-to. I worked like a mule on this one for a long time. The question is whether it is worth it. For me that question is easy. The moving images in this are something once one is able to become immersed. I mentioned two earlier, one of which is the "big stone" scene that also caught Tonya's attention. Another among many that I enjoyed thoroughly was this comically extravagant entourage of the King slogging toward his meeting with the Spanish, another instance of the needling of the aristocracy that you mention. Marquez permeates his magical novels with a myriad weird little images, like that trail of blood running endlessly down the street and over the landscape, for example. This work is not comparable. Rather, there is this one magical image hovering over the relatively realistic action, that being The Passarola. That seems to me to be the unifying image of the whole epic, and is it ever strange! I really didn't think of those little first person snippets as a shift in narrator. They were so transitory and isolated. What must it be like to inhabit José Saramago's brain? Besides the conversation of women, it is dreams that keep the world in orbit. But dreams also form a diadem of moons, therefore the sky is that splendor inside a man's head, if his head is not, in fact, his own unique sky. Steve
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (23 of 25), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, May 21, 2000 05:40 PM A few days ago I decided to throw in the towel. Then yesterday, I found B&B calling and in a minute I was immersed again. A couple of you have said the book began to grab you in the middle (of the book, I mean, not your middle, hehe). I think that's true for me too. I couldn't put it down when things began to take off. (pun intended) It doesn't seem to me like there's a change in narrator, either. I took the occasional diversions referred to as being quotes. I think there's a single omniscient (and how) narrator throughout. Ruth
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (24 of 25), Read 11 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, May 21, 2000 07:49 PM Well, Ruth, now you have me curious. Perhaps I will finish B & B.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (25 of 25), Read 12 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Diane Freeman (dfreeman@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Sunday, May 21, 2000 07:54 PM Whew! I confess to feeling something like relief when I finally finished B&B. Although there were several wonderful parts, I felt it quite an effort to accomplish them. The whole "big stone" thing went on so interminably and without apparent climax that I asked myself "What was all that about? So much tedious struggle, little gain, the occasion gruesome death going unnoticed but by a very few." Ah-ha! Life in the 18th century. The later image of the widow at her door witnessing the passage of the procession ... very strong. Blimunda's years of searching for Balthasar only to find him in a setting like the one where they met, except now he is among the victims. At least I stopped waiting for a plot to emerge, but it was still work to sort out who was speaking to whom about what. I agree that there were several witty and even amusing bits, starting with the Queen tricking the King into committing to build the convent after she already knew she was pregnant. What a charming manipulation of the superstitions which she subscribed to personally. If there was any controlling device, it was the construction of the convent, and what a way to introduce it. Besides the relationship between Baltasar and Blimunda, the description of the contrast between the funeral observances of the poor vs. aristocratic children showed Saramago as sympathetic to the peasants, giving them the powerful relief of love while seeming not to credit any clergy or royalty with the ability to love at all, let alone deeply. (whoa, my sentences are getting almost as long as JS's!) While I would not necessary suggest this book to friends, I am sufficiently intrigued to give Blindness a try. Diane
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (26 of 27), Read 12 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Monday, May 22, 2000 04:27 PM Has any one read Saramago's "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ?" I picked it up briefly at the used bookstore the other day, but let it go. Reluctantly. I couldn't quite interpret my feelings. On one hand Saramago intrigues me, the topic intrigues me, and I know it will be different from any other book I've read (except B&B!). But on the other hand, I'm not so sure I'm ready to tackle the writing style just yet. Well, it wouldn't hurt anything to have it on my shelf now, would it? Amazon.com readers give this one rave reviews, preferring it to "Blindness." Perhaps I'll nominate it for next year's list... Anne Reading is life...the rest is just details
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (27 of 27), Read 12 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, May 22, 2000 04:48 PM sounds like a challenge that I might take, Ann, I didn't make this B&B one but it will stay on the list and probably jump into the fray one day -- but this one, well, I might just tackle it ahead of B&B. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (28 of 31), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, May 28, 2000 08:29 AM "Everything in this world can volunteer some reply, what takes up time is posing the questions." Sometimes a book is so dense, so thick with ideas and images, that it is hard to talk about it. I don’t take notes as I read; I think it interrupts the flow of the book. I sometimes underline sentences, but not often (and then I can’t find them when I look for them). So how do you talk about a book like Baltasar and Blimunda? My question is: what are the large themes? Once, the omniscient narrator said "This is only a fairy tale." So what are the mythological, archetypal messages here? Think about all the journeys there are. Individuals and groups of people go from one place to another, either in indescribable splendor and luxury or in abject poverty and pain. Contrast the royal wedding journeys to the journey of the boy monks. And what do you think about the journey of the statues of the saints? Sometimes the journeys represent quests for knowledge, sometimes they seem to be borne of pure idiocy. Blimunda’s last journey was nine years long. Wasn’t it a surprise when she said to her sister-in-law "I’ll be right back" and practically the next sentence was "For nine long years, Blimunda searched for Baltasar." What do you think the mother of all rocks represented? To me it seemed in direct contrast to the flying machine. Why do you think Baltasar was Seven Suns and Blimunda was Seven Moons? (Contrary to Saramago, I find it much easier to ask the questions than to answer them.) Sherry
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (29 of 31), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, May 28, 2000 10:59 AM I'm getting closer to the end of this book, but it's still not finished. I find it impossible to sit down and read it for any longer than an hour. I start to drown in the verbiage that seemed so wonderful at the start of my session. There were any number of wonderful, thought-provoking sentences, but like you, Sherry, I don't take notes and can seldom find them later, if indeed I even remember them. Ruth
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (30 of 31), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, May 28, 2000 11:14 AM I thought the end of the book flew by, Ruth. So I bet you finish it soon. Ann, I want to thank you for nominating this. I think it is a brilliant, though difficult book. Sherry
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (31 of 31), Read 6 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, May 29, 2000 09:12 AM I finally finished B&B last night. Although I nominated this book because I was so impressed by it, I have to confess that a secondary motive was that I needed a bit of a push to finish up those last hundred pages. I set it aside, temporarily I thought, to read the some of the list books on CC and CR, and never quite got back to it. This time I started at the beginning and read through to the finish. Saramago's wit is what most attracts me to his writing. At times it is whimsical, but at others it is very bitter. I expected the latter in the many references to the selfishness and extravagance of the king and nobility. I was a bit taken aback, however, by the anger directed towards God. Like Baltasar, God is imperfect, because he is also missing his left hand. He is sometimes judged guilty for the mess that resulted from his creation of the world. To give a couple of examples: Father Lorenco explains to Baltasar that confession is not really necessary because God sees into the hearts of man and will even up the score at judgment day although it may also come to pass that everything will end with a general amnesty or universal punishment, all that remains to be known is who will pardon or punish God. (p. 171) And on page 302: the royal party drove past looking solemn, grave, and imperious without so much as a smile, for God himself never smiles, and He must have His reasons, who knows, perhaps He has ended up feeling ashamed of this world He has created. Maybe I should have expected this in a book which only takes off after Baltasar meets Blimunda at an auto da fe organized by the Inquisition and ends with Baltasar burned at the stake in another Inquisition "event". I'm not sure what it all means, Sherry, although you have posed excellent questions. The big stone reminds me of the myth of Sysiphus, which emphasizes to me the futility of life. The common man labors incessantly, but once he has pushed that enormous stone to its allotted place, another equally daunting task replaces this one. The rich and powerful, from both the crown and the church, march by in incessant processions designed to impress the common folk with their authority and worth. But even the King finally realizes that death threatens to make it all meaningless. He will not even be alive when, and if, the convent is finally completed. The only true meaning in life is to be found in love. The love between Baltasar and Blimunda even substitutes for a religion which the author has found so deficient. Describing the two making love, he says: there was no difference whatsoever between the ritual of those lovers and the sacrifice of Holy Mass, and if there were, the Mass would surely lose out. (p. 129) Ann
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (32 of 33), Read 9 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Sunday, June 11, 2000 06:10 PM So, now I've finished BALTASAR and BLIMUNDA. I really feel there should be some reward. A tee shirt with an appropriate announcement and clever picture. At this moment it does seem like an achievement. But how do I feel about the book? Three-hundred forty-three pages and I haven't a clue. This book seems more like a verbal tapestry hung on the walls of some decaying castle, off the beaten track. It tells several stories; but only the love story of Baltasar and Blimunda seems important. The others are more like gossip or chatter thrown in by the overall narrator to create atmosphere, to gossip and to settle some personal scores. In order to fully integrate this novel, I have to stand back and get a wider view. I have to pause and meditate; take time and slowly review. It starts with a soldier losing a limb in a war for the powers that be and ends with the same soldier losing his life because of other powers that be. In between he has a lover who remains true, even into a death where she absorbs his soul as the last act of love. But is it a good story? A great story? Ask me in a year. EDD now reading DEPTH TAKES A HOLIDAY by Sandra Loh. Did anybody pick up on the reference to Hans Pfall somewhere near the middle of the book. That's a whimsical reference to a SciFi story by Edgar Allan Poe, THE UNPARALLELED ADVENTURES OF ONE HANS PFALL.
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (33 of 33), Read 5 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, June 11, 2000 08:15 PM Edd, That was a great review of B & B. I am wondering how much of the book will remain with me after a year has past. Jane
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (34 of 34), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2000 08:45 AM Edd, I really did like this phrase, "like a verbal tapestry hung on the walls of some decaying castle," you old wordsmith you. That captures this novel pretty well from my point of view. I suppose an interest in those other aspects of the novel depend to some extent in whether one has any interest whatsoever in the history of Iberia and Portugal in particular. João V's involvement in the War of Spanish Succession, his extravagant attempts to emulate the splendor of Louis XIV's court in France, and his fixation on proving himself the most Catholic of all Kings are things that would of course interest only a very few readers--perhaps only Portuguese readers. Let's face it. Most readers don't come to a novel willing to do a lot of other reading in order to appreciate the novel fully, a problem similar that which one encounters with The Name of the Rose. However, I suspect that when you have had some time to digest this, you won't regret the time devoted to it. Certain scenes in this novel are very vivid and will stick with you, I'll bet. What did you have in mind for the tee? A stylized flying machine over the phrase, "I survived Baltasar and Blimunda!"? Steve

 
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