Among the file-cards for the living and the dead, one - of an apparently ordinary woman - will transform his life.
By day Senhor Jose labours in the labyrinthine stacks of the city's central registry. By night he ferrets for facts about the famous, compiling his own archive of births, deaths and marriages. One day he chances upon an index card of an ordinary woman whose details hold as much fascination for him as any celebrity's. Striking forth from the regimentation of his daily life, Jose starts to track the woman down, obsessively following a thread of clues in a bid to rescue her from an oblivion deeper than the grave.
Jose Saramago is one of the most important international writers of the last hundred years. Born in Portugal in 1922, he was in his sixties when he came to prominence as a writer with the publication of Baltasar and Blimunda. A huge body of work followed, translated into more than forty languages, and in 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Saramago died in June 2010.
A driver waiting at the traffic lights goes blind. Trying to stem the epidemic, the authorities herd the afflicted into a mental asylum where the wards are terrorised by blind thugs. And when fire destroys the asylum, the inmates burst forth and the last links with a supposedly civilised society are snapped.
Saramago's Jesus is the son not of God but of Joseph. In the wilderness he tussles not with the Devil - a kindly and necessary evil - but with God, a fallible, power-hungry autocrat. And he must die not for the sins of the fathers but for the sins of the Father. By investigating these simple inversions Saramago has woven a dark parable;
For two years Solomon the elephant has lived in Lisbon. So begins a journey that will take the stalwart elephant across the dusty plains of Castile, over the sea to Genoa and up to northern Italy where, like Hannibal's elephants before him, he must cross the snowy Alps.
The world's threats are universal like the sun but Ricardo Reis takes shelter under his own shadow. Back in Lisbon after sixteen years practising medicine in Brazil, Ricardo Reis wanders the rain-sodden streets. His old friend, the poet Fernando Pessoa, returns to see him, still wearing the suit he was buried in six weeks earlier.
What happens when the facts of history are replaced by the mysteries of love? As his retelling draws on all his imaginative powers, Silva finds - to his nervous delight - that if the facts of the past can be rewritten as a romance then so can the details of his own dusty bachelor present.
In early eighteenth-century Lisbon, Baltasar, a soldier who has lost his left hand in battle, falls in love with Blimunda, a young girl with visionary powers. From the day that he follows her home from the auto-da-fe where her mother is burned at the stake, the two are bound body and soul by love of an unassailable strength.
Called `the book lost and found in time' by its author, Skylight is one of Saramago's earliest novels. Poisonous relationships, happy marriages, jealousy, gossip and love - Skylight brings together all the joys and grief of ordinary people.
In an unnamed country, on the first day of the New Year, people stop dying. Undertakers face bankruptcy, the church is forced to reinvent its doctrine, and local 'maphia' smuggle those on the brink of death over the border where they can expire naturally.
Cipriano Algor, an ageing potter, lives with his daughter and her husband in the shadow of the Centre, a nebulous, constantly expanding conglomerate that provides his livelihood - until it decrees that it is no longer interested in his humble wares.
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