Thursday, May 12, 2011

Small Memories by José Saramago

Small Memories is a memoir of Nobel Prize Winner José Saramago's childhood in Portuguese villages. It shifts back and forth from when he was a young boy to a teenager, recounting his family and what it was like to grow up in an illiterate family where he began to teach himself. It is the story of how a man unexpectedly became a famous and incredible writer. However, admittedly, this is a strange choice for a first book to read by Saramego but that is the way it worked out. I had read half of his novel, Death With Interruptions, last year before it was due back to the library. Since Small Memories didn't have a due date I was actually able to have a complete introduction to Saramego.

That said, I don't think that Small Memories was the best introduction to Saramego. It is very anecdotal in nature, and readers familiar with his work will be interested to know that he elaborates on the inspiration behind many of them, for example the scary blind man that likely inspired him to write the book Blindness, but most of these references were lost on me. I also found many of the stories long-winded and that there were a lot of names mentioned so I sometimes became confused. Perhaps the memoir could have been more strongly edited as there is irrelevant and even boring information included that distracts from the storytelling, for example when Saramego says he took a test on the groundfloor of the building, then elaborating that in fact it was only the ground floor if you entered from the playground, but actually the first floor if you entered from the street. I feel like I have wasted your time even telling you this example as it is so pointless to the story and fairly random and out of place in the memoir as a whole.

Still, in addition to the interesting background information on Saramego, there is definitely a sense of humour in Small Memories. Saramego explains how his father was forced to name himself after his son, when a clerk gave Saramego the family nickname for his last name on his birth certificate, and so Saramego is not actually a family name at all. It is also very interesting to learn about what it was like growing up for Saramego, as his experiences will certainly be unfamiliar to the lives of many of his readers. Ultimately, Small Memories is a unique memoir but one that often lost my attention despite its brevity so I would recommend it mainly to those already familiar with Saramego and looking to learn a bit more about him. As for me, the memoir was not a great fit but I'll definitely be digging into one of his novels in the future.

Translated By: Margaret Jull Costa
Release Date: May 11th, 2011
Pages: 176
Source: ARC From Publisher 
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1 comment:

  1. I have Blindness but haven't read it yet. This is not one I would have went for but I am not suprised to see it as he passed away last year right?


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