: All the names (9781860467202) : Jose Saramago : Books
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All The Names

by Jose Saramago
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Product Details

  • Publisher: The Harvill Press
  • Publishing date: 01/06/2000
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781860467202
  • ISBN: 1860467202


"As soon as you cross the threshold, you notice the smell of old paper." The Central Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths is the setting for All the Names, Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese author José Saramago's seventh novel to be translated into English. The names in question are those of every man, woman, and child ever born, married, or buried in the unnamed city where the Registry is located, and are the special province of Senhor José who is employed there as a clerk. Over the centuries, the paper trail in this hopelessly arcane bureaucracy has grown so monumental, so disorganized that
one poor researcher became lost in the labyrinthine catacombs of the archive of the dead, having come to the Central Registry in order to carry out some genealogical research he had been commissioned to undertake. He was discovered, almost miraculously, after a week, starving, thirsty, exhausted, delirious, having survived thanks to the desperate measure of ingesting enormous quantities of old documents that neither lingered in the stomach nor nourished, since they melted in the mouth without requiring any chewing.
The nondescript Senhor José labors long and thanklessly among the archives; his is a tepid, lonely life with only one small hobby to leaven his leisure hours: he collects "news items about those people in his country who, for good reasons and bad, had become famous." One night, it occurs to him that "something fundamental was missing from his collection, that is, the origin, the root, the source, in other words, the actual birth certificate of these famous people"--and that the information is within easy reach on the other side of a connecting door that separates his meager lodgings from the Registry itself. And so begins Senhor José's midnight raids on the stacks as he shuttles between the Registry and his own room bearing precious records that he carefully copies before returning them to their rightful places. Still, this minor aberration might have remained the clerk's only transgression if not for a simple act of fate: one night, along with his celebrity records, he accidentally picks up a birth certificate belonging to an ordinary, unknown woman--a woman who becomes suddenly more important than all the others precisely because she is unknown. Celebrity is cast aside as Senhor José begins a search for this mysterious quarry--a quest that will lead him into conflict with his superior, the Registrar, and ensnare him in the kind of messy personal histories and tangled relationships he has thus far avoided in his own life.

A recurring theme in many of Saramago's novels is the very human struggle between withdrawal and connection. Whether it is the Iberian peninsula literally breaking off from the rest of Europe in The Stone Raft or an entire country afflicted by a devastating malady in Blindness, he is fascinated by the effects of isolation on the human soul and, correspondingly, the redemptive power of compassion. All the Names continues to mine this rich vein as the repressed clerk follows his unknown Ariadne's thread out of the labyrinth of his own strangled psyche and into life. Readers will find here Saramago's trademark love of the absurd, his brilliant imagery and idiosyncratic punctuation, as well as the unflinching yet tender honesty with which he chronicles the human condition. --Alix Wilber

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  • worth the effort
    From Amazon

    i enjoyed this, though it was a challenge to get used to the writing style (entire conversations become paragraphs going on for pages with only commas and capitals to separate).

  • Senhor Jose is nuts
    From Amazon

    Living alone with a door to the Central Ministry where he worked by day as a low level clerk compiling vital statistics, Senhor Jose had no one to talk to, not even a cat. His only amusement was scrap booking famous persons, that is until the day he came across the unknown woman. Obsessed, Jose made unauthorized use of the Central Ministry, broke into a school and barged into acquaintances and family of the woman. And, when he discovered his subject had committed suicide, he was not deterred. To top it off, the actual volume of the Ministry's records had been reduced by silverfish and mice (p.137). Then there was a goofy shepherd who switched grave numbers to ensure that headstones were placed over the wrong departed. Senhor Jose knew there was nothing you can do about death (p. 196), and concluded nothing in the world makes sense (p. 234). But, Jose's nuttiness does not go unnoticed by the Registrar himself who excused Jose and expunged the woman's death from the official records. Perhaps the Registrar is a nut also. An intense examination of obsession and loneliness... And, so it continues...We leave Jose trapped in his own life's maze. So, if you wish to live forever, make sure your death certificate is never recorded. It would be even more interesting if the shepherd were named Pastor!

  • did not care for writing style
    From Amazon

    This is a hard book to read because of lack of punctuation, quotation marks and paragraph indentations. Also I really could not find a point to this entire story. Mostly it is a recording of a man's thoughts, reflections and daydreams. I felt like I wasted my time with this one. It was very BORING!

  • Minor problem with translation
    From Amazon

    Saragamo does not use quotation marks. In the dialogues between two persons, he indicates a switch between speakers by a comma, followed by a word that begins with a capital letter. This is a problem in English when the word is "I", because "I" is always capitalized. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to determine when the speaker switches. The translator could have eliminated this problem by using the non-capitalized form of "i" when it was not the first word following a switch of speakers. Although not gramatically correct, it would have made it easier for the reader.

  • Good, but I'm a bit confused.
    From Amazon

    This is the first book I read by this author. I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. However, the ending left me a bit confused. Oddly, I get the feeling as I get older it will make more and more sense. I have to ask though. If he hadn't started his search, with all the effects it had on the other characters. Would things have turned out different for her? I think you know what I'm talking about.

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