By Jose Saramago. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Javonovich, Publishers, 1991. ISBN:0-15-199735-7. 358 pages.

Comments of Bob Corbett on the novel


LJ Lindhurst is a former Webster University student and while doing some on-line research on Jose Saramago came across my comments on some of his books. J.L. had done a couple of courses with me while at Webster and she wrote. We've had some delightful discussions of Saramago and literature in general. I've excerpted from our correspondence some comments on THE YEAR OF THE DEATH OF RICARDO REIS and posted them below.

May 2001

From LJ Lindhurst

I have been DEVOURING the books of Jose Saramago. In fact, I have been so obsessed with this writer that I have planned a trip to Portugal next month so I can see Mafra, Lisbon, etc. (I am particularly looking forward to seeing that statue of Adamastor) I feel the same way that you do about him; it's not necessarily the plot of the books, it's his prose. It just grabs me in the inexplicable way. It just flows on and on, and it's like music playing in my head. I have rarely been so stunned and inspired by a writer or artist.

[Corbett comments: I had been unaware that Fernando Pessoa was a real poet and that Ricardo Reis was his creation.]

Ricardo Reis is an invention of the poet Fernando Pessoa--he wrote a whole cycle of poems in that persona, as you probably already know. I'm a big fan of Pessoa as well, thanks to our friend Mr. Saramago. Pessoa wrote in the guise of several people, using the names Alvaro de Campos and Alberto Caeiro as well. He's a very enjoyable poet, and I like his whole philosophy about "not asking anything of the gods". In fact, that was what I liked so much about Saramago's book-- Reis doesn't really *do* anything, he doesn't instigate anything, yet passively sits back and lets everything happen to him, and "the world tramples him". One of my favorite lines is, "A tranquil man, who sits on a riverbank watching what the current carries past, perhaps waiting for himself to be swept away." Lovely...

Did you also catch the fact that Reis is reading "The God of the Labyrinth"? That's a fictional novel made up by Borges in his book, "The Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain", so it's is quite an inside literary joke... I get the feeling that "Ricardo Reis" is full of such nods and references, only I'm not well-versed enough to catch them all. I'm amazed I caught the ones I did!

Bob Corbett

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Bob Corbett