Skylight by José Saramago


Skylight by José Saramago

Portuguese fiction

Original title – Claraboia

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – Personnel copy

I start this Spanish and Portuguese lit months with a Nobel winner. But this is one of those books that we wonder should have n=been published. Lost for years this was found at the publishers and dated from the early fifties thought Lost Saramago hadn’ t want it published in his lifetime. The publisher had wanted to release it in the 80s but Saramago said no and left it to his family to decide which they did. I am never sure about this type of work, I reviewed the lost debut novel of Georges Perec a few years ago that unlike this was different to the other Perec books I have read in this book there is a connection with the male characters to the other Saramago books I read years ago. I was surprised that I hadn’t review Saramago over the time of the blog anyway maybe this is a good intro to him on the blog the first work. I have a few others on my tbr pile to read.

Silvestre returned to his place at the window, wondering hiw the mistake could possibly have arisen. He knew full well that his handwriting was not of the finest, but it was, he thought pretty good for a cobbler, especially when compared with that of certian doctors. The only explanation seemed to be that hte newspaper had got it wrong. he sure it hadn’t been his mistake; he could see in his minds eye the form he had filled in and he had definetly put the ground floor, right. While engaged in theese thoughts, he remained focused on his work glancing out at the stree now and then, with the aim of spotting amoung the few passer bys anyone who migt be coming to see the room.

Silvestre misplaced the ad for the room but is at the window silent again .

Skylight is the tale of an Apartment building in Lisbon just after the end of world war two in 1952. Six flats mostly females that live in the flats. An elderly Cobbler Silvestre who we learned served in world war one and his rotund wife. They have been forced to take in a lodger a young man Abel a man who is about the age Saramago was when he wrote this book. I said this was the place to start with Saramago Silvestre is the typical male figure in a number of the other books I have read other the years by Saramago the working man getting on silently with life is a classic Saramago character. Then we have a pair of sisters spinsters as they would have been called then Adriana and Isaura listen to Beethoven turned up loud almost as they use their love of music as a substitute for Sex. Then a salesman Emilio and his Spanish with who have a very rocky marriage and use their young son as a weapon to try and can the upper hand in their marriage. A beautiful young typist who has a leary boss again sexual tensions.Elsewhere some one is selling their body for money.aetano and his wife coping with the loss of a child and in a brutal way at times.  A huddle of working class people some going up some of the level and other facing the void all living close to each other so much so that each of their lives is partly known to the others so.

Caetano was not looking at the photo, therefore his smile had nothing to do with his daughter’s. The smile in the photo bore no resemblance to his. The one in the photo was open and happy, and it was inly its fixed quality that made one uneasy. Caetano’s smile was lubricious, almost repellant, When grown up smile like that, they should not be in the prescence of childrens smiles, even smiles in photographs.

After leavinfg work, caetano had a little “adventure”, a sordid adventure – the kind he liked best. That’s why he was smiling. He enjoyed them twice over, once when he was experiencing them and again in retrospective.

Caetano a trubled character as shown above in this passage about a photo and a smile.

I have always been a fan of books set in buildings I mentioned Perec early on as this reminds me of his Life a user manual in a way as it shows the inner workings of this building. Another book I was reminded of was the yacobian building  by Alaa Al Aswanyt   the egypitian novel about another building like the Building in the Skylight a working class world a similar feel of fading world is in both worlds.  Another book was Taxi another egyptian novel with short glimpse and pictures of world as people catch a taxi. This is a discetion of the world Saramago saw at the time. The book has a strong undercurrent of sexual repression and desires were maybe to much for the Portugal of the time when he first wrote the book in the middle of the Salazar regime although this isn’t really about that more about being working class in the Lisbon of the time. and a great place to start with Saramago on the blog and his silent men.

Have you a favourite Saramago book?

What do you think about books that weren’t published in the writers life coming out ?

July 2018


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