All the Names by José Saramago

By José Saramago

Translated from the Portuguese via Margaret Jull Costa

Senhor José is a low-grade clerk within the city's critical Registry, the place the residing and the useless proportion an analogous shelf house. A middle-aged bachelor, he has no real interest in something past the certificate of delivery, marriage, divorce, and loss of life which are his day-by-day regimen. yet sooner or later, while he comes around the documents of an nameless younger lady, whatever occurs to him. Obsessed, Senhor José units off to persist with the thread that could lead him to the woman-but as he will get nearer, he discovers extra approximately her, and approximately himself, than he may ever have wished.

The loneliness of people's lives, the results of likelihood, the invention of love-all coalesce during this outstanding novel that screens the ability and paintings of José Saramago in tremendous form.

From Publishers Weekly

The misleading simplicity of Nobel Prize-winner Saramago's prose, and the ironic reviews that he intersperses inside of this tale of an obsessional quest, first and foremost have a disarming influence; one expects that this low-key exploration of a quiet man's eccentric descent right into a metaphysical labyrinth can be an exceptionally clever yet unexciting learn. Unexciting: mistaken.

Within the 1st few pages, Saramago establishes a rigidity that sings at the web page, rises, produces wonderful revelations and culminates whilst the ultimate paragraph twists expectancies once more. The name refers back to the miles of archival files between which the protagonist toils on the Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths in an unnamed small nation whose population nonetheless stay by way of old ideas of hierarchical social periods. The registry is quixotically disorganized in order that the documents of these such a lot lately deceased are buried lower than miles of paper on the furthest eliminate of the large development.

After greater than 20 years on the activity, 50-year-old Senhor Jos continues to be an insignificant clerk within the bureau. A penurious, reclusive, lonely bachelor, Senhor Jos has just one mystery ardour: he collects clippings approximately well-known humans and surreptitiously copies their beginning certificate, purloining them from the registry at evening and returning them stealthily. in simple terms unintentionally, the index card of a 36-year-old girl unknown to him turns into entangled within the clippings he steals. without warning, he's tormented by a necessity to benefit approximately this woman's existence. fed on by means of ardour, this heretofore version of punctilious habit commits a chain of harmful and unprofessional acts. He forges reputable papers, breaks right into a construction, gets rid of files from associations and keeps to go into the registry after darkish. All punishable offenses. to hold out his challenge, he's pressured to develop into sensible, shrewdpermanent and courageous. however the extra hazards he's taking, the extra marvelous occasions take place, leader between them that the distant, authoritarian Registrar takes a private curiosity in his lowly worker. in the meantime, Senhor Jos himself discovers stunning evidence concerning the lady he seeks. Saramago relates those occasions in finely honed prose pervaded with irony, but additionally playful, mocking and witty. Alternately farcical, macabre, surreal and tragic, this captivating narrative depicts the loneliness of person lives and the common desire for human connection whilst it illuminates the high-quality line among the dwelling and the dead.

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Example text

Nothing but aggression and selfishness and grog. It didn’t feel like he loved me. It was more like he hated me, wanted to attack me. Even in the old days, at school in Wirrawee, I’d noticed that a lot of boys who made a big deal about their girlfriends and their great sex lives seemed to have almost a hatred for girls. All at the same time. It was weird. But I felt the same thing in Adam. Lee was never like that. I was the one who’d stuffed him around. He’d always been generous with me. Like at the airport in New Zealand, walking back to the waiting area after we’d had our coffee.

Lee was on the opposite side of the street, so that if either of us wanted to warn the 50 Kiwis about something dangerous we could do it easily: I’d tell Tim as I went past him, and Lee would tell Ursula. We were going along Warrigle Road, not far from the Mathers’, and I knew I’d have to struggle not to be affected by that. We’d spent a lot of happy times at Robyn’s place: my parents and I had gone there for barbeques every few months, and one drought year, when our swimming dam dried up, I’d practically lived in their pool.

But we’re in quite a good spot. About a k and a half from the track. It’s a bit of a bush-bash to get to it. There’s no way there’ll be any soldiers around here though. ’ I was all set to lead them straight off into the bush but Iain pulled out his thin little flashlight and made me show him on the map where we were. I think he wanted to reassure himself that I knew what I was talking about. But Kay helped when she said: ‘She knows the place backwards, Iain. ’ I realised that to Kay, who was from Auckland, it must have seemed like magic.

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