Babbling Books: Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago
Topic: BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA by Jose Saramago (1 of 2), Read 8 times . is the running commentary on the nature of religion, relationships, and power. . this world can volunteer some reply, what takes up time is posing the questions. Such allusions also reveal the relationship of royal and handed ex-soldier Baltasar Sete-Sóis and the clairvoyant Blimunda Sete-Luas, is a novel engages the reader in a comprehensive review of the epistemological problems posed by. Claudinha's parents are unhappy in marriage. Your support counts. Together we can be a force for change. Topics Try "Balthasar and Blimunda", "The History of the Seige of Lisbon", or "The Year of the Death of Ricardo.
The translator is the irreproachable Margaret Jull Costa. Had the manuscript been accepted, and successful, would Saramago have kept the fine indifference to opinion that let him gradually discover his own incomparable idiom, style and subject matter? Paragraphed and punctuated conventionally, Skylight follows a familiar fictional formula: In this case it's a small working-class apartment house in Lisbon aroundand six flats, 15 people, 10 of them women.
Their lives are fragile, frugal, hard. Adriana and Isaura just manage to support their mother and aunt. In the evening, all four women listen with yearning intensity to Beethoven on the radio, while young Claudinha next door plays jazzy ragtime.
Claudinha's parents are unhappy in marriage. Emilio the salesman and his Spanish wife loathe each other.
Skylight by José Saramago – love, life and loss in Lisbon | Books | The Guardian
Brutish Caetano and diabetic Justina, haunted by the loss of her child, go past hatred into open violence. The explicit sexuality of the book which may have kept it from being considered for publication in Salazar's Portugal in is remarkable now only because it is so compassionate. These are the meanderings of her subconscious mind like those other dreams no one can explain, that Dona Maria Ana always experiences when the King comes to her bed, in which she finds herself crossing the Palace Square alongside the slaughterhouses, lifting her skirts before her as she flounders in the slimy mud smelling of men when they relieve themselves, while the ghost of her brother-in-law, the Infante Dom Francisco, whose former apartments she now occupies, reappears and dances all around her, raised on stilts like a black stork.
Neither has she discussed this dream with her confessor, besides, what explanation could he possibly give her in return, since no such case is mentioned in the Manual for a Perfect Confession. Let Dona Maria Ana slumber in peace, submerged under that mountain of draperies and plumes as the bedbugs begin to emerge from every crease and fold, dropping from the canopy above to hasten their journey. He will see the Tree of Jesse sprout from his penis, covered with leaves and populated by the ancestors of Christ, and even by Christ Himself, the Heir of All Kingdoms, then the tree will vanish and in its place will appear the tall columns, bell towers, domes, and belfries of a Franciscan convent, which is unmistakable because of the habit worn by Friar Antony of St Joseph, whom the King can see throwing open the church doors.
Such dreams are not common amongst kings, but Portugal has been well served by imaginative monarchs. It is too early, however, to speak of the miracle that is now being prepared, which is not so much a miracle as a divine favour, a downward glance at once compassionate and propitious upon a barren womb, which will give birth to a child at the appropriate hour, but this is the moment to speak of genuine and proven miracles which, having come from the same burning bush, the zealous Franciscan order, augur well for the promise made by the King.
Consider the notorious episode of the death of Friar Michael of the Annunciation, the provincial-elect of the Third Order of St Francis whose election, let it be said in passing although not without relevance, took place amid violent opposition by the parishioners of St Mary Magdalen, because of some obscure resentment, which was so vehement that, when Friar Michael died, lawsuits were still being fought and no one knew when, if ever, they would finally be settled, what with admonitions and petitions, judgments and appeals, the constant wrangling ending only after the good friar's death.
It is certain that Friar Michael died not of a broken heart but of a malignant fever that might have been typhus or typhoid or some other, unnamed plague, a common enough death in a city where there are so few drinking fountains and where country folk think nothing of filling their barrels from water troughs intended for horses.
Friar Michael of the Annunciation, however, was such a good-natured fellow that even after death he repaid evil with good, and if during his lifetime he carried out charitable works, once dead he worked wonders, the first of these being to prove the doctors wrong when they feared that the body would soon rot and recommended burial without delay, because not only did the friar's mortal remains fail to rot, but for three whole days they filled the Church of Our Lady of Jesus, where his body was exposed, with the sweetest perfume, and instead of becoming rigid, the limbs of his body remained flexible, as if he were still alive.
These were wonders of a lesser order but of the highest esteem, yet the miracles themselves were so extraordinary, that people flocked from all over the city to witness this prodigy and to profit therefrom, for it has been attested that in the very same church, sight was restored to the blind and limbs to the maimed, and so many people had gathered on the church steps, that punches and knife wounds were exchanged in the struggle to gain entry, causing some to lose lives that would nevermore be regained, miracle or no miracle.
But perhaps those lives would have been restored, had the friar's corpse not been spirited away and secretly buried after three days, on account of the general pandemonium.
Deprived of any hope of being healed until some new saint should come among them, deaf-mutes and cripples, if the latter had a free hand, cuffed one another in despair and frustration, screaming abuse and invoking all the saints in heaven, until the priests came out to bless the crowd, which, thus reassured and for lack of anything better, finally dispersed.
In that city, thieves intent upon plunder climbed up to a window and found the saint waiting to greet them, he gave them such a fright that the wretch at the top of the ladder fell to the ground without breaking any bones, it is true, but he was paralysed and could not move, and his accomplices anxiously tried to remove him from the scene of the crime, for even among thieves one often finds generous, merciful souls, but to no avail, an incident not without precedent, for it also happened in the case of Agnes, the sister of St Clare, when St Francis still travelled the world, exactly five hundred years ago, in the year twelve hundred and eleven, but it was not theft on that occasion or it might have been theft, because they wanted to abduct Agnes and steal her from Our Lord.
The thief remained transfixed as if struck by the hand of God or the devil's claw from the depths of hell, and there he lay until the following morning, when the local inhabitants discovered him and carried him to the church altar, so that he might be healed by some singular miracle, and, strange to relate, the statue of St Antony could be seen sweating profusely and for such a long time that judges and notaries could be summoned to verify the miracle, which consisted of a perspiring wooden statue and the thief's recovery when they wiped his face with a towel dampened with the saint's sweat.
No sooner done than the thief got to his feet, healed and repentant. Not all crimes, however, are so easily resolved. In Lisbon, for example, where another miracle was widely known, no one has yet been able to confirm who was responsible for the theft, although suspicions could be aired about a certain party who might be pardoned because of the good intentions that motivated the crime.
It happened that some thief or thieves broke into the Convent of St Francis of Xabregas, through the skylight of a chapel adjacent to that of St Antony, and he or they made straight for the high altar and took the three altar lamps, and vanished by the same route in less time than it takes to recite the Nicene Creed.
That someone could remove the lamps from their hooks and carry them off in darkness for greater safety, and then stumble and cause a commotion without anyone rushing to the scene to investigate, would lead one to suspect complicity, were it not for the fact that at that very moment the friars were engaged in their customary practice, noisily summoning the community to midnight matins with rattles and handbells, enabling the thief to escape and had he caused an even greater commotion the friars would not have heard him, from which one may assume that the culprit was perfectly familiar with the convent schedule.
As the friars began to file into the church, they found it plunged into darkness. The lay brother in charge was already resigning himself to the punishment he was certain to incur for this omission, which defied explanation, because the friars observed and confirmed by touch and smell that it was not the oil that was missing, spilled as it was all over the floor, but the silver altar lamps.
The sacrilege was all too recent, for the chains from which the missing lamps had been hanging were still swaying gently, whispering in the language of copper, We've had a narrow escape. We've had a narrow escape.
- Skylight by José Saramago – love, life and loss in Lisbon
Some of the friars rushed out immediately into the nearby streets, divided up into several patrols, had they apprehended the thief, one cannot imagine what they might have done to him in their mercy, but they found no trace of him or of his accomplices, if there were any, which is not surprising, for it was already after midnight and the moon was waning. The friars puffed and panted as they chased through the neighbourhood at a sluggish pace, before finally returning to the convent empty-handed.
Meantime, other friars, believing that the thief might have concealed himself in the church by some cunning ruse, searched the place thoroughly from choir to sacristy, everyone treading on sandalled feet in this frantic search, tripping over the hems of habits, raising the lids of chests, moving cupboards, and shaking out vestments, an elderly friar known for his virtuous ways and staunch faith noticed that the altar of St Antony had not been violated by thieving hands, despite its array of solid silver, which was prized for its value and craftsmanship.
The holy friar found himself bemused, just as we should have been bemused had we been present, because it was quite obvious that the thief had entered from the skylight overhead and in order to remove the lamps from the high altar, must have passed right by the chapel of St Antony. Inflamed with holy zeal and indignation, the friar turned on St Antony and rebuked him, as if he were a servant caught neglecting his duties, Some saint you are, to protect only your own silver while watching the rest get stolen, well, in return you'll be left without anything, and with these harsh words, the friar entered the chapel and began to strip it of all its contents, removing not only the silver but the altar cloths and other furnishings as well, and once the chapel was bare, he started stripping the statue of St Antony, who saw his removable halo vanish along with his cross, and would soon have found himself without the Child Jesus in his arms if several friars had not come to the rescue, who feeling the punishment was excessive, persuaded the enraged old man to leave at least the Child Jesus for the consolation of the disgraced saint.
The old friar considered their plea for a moment before replying, Very well, then, let the Child Jesus remain as his guarantor until the lamps are returned.
Since it was now almost two o'clock and several hours had elapsed while the search and episode just narrated took place, the friars retired to their cells, some of them seriously worried that St Antony would come to avenge this insult. Next day, about eleven o'clock, someone knocked at the convent door, a student who, it should be explained immediately, had been aspiring to join the order for some considerable time and who visited the friars at every possible opportunity, this information being provided, first, because it is true and the truth is always worthwhile, and, second, to assist those who enjoy deciphering criss-cross patterns of words and events, in short, the student knocked at the convent door and said he wished to speak to the Superior.
Permission granted, the student was shown into his presence, he kissed the prior's ring, or the cord hanging from his habit, or it might have been the hem, for this detail has never been fully clarified, and informed His Reverence that he had overheard in the city that the lamps were to be found in the Monastery of Cotovia, which belonged to the Jesuits and was located some distance away, in the Bairro Alto of St Roch.
At first the prior was inclined to mistrust this information, coming as it did from a student who could have been taken for a scoundrel had he not been an aspirant to holy orders, although one often finds the two roles coincide, and besides, it seemed unlikely that thieves would hand over to Cotovia what they had taken from Xabregas, locations so different and remote from each other, religious orders with so little in common, and almost a league apart as the crow flies.
Therefore prudence demanded that the student's information should be investigated and a suitably cautious member of the community was dispatched, accompanied by the aforesaid student, from Xabregas to Cotovia, and they entered the city on foot through the Gate of the Holy Cross, and so that the reader may be apprised of all the facts, it is worth noting the itinerary they followed before finally reaching their destination.
The altar lamps were duly returned to Xabregas, and the reader may believe what he likes. In the end, the student would have been completely exonerated, had he not become involved in yet another dubious episode. Given similar precedents, because the Franciscans are so well endowed with means to change, overturn, or hasten the natural order of things, even the recalcitrant womb of the Queen must respond to the solemn injunction of a miracle.
All the more so since the Franciscan Order has been petitioning for a convent in Mafra since the year sixteen hundred and twenty-four, a time when the King of Portugal was a Felipe imported from Spain, who had little interest in the religious communities of Portugal and persisted in withholding his permission throughout the sixteen years of his reign.
The judges of the Court of Appeal reserved the right to determine what those inconveniences dictated by human wisdom might be, but now they will have to hold their tongues and bury their dark thoughts, for Friar Antony of St Joseph has promised that once the friars have their convent there will be an heir to the throne.
A pledge has been made, the Queen will give birth, and the Franciscan Order will gather the palm of victory, just as it has gathered so many palms of martyrdom.
Baltasar and Blimunda by José Saramago
A hundred years of waiting is no great sacrifice for those who count on living for all eternity. We saw how the student was finally exonerated of blame in the episode of the stolen altar lamps. But it would be folly to suggest that because of secrets divulged in the confessional the friars knew of the Queen's pregnancy even before the Queen herself knew and could confide in the King. Just as it would be wrong to suggest that Dona Maria Ana, because she was such a pious lady, agreed to remain silent until the appearance of God's chosen messenger, the virtuous Friar Antony.
Nor can anyone say the King will be counting the moons from the night the pledge was given until the day the child is born, and find the cycle complete.
Baltasar and Blimunda
There is nothing to add to what has already been said. So let not Franciscans be impugned, unless they should become involved in other equally dubious intrigues. I N THE COURSE OF the year some people die from having overindulged during their lifetime, which explains why apoplectic fits recur one after another, why sometimes only one is needed to dispatch a victim to his grave, and why even when spared death they remain paralysed down one side, their mouths all twisted, sometimes unable to speak, and without hope of an effective cure apart from continuous blood-lettings.
But many more people die from malnutrition, unable to survive on a miserable diet of sardines and rice along with some lettuce, and a little meat when the nation celebrates the King's birthday. May God grant that our river yield an abundance of fish, and let us give praise to the Holy Trinity with this intention in mind.
And may lettuce and other produce arrive from the surrounding countryside, transported in great baskets filled to the brim by the country swains and maidens who do not excel in these labours.
And may there be no intolerable shortage of rice. For this city, more than any other, is a mouth that gorges itself on one side and starves on the other, and there is no happy medium between ruddy and pale complexions, between bulging and bony hips, between great paunches and shrivelled bellies. But Lent, like the rising sun, is for everyone. The excesses of Shrovetide could be seen throughout the city, those who could afford it stuffed themselves with poultry and mutton, with doughnuts and fritters, outrages were committed on every street corner by those who never miss an opportunity to take liberties, derisive tails were pinned to fugitive backs, water was squirted on faces with syringes meant for other purposes, the unwary were spanked with strings of onions, and wine was imbibed, accompanied by the inevitable belching and vomiting, there was a clanging of pots and pans, bagpipes were played, and if more people did not end up rolling on the ground, in the side streets, squares, and alleyways, it is only because the city is filthy, its roads full of sewage and rubbish, crawling with mangy dogs and stray cats, and mud everywhere even when there is no rain.
Now the time has come to pay for all these excesses, the time to mortify the soul so that the flesh may feign repentance, the depraved, rebellious flesh of this pathetic and obscene pigsty known as Lisbon. The Lenten procession is about to commence. Let us mortify our flesh with fasting and abstinence, let us punish our bodies with flagellation. By eating frugally, we can purify our thoughts, through suffering we can purge our souls.
The penitents, all of them male, head the procession, and they are followed by the friars who carry the banners bearing images of the Virgin and of Christ crucified. Behind them comes the bishop under an ornate canopy, and then the effigies of saints carried on litters, followed by an endless regiment of priests, confraternities, and guilds, all of whom are intent upon salvation, some convinced they are already damned, others tortured by uncertainty until they are summoned to Judgment, and there may even be some among them who are quietly thinking that the world has been mad since it was conceived.
The procession wends its way through the crowds lining the streets, and as it passes, men and women prostrate themselves on the ground, claw their faces, tear their hair out, and inflict blows on themselves, while the bishop makes fleeting signs of the cross to right and left and the acolyte swings his thurible. Lisbon stinks, but the incense bestows meaning on this putrid stench of decay, a stench that comes from the wickedness of the flesh, for the soul is fragrant.
Women can be seen watching from the windows, as is the custom. The penitents walk slowly, with balls and chains twisted round their ankles, or with their arms holding massive iron bars across their shoulders as if they were suspended from a cross, or they scourge themselves with leather thongs ending in balls of solid wax spiked with glass splinters, and these flagellants are considered to be the highlight of the spectacle, as real blood flows down their backs and they give out loud cries, of pleasure as much as pain, which we should find a little strange if we did not know that some of the penitents have spotted their mistresses at the windows, and they are in the procession not so much for the salvation of their souls as for inciting carnal pleasures, those already experienced and those still to come.
As the penitent arrives beneath the window of his beloved, she throws him a haughty glance, she is probably chaperoned by her mother, cousin, or governess, or by some indulgent grandmother or sour old aunt, but they are all aware of what is happening, thanks to their own memories, recent or distant, that God has nothing to do with all this fornication, the ecstasies at the windows mirroring the ecstasies on the street below, the flagellant on his knees, whipping himself into a frenzy and calling out in pain, while the woman ogles the vanquished male and parts her lips to drink his blood and the rest.
Marquez permeates his magical novels with a myriad weird little images, like that trail of blood running endlessly down the street and over the landscape, for example. This work is not comparable. Rather, there is this one magical image hovering over the relatively realistic action, that being The Passarola.
That seems to me to be the unifying image of the whole epic, and is it ever strange! I really didn't think of those little first person snippets as a shift in narrator.
They were so transitory and isolated. Besides the conversation of women, it is dreams that keep the world in orbit. But dreams also form a diadem of moons, therefore the sky is that splendor inside a man's head, if his head is not, in fact, his own unique sky.
A couple of you have said the book began to grab you in the middle of the book, I mean, not your middle, hehe. I think that's true for me too. I couldn't put it down when things began to take off.
I took the occasional diversions referred to as being quotes. I think there's a single omniscient and how narrator throughout. Diane Freeman dfreeman jeffco. Although there were several wonderful parts, I felt it quite an effort to accomplish them. The whole "big stone" thing went on so interminably and without apparent climax that I asked myself "What was all that about?Baltasar & Blimunda IV, "Back in Lisbon..."
So much tedious struggle, little gain, the occasion gruesome death going unnoticed but by a very few. Life in the 18th century. The later image of the widow at her door witnessing the passage of the procession Blimunda's years of searching for Balthasar only to find him in a setting like the one where they met, except now he is among the victims.
At least I stopped waiting for a plot to emerge, but it was still work to sort out who was speaking to whom about what. I agree that there were several witty and even amusing bits, starting with the Queen tricking the King into committing to build the convent after she already knew she was pregnant. What a charming manipulation of the superstitions which she subscribed to personally. If there was any controlling device, it was the construction of the convent, and what a way to introduce it. Besides the relationship between Baltasar and Blimunda, the description of the contrast between the funeral observances of the poor vs.
While I would not necessary suggest this book to friends, I am sufficiently intrigued to give Blindness a try. Monday, May 22, I couldn't quite interpret my feelings. But on the other hand, I'm not so sure I'm ready to tackle the writing style just yet. Well, it wouldn't hurt anything to have it on my shelf now, would it? Dottie Randall randallj ix. Dottie ID is an oxymoron! Sunday, May 28, So how do you talk about a book like Baltasar and Blimunda?
Once, the omniscient narrator said "This is only a fairy tale. Think about all the journeys there are. Individuals and groups of people go from one place to another, either in indescribable splendor and luxury or in abject poverty and pain.
Contrast the royal wedding journeys to the journey of the boy monks. And what do you think about the journey of the statues of the saints? Sometimes the journeys represent quests for knowledge, sometimes they seem to be borne of pure idiocy.
To me it seemed in direct contrast to the flying machine. Contrary to Saramago, I find it much easier to ask the questions than to answer them. I find it impossible to sit down and read it for any longer than an hour.
I start to drown in the verbiage that seemed so wonderful at the start of my session. There were any number of wonderful, thought-provoking sentences, but like you, Sherry, I don't take notes and can seldom find them later, if indeed I even remember them.
So I bet you finish it soon. Ann, I want to thank you for nominating this. I think it is a brilliant, though difficult book.
Monday, May 29, Although I nominated this book because I was so impressed by it, I have to confess that a secondary motive was that I needed a bit of a push to finish up those last hundred pages. I set it aside, temporarily I thought, to read the some of the list books on CC and CR, and never quite got back to it. This time I started at the beginning and read through to the finish. Saramago's wit is what most attracts me to his writing.
At times it is whimsical, but at others it is very bitter. I expected the latter in the many references to the selfishness and extravagance of the king and nobility.
I was a bit taken aback, however, by the anger directed towards God. Like Baltasar, God is imperfect, because he is also missing his left hand. He is sometimes judged guilty for the mess that resulted from his creation of the world. To give a couple of examples: Father Lorenco explains to Baltasar that confession is not really necessary because God sees into the hearts of man and will even up the score at judgment day although it may also come to pass that everything will end with a general amnesty or universal punishment, all that remains to be known is who will pardon or punish God.
Maybe I should have expected this in a book which only takes off after Baltasar meets Blimunda at an auto da fe organized by the Inquisition and ends with Baltasar burned at the stake in another Inquisition "event".
I'm not sure what it all means, Sherry, although you have posed excellent questions. The big stone reminds me of the myth of Sysiphus, which emphasizes to me the futility of life. The common man labors incessantly, but once he has pushed that enormous stone to its allotted place, another equally daunting task replaces this one. The rich and powerful, from both the crown and the church, march by in incessant processions designed to impress the common folk with their authority and worth.
But even the King finally realizes that death threatens to make it all meaningless. He will not even be alive when, and if, the convent is finally completed.
The only true meaning in life is to be found in love. The love between Baltasar and Blimunda even substitutes for a religion which the author has found so deficient. Describing the two making love, he says: Sunday, June 11, I really feel there should be some reward. A tee shirt with an appropriate announcement and clever picture. At this moment it does seem like an achievement.