Small Memories: Book summary and reviews of Small Memories by Jose Saramago

Small Memories

By Jose Saramago

Small Memories
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  • Published in USA  May 2011,
    176 pages.

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Book Summary

José Saramago was eighteen months old when he moved from the village of Azinhaga with his father and mother to live in Lisbon. But he would return to the village throughout his childhood and adolescence to stay with his maternal grandparents, illiterate peasants in the eyes of the outside world, but a fount of knowledge, affection, and authority to young José. 

Shifting back and forth between childhood and his teenage years, between Azinhaga and Lisbon, this is a mosaic of memories, a simply told, affecting look back into the author’s boyhood: the tragic death of his older brother at the age of four; his mother pawning the family's blankets every spring and buying them back in time for winter; his beloved grandparents bringing the weaker piglets into their bed on cold nights; and Saramago’s early encounters with literature, from teaching himself to read by deciphering articles in the daily newspaper, to poring over an entertaining dialogue in a Portuguese-French conversation guide, not realizing that he was in fact reading a play by Molière. 

Written with Saramago's characteristic wit and honesty, Small Memories traces the formation of an artist fascinated by words and stories from an early age and who emerged, against all odds, as one of the world's most respected writers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Weaving together memories of his Portuguese childhood, Nobel Prize–winner Saramago (1922–2010) presents a lyrical portrait of the artist as a young man." - Publishers Weekly

"Recommended for those who love the beauty of Saramago's finely translated prose and to all who love to travel via the written word." - Library Journal

"A slim, elliptical, often poetic memoir by the late Portuguese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature...A nonfictional footnote to a brilliant career in fiction." - Kirkus

"Starred Review... one of the most sheerly beautiful writing exercises in any mode or genre of the season." - Booklist

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Lisa Guidarini
Wanderings of a genius
Operating on the belief it is the small memories that make up the sum of one's life, Nobel-Laureate (1998), novelist, poet, playwright and journalist José Saramago relates - in stream-of consciousness, often repetitive style - his story from his earliest memories to an indeterminate age as a young adult.

Small Memories is soul-touching, the beauty of the prose as much an element as the story of Saramago's life. It bounces back and forth in time, but never is the effect jarring. Written like a book-length poem, the beauty of it shines through in a way almost miraculous. It is the work of a literary genius, a born poet born with a vocation that became his gift to the world. A simply stunning book, one to be read and savored, over and over again.

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Author Information

Jose Saramago Author Biography

Photo: José Frade

José Saramago was born in 1922 in Azinhaga, Portugal, the son of rural laborers. He grew up in great poverty in Lisbon, and was forced to abandon school at the age of 12 in order to earn a living. Saramago was spent 2 years training as a technician,did a number of manual jobs before becoming a journalist, translator, and eventually a writer . In 1969 he joined the Communist Party of Portugal, which was forbidden during the military dictatorship, but he also criticized the party. In the 1970s Saramago supported himself mostly by translation works, and since 1979 he has devoted himself entirely to writing.

Following the publication of his most controversial book, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, he faced intense criticism from members of the country's Catholic community, and ...

... Full Biography

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