Friday, June 13, 2008

The Penultimate Novel

Have you ever started reading a book by a favorite author, and as you are reading, you begin to adore the book so much that you cannot help but wonder how many other of the author’s books are left to read?
In this case, I have just started Jose Saramago’s The History of the Siege of Lisbon, and I am greatly chagrined to realize that, for me, it is the penultimate novel.
Not to be condescending at all, but for those unfamiliar with this word, penultimate means, “last but one in a series of things; second to the last.”

I know that all of my readers know the meaning of penultimate, but perhaps not all of you are familiar with Nobel Prize-winning author, Jose Saramago.
If not, I encourage you to discover his work!

Oh, he is a gem! There is no one like him… trust me!
And this book has me completely enthralled.
He has such a unique, meandering, circuitous, grammatically oblivious, unconventional, charming, witty, brilliant, fearless, matchless, fascinatingly digressive way about him!
I have written of his curious ways, in a previous blog. Actually, many times I have mentioned how much I love the novels of Jose Saramago.
Let me just open The Penultimate Novel and select a passage at random…. just one sentence ought to convince all and sundry of the wonderful run-on world of Saramago, waiting to be… runned-on in!
Ahh, here’s a beauty….

Raimundo Silva thought to himself, in the manner of Fernando Pessoa, If I smoked, I should now light a cigarette, watching the river, thinking how vague and uncertain everything is, but, not smoking, I should simply think that everything is truly uncertain and vague, without a cigarette, even though the cigarette, were I to smoke it, would in itself express the uncertainty and vagueness of things, like smoke itself, were I to smoke.

Jose Saramago, accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature -- 1998


TSK TSK! said...

a reader.sionil jose- have you read him? , filipino author. great one. i must say and also a nobel prize winner. =p

i actually bought one of his books, Ermita, which is one of the top ten novels in Asia.

Jeane said...

O dear. I do not think I could read a book that continued like that for every page.

Beth said...

There's an art to using commas.
He has mastered it.

(I love the word "penultimate" - just the sound of it...)

cipriano said...

Tsk tsk!
I have not read this author, no. But thank you for your recommendation. I will watch for the name at the bookstore!

Oh no, no! Say it isn't so!
I must refer your gaze to the portion where I say "Trust me!"
See, the remarkable thing about Jose Saramago's command of language is that once you read him for a mere few chapters... you are hooked. You fall into his unorthodox ways and your mind anticipates the flow of thought, and dialogue. It is truly amazing. He never uses quotation marks nor even begins a new sentence when a new speaker interjects, he merely adopts an upper case letter after a comma. It is craziness, but exhilarating.
I encourage you to try him.

Definitely [about the comma] there are some Saramago sentences that run for PAGES! I love it.
How does he do it? I don't know, but as you said, he has mastered it.
He's writing with the Ultimate Pen.
[Hah! Get it? Penultimate?]
...... Never mind.

Anonymous said...

He's right.
I teach English and Saramago is my favorite writer.
You can do this!
Don't toss your Strunk and White, but I am telling you, trust Cip on this one. Give it twenty pages. You will be astounded what he gets away with. He makes Mark Twain's digressions look like neatly packaged and focused abstracts.
Honest. He is brilliant.
(Start wherever you like - but I loved The Cave. And The Double. And All the Names. And. . . all of them. )