i've finally finished reading saramago's "history of the siege of lisbon". it's a mouthful of a novel, with ruminations on history, historiography, and love. saramago's style is deviant in many ways, which makes reading his text quite a challenge. for one thing, he does not denote his dialogues with quotation marks, and it seems that he has an aversion for periods, so he drags on, the length of his sentences spilling over many many pages. it is a style that i am not necessarily unfamiliar with. even before i read saramago and garcía márquez, i already was rather partial to this style, and i wrote my first short story entitled "wish" with a sentence that was about 2 pages long.
nevertheless, i cannot say that having finished the novel, that i understood anything beyond the obvious. there must be underlying themes and even a political agenda somewhere tucked in those long, winding sentences. but failing to find these, does it mean that i have appreciated the novel less? i sought out to read saramago's work not so much to learn of his communism or his atheism. roland barthes said after all that the author is dead, so discovering saramago's intentions is not my primary objective. i read "history of the siege of lisbon" for the sheer enjoyment of it.
so did i enjoy it? that it took this long to finish it must say a lot about how much i had difficulty dealing just with the text. but although saramago is less magical than, say, garcía márquez, doesn't mean he is any less gifted. i am endlessly amazed at how these authors stretch the limits of language to conjure the most detailed of images.
and speaking of garcía márquez, immediately after i closed saramago's book, i opened the former's "autumn of the patriarch": his account of the life and death of a carribean tyrant. i am very much familiar with garcía márquez's work, having read at least 6 of his novels and many of his short stories, but even all those including saramago have not prepared me for "autumn of the patriarch". i have finished only the first section, but it has induced a string of headaches already. it's confusing, as garcía márquez switches tenses and point-of-views without warning, so i often fall into a pit from which i could not recover, that i end up going back a few pages. and he doesn't even chop his sentences into paragraphs. the first chapter is just one paragraph!
now i'm keen on finding a copy of my old story to see how i compare to these masters.