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Baltasar and Blimunda (Harvest Book) [Kindle Edition]

José Saramago , Giovanni Pontiero
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, a “brilliant...enchanting novel” (New York Times Book Review) of romance, deceit, religion, and magic set in eighteenth-century Portugal at the height of the Inquisition. National bestseller. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Saramago has blended fact and fiction in much the same way as Marquez and others use magical realism, to create an elegantly written, surrealistic reflection on life in 18th century Portugal. It is a time of astonishing excessautos-da-fe, the Inquisition, an outbreak of the plague, colonialismand the two central characters, Baltasar, a soldier just home from the wars, and Blimunda, a clairvoyant who can actually see inside people, are enlisted by the renegade priest, Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao, to help him construct a flying machine. (A mad genius, Bartolomeu actually existed and is now considered a pioneer of aviation.) The machine does fly, but with disastrous consequences for all involved. This is a dark, philosophical tale that shows off the talents of Portugal's premier contemporary writer.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Saramago's epic novel is set in 18th-century Portugal, a kingdom bloated with plundered wealth and top-heavy with churches and priests. Real events (the erection of an enormous convent in the tiny village of Mafra) and real personages (an heretical priest bent on building a flying machine) figure prominently. But the maimed soldier and his visionary lover named in the title are bit players, for the real protagonist here is Portugal itself in travail. Distanced and ironic, Saramago's novel might well have been written to illustrate Walpole's dictum that "the world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." Recommended for collections emphasizing modern continental fiction. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 673 KB
  • Print Length: 357 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0156005204
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (October 16, 1998)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003T0GG06
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,948 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love in the Time of Inquisition January 13, 2000
What's love got to do in a society that is governed by religious bigotry and royal whims? Apparently nothing. But it is love between two ordinary human beings around which José Saramago, weaves his tale of historical fantasy, `Baltasar and Blimunda'. And to what great effect! The romance, spanning almost a lifetime, traversing the length and breadth of Portugal, even soaring into the sky, brings a breath of fresh air to a plot that abounds in filth, brutality, indifference and decay. The tenderness of the relationship serves to make the surrounding evil appear murkier, while the all-pervading depravity indirectly gives more substance to the experience of love.
The lovers, Baltasar, a former solider and Blimunda, a woman with a mysterious power of clairvoyance, meet each other in the killing fields of Inquisition. While Baltasar has lost an arm fighting a war for his motherland, Blimunda has been separated from her mother who has been banished to a far-off land by the Holy Office of Inquisition. But wars and Inquisition are not the only forces of evil that are eroding the foundations of a nation that has left its glory far behind. 18th-century Portugal is full of blood and gore. Take for instance, the brutal bull-fight sessions so vividly presented by Saramago, `The place smells of burned flesh, but this odour gives no offence to nostrils accustomed to the great barbecue of the auto-da-fe, besides the bull ends up on somebody's plate and is put to good use in the end' (page-90). There are also murdered bodies scattered in the streets of Lisbon. Famines, plague, earthquake, Spanish invasions, poverty and squalour -- all add to the misery of the land.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sensuous history lesson January 20, 2003
By A.J.
There seems to be an affinity among Hispanic authors like Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, and Carlos Fuentes, whose fiction tends to combine rich, often fantastical, narrative landscapes with sensitive attention to socioeconomic issues and political and religious oppression. Jose Saramago is Portugese, but "Baltasar and Blimunda" shows that he is very much part of this esteemed group.
The novel takes place in Portugal in the early eighteenth century. An ex-soldier named Baltasar "Sete-Sois" (Seven Suns) Mateus arrives in Lisbon in 1711 looking for work. His options are limited, as he has lost his left hand in battle and replaced it with a hook, which qualifies him for employment in a slaughterhouse. He meets and falls in love with a girl named Blimunda, whose mother, accused of heresy by the Inquisition, has been banished to Africa. Blimunda purports to having some strange powers: She can look inside people's souls and even collect their "wills", a skill which will prove invaluable later in the novel.
Baltasar and Blimunda befriend a learned and mechanically-minded Brazilian priest named Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco, who is something of a flight pioneer. He convinces Baltasar to help him build a flying machine called the Passarola, which, he envisions, would be powered by a complex system of components including human "wills" that Blimunda, conveniently enough, is able to collect. That the Passarola is a ludicrously unfeasible contraption does not stop it from flying fortunately, for it allows its makers to escape angry Inquisitors.
Meanwhile, the King of Portugal, Dom Joao, anxious for a royal heir, is making a deal with a Franciscan friar to donate money for a new convent if the Queen, Dona Maria Ana, will deliver, so to speak.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Genious April 24, 2003
I had the oppurtunity to read this charming novel a few years ago and I have never been able to stop returning and re-reading the book. Saramago does an excellent job of telling a truly beautiful love story without so much as having one word in the novel hinting towards it. His descriptions were so vivid in the book that I felt as if I were in Portugal watching those poor men build a monument for the sole pleasures of the portuguese monarchy. The thing that I love most is that book is also historically correct. There really was a king who had a huge convent built as a thank you for a male heir and there really was a priest who tried to make a flying machine during the Inquisition. I recomend this book to all people. The sheer magic of a beutiful age in Portugal will make you feel one with the author and the characters. And may I add that I have visited the Convent of Mafra and it's absolutely beautiful and it's great to see something that had so much meaning in the novel.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A love story with which you will fall in love May 4, 2002
There is something absolutely compelling about the love that exists between the title characters of this masterpiece. It is the sort of love that makes you want to go out and find it for yourself, one that hollows out from the surrounding absurdities of the world a separate peace in which it can exist.
For being a love story, though, Saramago adopts a very original approach to portraying Baltasar and Blimunda. He does not explain their love, he does not justify it, he does not even describe it. They simply love each other -- that is all you know and all you need to know.
The majority of the book isn't even about them. Most of the pages are spent in outright hilarious passages describing the frivolity and ostentations of royalty and the church in 18th century Portugal. Unlike much anti-clerical writing, this is done without anger or bitterness. Saramago takes an almost playful approach to the absurdities of the establishment -- the first 20 pages alone are enough to make the entire book worthwhile. The king and his court are a joke.
In the second half of the book, though, they slowly become a sad joke. This part of the book revolves around the construction of an abbey in Baltasar's home town of Mafra, and Saramago progressively shows the human cost of the royal whims. With heartbreaking resignation and bitterness, he shows how the king's decrees interrupt and destroy the lives of ordinary men and women.
And yet, in the midst of all this, Baltasar and Blimunda persist, neither caught up in the absurdities of the court nor trodden down by the resulting oppressions. They have no intentions in life and are merely happy to live that life by each other's sides.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked much of it especially the magical realism ingredients of ...
I liked much of it especially the magical realism ingredients of the character of Blimunda. However if I compare it to the writing of Gabriel Garca Marquez I can't rate it higher... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Jamaal Jeffers
5.0 out of 5 stars Satirical and romantic novel on courtly and peasant life in old...
Nobel Prize for Literature winner Jose Saramago wrote this wonderful novel. He is no longer with us, sadly. I wish I'd come across his work years ago. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Aimee Brandt
2.0 out of 5 stars too baroque
With some books the chemistry just isn't working, this is one of them. From page 1 the exuberant, baroque, antiquated language is flowing out of the book: impossible long... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Marc L
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Not up to par, in my estimation, of Saramago's work. I started out with great expectations after reading Blindness, The Cave and All the Names which were just wonderful.
Published 7 months ago by Lorraine
4.0 out of 5 stars A Strange And Fanciful Allegory Set in 18th Century Portugal
Baltasar and Blimunda is my first book by Jose Saramago. It is a richly textured love story of two unique individuals who find each other during the inquisition in Lisbon of 1710. Read more
Published 10 months ago by R. J. Marsella
3.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting Prose Grows Tedious
Ursula Le Guin's introduction to "The Collected Novels of Jose' Saramago" prepared me for Saramago's unconventional punctuation which I thought would be a major annoyance to me. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Clarice Marchman-Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Parallel Lives
This relatively early novel (1982) by Portuguese Nobelist José Saramago may well be his most colorful and approachable until THE ELEPHANT'S JOURNEY (2008). Read more
Published on April 10, 2012 by Roger Brunyate
5.0 out of 5 stars The uncommonness of the common man
Using a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, Jose Saramago sets a poignant love story against the backdrop of one of the greatest and cruelest building projects in the... Read more
Published on February 9, 2011 by Steven Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Book for Haters
I read this book a couple years ago, and seriously it's the best novel I've ever read. It's all about how love and magic and poetry can and should supercede all else. Read more
Published on January 30, 2010 by The Spew Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service
Excellent, fast service. I encourage anyone thinking about purchasing a used book and you can use this vendor, do so. You're unlikely to be disappointed.
Published on August 10, 2009 by Jeffrey
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