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Jerusalem (Portuguese Literature Series) Paperback – November 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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"His writing is surreal, fun, poetic, profound, dramatic, a discourse of shock, a small bomb that pushes past the usual boundaries, the standard patterns." --Giulia Lancini
"One day, when the literary history of . . . Portugal comes to be written, the work of Gonçalo M. Tavares will assume an eminent position." --José Mário Silva, Diário de Notícias
Top Customer Reviews
Please take the time to read the Product Description (click 'See all Editorial Reviews' above). Since this is such a quick read, there is little more to tell about the plot that wouldn't give away too much.
We are witnesses to unsettling mental, physical and even moral problems. The characters vary from the elite to the troubled. Dark events are sometimes related with dark humor as we are shocked by Tavares depiction of their lives.
This is a sad and moving book, but it is not a 'tear-jerker' - and it is very well written. While I wish the book had been longer, the story to be told was handled quite well in this length. I'm hoping more of his books get translated quickly.
I wish I could say that there is a certain beauty in the lives of these damaged people but I don't see it - their lives are marginal and their stories are depressing. Every character in the book is profoundly sad. The characters go through the motions of living a life with their damaged capacities. What we do get are beautiful writing and some philosophical nuggets: "To be sick is to have made a mistake." "Working as a gravedigger means seeing your own future." "An animal that knew how to distance itself from empty pleasures would have a great biological advantage over human beings..." "At eighteen, Mylia already knew how to humiliate men." "...a single bullet weighs more than ten thousand words." "...the world inside and the world outside [the asylum] were like two separate languages - without a single phoneme in common."
While the work is translated from the Portuguese, there is no local color so it's not clear where the novel is set; obviously the intention of the author.
But given that possibly much more discerning minds than mine have found the work praiseworthy, I’ll cite just a few paragraphs and let you decide for yourself.
“In the meantime, one of Hinnerk’s few pleasures in life was looking through his window and watching the children have fun, so fearless and carefree. From his window, using a set of small binoculars, he kept an eye on the schoolyard, developing the habit of watching the children during their after-lunch recess.
“Sometimes, without any intention of firing—Hinnerk picked up his pistol, went to the window and, holding his binoculars in his left hand, pointed the barrel at one of the children; he would follow its movements for a few seconds, finally abandoning the child’s haphazard path, lowering his gun and binoculars, and drawing the white curtain. Then he’d get ready to go out” (on p. 62, at which point the chapter comes to a close).
“He who makes a mistake is excluded. Is enclosed inside a box. He who is outside can hardly see the box. But the person who is enclosed, excluded, is able to see the outside., He sees everything, he sees all of us.
“In each compartment there are dozens of boxes. Thousands of boxes overall. Most are empty. Others contain the excluded. Nobody knows which boxes are which.Read more ›