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Jerusalem (Portuguese Literature Series) Paperback – November 1, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
Book 3 of 4 in the O Reino Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tavares's herky-jerky style leaves a reader with sympathy for the characters—who wouldn't be mad if life moved in such a way? Taking place during one night in an unnamed city, the story—which follows a doctor, his ex-wife, her lover, their son and a killer pimp, among others—propels itself mainly through flashbacks relayed in short, choppy chapters and subchapters. Mylia, the ex-wife for whom everything was about herself, goes tumbling through the streets looking for a church, but instead finds a series of odd and dangerous predicaments. Most of what we learn about Mylia comes from memories of her stay at the Georg Rosenberg Asylum, disturbing, even for healthy people or a luxury hotel for the mentally ill, depending on whom you ask. Her ex-husband, famed researcher Theodor Busbeck, is revealed via his institution and reactions to Mylia; theirs is a frightening if realistic relationship, though the other characters feel less than realized. In what amounts to a long night's chase, Tavares hints at what could be a grander story, but this does not lead to the Promised Land. (Oct.)
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Review

"Jerusalem is a great book, and truly deserves a place among the great works of Western literature. Gonçalo M. Tavares has no right to be writing so well at the age of 35. One feels like punching him!" --José Saramago

"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
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Product Details

  • Series: Portuguese Literature Series
  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 1 Original edition (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564785556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564785558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Tanstaafl VINE VOICE on October 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tavares received such praise from Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago that I pre-ordered this. I wasn't disappointed and it truly is quite a first book.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Much of this novel is set in a psychiatric asylum. Characters transition in and out of the asylum during the story and we are never quite sure at any given time if those who are in should be out and those who are out should be in. An unstable woman has a hard life, marries her psychiatrist and ends up institutionalized. He certainly hurt her more than he helped her. While institutionalized, she has a baby and then is sterilized without her consent. A murder of a young boy occurs and someone is sentenced for the murder, but it's not the murderer. The real murderer is not one of those who have been previously institutionalized. What does that tell us about how accurately this system of institutionalization functions? Will prison be any worse than the asylum for these damaged, borderline-functioning folks? That is pretty much the plot.

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.
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Format: Paperback
If Gonçalo M. Tavares’s JERUSALEM is some kind of carousel to the Western literature of the new millennium, please stop it and let me get off. I want no part of it. What’s more, I’d rather regress to a state of complete analphabetism than pretend that any aspect of this work makes any sense to me whatsoever, much less that it’s deserving of the several literary prizes and assorted accolades it has garnered.

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.
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