In early 18th-century Lisbon, Baltasar, a soldier who has lost his left hand in battle, falls in love with Blimunda, a young girl with visionary powers. From the day that he follows her home from the auto-da-fe where her mother is burned at the stake, the two are bound body and soul by love of an unassailable strength. A third party shares their ...
In early 18th-century Lisbon, Baltasar, a soldier who has lost his left hand in battle, falls in love with Blimunda, a young girl with visionary powers. From the day that he follows her home from the auto-da-fe where her mother is burned at the stake, the two are bound body and soul by love of an unassailable strength. A third party shares their supper that evening: Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco, whose fantasy is to invent a flying machine. As the Crown and the Church clash, they purse his impossible, not to mention heretical, dream of flight.
Jose Saramago is more of a realist than Gabriel Garcia Marquez, his fellow Nobel Prize awardee, but Baltasar and Blimunda is indeed a fabulist tale of an unwed couple--one who is one-handed with a hook, the other can see souls--and their undying love during the Inquisition in 18th century Portugal. The ambitious novel encompasses church repression and doctrinal disputes, monarchical splendor, and a Padre's efforts to construct a flying balloon, perhaps a metaphor for their "buoyant" love. If this reader has any reservation, it's Saramago's habit of excising quotation marks around dialogue and simply jamming it together. Instead, he uses only capitals and commas to indicate a change in speaker. As with Faulkner or Garcia Marquez's pages of unpunctuated prose, at times it can prove a major obstacle , even an annoyance.
Publishers Weekly, 1987-10-09 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. (October)
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