"Only I knew, without knowing I did, that on the illegible pages of destiny and in the blind meanderings of chance it had been written that I would one day return to Azinhaga to finish being born."
Fitting, perhaps, that this thin, elegantly written memoir its one of the final works of Nobel Prize-wining author Jose Saramago. Wandering from place to place and relative to relative, Saramago recalls here his early years in Portugal - sometimes with crystal clarity and sometimes with the magical haze of a forgotten dream, always with an ear for the poetic and an admirable economy of language.
From fairy tales and learning to read to mud floors and pigsties. From horrific childhood cruelties to inventing the plots of films based only on their posters. From memorable moonlit nights to family gossip. Saramago reaches into his memories and produces for us, his readers, his audience of enthralled children, nugget after nugget - each recognisable from our own lives, each wholly unique to the man telling us the story. And all told with the same sense of whimsical wonder he brought to his novels.
'Small Memories,' like most Saramago books, is not meant to be devoured in a single bite. Its scent should be breathed, its textures felt, its subtle flavors savored. Its words are meant to be sipped rather than gulped, appreciated for the details of a lifetime of observation, and once the glass is empty, remembered for the way they bring to life the wandering memories of an unforgettable individual.
Jose Saramago was the finest of writers, and 'Small Memories' is one of his most memorable vintages.
"We often forget what we would like to remember, and yet certain images, words, flashes, illuminations repeatedly, obsessively return to us from the past at the slightest stimulus, and there's no explanation for that; we don't summon them up, they are simply there."