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Small Memories Hardcover

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 24 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Wonders Of Memory April 10 2011
By Louis N. Gruber - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Famed novelist Jose Saramago, in one of his last works, takes us on a dreamy, rambling trip through his memories of childhood and adolescence. He grew up in a small village, but lived for many years in Lisbon as well. He shares with us the rustic atmosphere of his birthplace, his wise but unlettered grandparents, his child's understanding of history, his introduction to letters, his discovery of --girls, and much much else. Some of his memories are tinged with pride, others with eternal embarrassment, shame and guilt. On occasion he treats the reader to a tiny glimpse of his creative process--how some incident or other became the nexus for one of his great novels.

There's no plot, just a collection of poignant little vignettes strung together in no particular order. Fortunately, the author includes punctuation and even quotation marks, unlike in his great novels. The book concludes with some precious family photographs. If you've read any of the great man's works, better yet, if you're a fan of his writing, you won't want to miss out on these few pages of meeting the man himself. I enjoyed Small Memories and recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Fragmented memories do little more than give a Polaroid snapshot of life in pre WWII Portugal June 15 2011
By Brian Hawkinson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Small Memories is certainly something that handles small matters, both in the nature of the memories as well as in the size of the book. I found that in some respects it certainly has some redeemable qualities, but in others I didn't really care for what I was reading.

The cons are that you get zero insight into the adult Saramago. What you get instead are small clipped memories, ending just as quickly as each one began, from his childhood. I couldn't help but wait for that aha moment where he finally turned his childhood into something that would help understand his life better. Instead you are given the insight into the life of a poor family growing up in Portugal. Additionally I couldn't help but be slightly annoyed with his constant reference to "that may not quite be how it happened", "this memory may never have happened at all", to "I might not be remembering that person exactly how it happened". His constant reference to the possibilities that everything he is telling us could be completely false devalues the value of a memoir such as this.

The pros are that you get a nice view into the life and times of the peasant class growing up in a pre World War II time. How he travelled, how he ate, how he lived, how he interacted with other families. It is rather eye opening in that respect, so there is some worth behind a memoir that is nothing more than fragmented memories pieced together that ultimately have little connection with one another. I can't help but be impressed by how he writes and look forward to reading some of his works, but this very small book did little to show me who Saramago was. If you feel you need to purchase this book, certainly wait for the paperback addition since the 100+ pages isn't worth spending the money on a hardback.

2.5 stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Small Gem By A Great Writer July 9 2011
By H. F. Corbin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Although Jose Saramago's memoir of his childhood, SMALL MEMORIES, is short, it contains many moving passages. I had decided that it was basically musings of a great writer-- BLINDNESS is a book I would take on an island--who was in his twilight and that his muse for the most part had left him. Then I came upon his description of his beloved grandfather (and wished I could read Portugese) that is as good as anything I can remember reading: "He is a man like many others on this earth, in this world, perhaps an Einstein crushed beneath a mountain of impossibilities, a philosopher, a great illiterate writer. Something he could never be."

Saramago's remembrance of his grandmother is just as good: "There you were, grandma, sitting on the sill outside your house, open to the vast, starry night, to the sky of which you knew nothing and through which you would never travel, to the silence of the fields and the shadowy trees, and you say, with all the serenity of your ninety years and the fire of an adolescence never lost: `The world is so beautiful, it makes me sad to think I have to die.'"

Poor by the world's standards and from a family of illiterates, Saramago recounts his falling in love with language and literature to become, against all odds, one of the great writers of all time.

SMALL MEMORIES is in short a little treasure.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Village June 21 2011
By Mary E. Sibley - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The name of the author's village is Azinhaga. Its river is the Almonda. The people of the village learned to deal with that river and a more distant one, the Tejo.

The author was a child of the village although the family moved to Lisbon. Azinhaga comes from an Arabic word meaning small path. The olive trees of the region have been replaced by hybrid corn. New olive trees will not reach such a great height as the former ones. A child is in the landscape. Loss of the actual house of the author's maternal grandparents is remedied by memory's reconstructive power.

The young memoir writer feared dogs and loved horses. Saramago was a so-so fisherman and an unskilled hunter. In Lisbon a friend's mother read a serial novel, THE FAIRY OF THE FOREST, to the author and his mother, (the mother remained illiterate and the author became a star pupil at school). The family called Jose Zezito. The family lived in ten homes in ten years.

The writer's grandparents had pigs, a donkey, chickens and rabbits. A rudimentary accounting system was used by his grandmother. Small memories may refer to the shards of memory we experience or it may refer to memories of a youthful existence. In either case the book has elegance and charm.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
From small memories, great novels can grow... June 13 2011
By S. McGee - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Fans of Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago may not find enough in this relatively slim volume of memoirs of his early childhood to keep them happy; this isn't the Saramago a reader discovers in his novels, nor does this memoir deal, except indirectly, with the creative process or the ideas that took root and flourished in the latter decades of his life.

That doesn't mean this isn't fascinating -- it just doesn't deal with literary life. Instead, what the reader gets is a (to me) intriguing look at the years that helped shape Saramago, his boyhood moving every year from one apartment to another in Lisbon, while spending summers at the village of his birth with his grandparents and extended family where had been born but that he left as a toddler. There's a chronological structure flow to the broad tale, but within it, Saramago is rambling and discursive, discussing stumbling across a Roman road while driving piglets to market, the death of his elder brother as a young boy, the illiteracy of his mother and grandparents and his playacting the court jester for a wealthy classmate.

What made this a great little book was Saramago's knack for observation -- the way he places his memories in a broader context. For instance, he shares his early fascination with the written word when he describes how he discovered a trunk full of dried beans at his grandparents' farm, and on lifting the lid -- allowing dust to escape that caused painful itching and welts -- to discover newspaper lining the inside of the trunk's lid. Saramago the child ignores the itching to devour every word on the newspaper; the adult looking back 70 years later still can't imagine how such a thing as a newspaper ended up in his grandparents' possession.

Admittedly, I would have enjoyed this even more had Saramago chosen to venture further forward in time and discuss how he conceived and executed his novels, but I acknowledge that that wasn't what the author intended to do. And as is, it's a great glimpse into a world that has slipped into history, that of the Portugal of the 1930s, a far cry from the Portugal of today. Recommended!

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