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Small Memories Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184655148X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846551482
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 20.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,652,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa6bf7f84) out of 5 stars 22 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6d3b348) out of 5 stars 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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6d382b8) out of 5 stars 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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6d34c54) out of 5 stars Vintage Saramago June 7 2011
By Rich Stoehr - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"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."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6d55210) out of 5 stars A Small Gem By A Great Writer July 9 2011
By Foster 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
HASH(0xa6d5554c) out of 5 stars 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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