José Saramago was one of Portugal’s greatest and most revered authors. The winner of the Nobel Prize in 1998, Saramago passed away in 1010, leaving behind a rich legacy of fantastical novels like Blindness and the Stone Raft. Small Memories was one of his last books, and is a memoir of his early life growing up between his grandparents’ farm in the small rural village of Azinhaga, and Lisbon, where his parents moved when his father got a job as a policeman.
Told from a distance of eight decades, the small snippets of Saramago’s early life are simple but touching. The stories deal with the death of his brother, who died at four years old, visiting his grandparents, farmers who, though illiterate, had a tremendous impact on Saramago’s life, and life as a young child in the tenements of Lisbon.
One memory tells of his grandparents bringing the weakest piglets into their bed on especially cold nights. While it’s obvious from the stories in this little book that Saramago’s grandparents were, in fact, kind and loving, the story of the piglets emphasizes just how valuable the piglets were to a poor farm family. From a practical viewpoint, the loss of the animals would mean a loss of income and could make the coming year harder.
If you’re interested in reading José Saramago’s books, Small Memories would be a good starting point. Saramago’s novels can be difficult reads; punctuation is rare and paragraphs can go on for page after page. Small Memories, is unusual in that it conforms to normal expectations regarding punctuation and layout, so it would be an easier read for those new to Saramago’s writing. It’s also a sweetly told and enjoyable memoir. As an added bonus, the family photos included at the end of the memoir, accompanied by Saramago’s sometimes tongue in cheek descriptions, will leave you smiling.
If you’re interested in reading Small Memories, you can purchase it Small Memories you can purchase it here.