Maya Jaggi has praised Saramago in the Guardian Books Blog, noting that:
His blogs, published two months ago in book form by Verso as The Notebook, reveal an often sharp, sometimes mischievous, engagement with the world, whether skewering George W Bush as a “liar emeritus” or the cruel absurdity of the Gaza blockade.
To commemorate José Saramago’s passing, for the next week we will be publishing one blog post per day from The Notebook, almost a year after they were first posted. Today’s post is from June 18th:
June 18: In Castelo Novo
Over thirty years ago I wrote:
Castelo Novo is one of the most moving of the traveler’s many memories. Perhaps he will go back there one day, perhaps he won’t, or perhaps he’ll deliberately avoid it, just because some experiences cannot be repeated. Castelo Novo, like Alpedrinha, is built on a mountainside. If you continued on up, you would soon arrive at the summit of Gardunha. The traveler has no need to reprise his account of the time of day, the light, the damp air. He simply asks that all this be not forgotten while he is busy climbing the steep streets, past the simple houses and the palaces like this one from the seventeenth century, with its portico, its balcony, the deep archway leading to the yard. It would be hard to find a more harmonious construction. So there is the light and the hour, as if held suspended in time and in the sky: the traveler will be able to see Castelo Novo.
I also wrote about specific people thirty years ago:
The traveler asks an old woman who emerges onto her doorstep where the wine trough is. The old woman is deaf, but understands if she is spoken to loudly and she can watch your lips. When she grasps the question, she smiles and the traveler is amazed, for although her teeth are false, the smile is so genuine, and she is obviously so pleased to be smiling that he feels like hugging her and asking her to do it again.
Of José Pereira Duarte, one of the most generous people I have ever met in my life, I wrote that he looked on the traveler as one would on a friend who turns up after many years’ absence. His one regret, he said, was that his wife was ill in bed: “Were she not so ill, I would really enjoy entertaining the traveler for a while in my house.”
Today we’re with José Pereira Duarte’s daughter and grandson. The old lady is no longer there, but other friendly faces are to appear in Castelo Novo, and I will depart again in the same high spirits as when I left thirty years earlier. If Solomon the Elephant happens to pass this way, those who make up his retinue will feel the same thing. You cannot invent the warmth of a welcome like this.