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Baltasar & Blimunda (Panther) [Paperback]

Jose Saramago
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Sep 2001 Panther
In early 18th-century Lisbon, Baltasar, a soldier who has lost his left hand in battle, falls in love with Blimunda, a young girl with visionary powers. From the day that he follows her home from the auto-da-fe where her mother is burned at the stake, the two are bound body and soul by love of an unassailable strength. A third party shares their supper that evening: Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco, whose fantasy is to invent a flying machine. As the Crown and the Church clash, they purse his impossible, not to mention heretical, dream of flight.

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Baltasar & Blimunda (Panther) + The Gospel According To Jesus Christ (Panther) + Blindness (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860469019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860469015
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A mighty novel, variously bawdy, elevated, angry and tender, combining erudition, comedy, heresy, surreal science fiction and countless good stories." (Robert Farren Sunday Independent)

"Original and brilliant...Lovers of Marquez and magical realism will be enchanted by the wonders of this novel, for the colour and vivacity of Saramago's imagination inspires and entertains." (Kate Figes Sunday Times)

"Jose Saramago affirms the simple truths as only a writer of rare stature can." (Christopher Wordsworth Guardian)

Book Description

An intense and surreal romance set against the politics of eighteenth century Lisbon from Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Experience Portugal for under a tenner! 8 Mar 2004
Format:Paperback
I bought this book, which is magical in all senses, while on a weekend break in Lisbon; and more than any other of Saramago's books, it captures the mood of that remarkable city - the breeze off the sea; the ever-present awareness of successive layers of history; the very Portuguese bittersweet emotion they call "saudade". It is a highly unconventional love story set in and around early eighteenth century Lisbon, featuring one-handed ex-soldier Baltasar and his lover Blimunda, a girl with the unsettling ability to see inside people, not in the sense of mind-reading, but like a CT scanner... When the couple get in cahoots with a visionary but unreliable heretic priest to construct a flying machine powered by human souls, they quickly attract the attention of the Inquisition, with inevitable results.
Add into this brew the building of a massive new monastery and cathedral by the young King of Portugal in honour of a pledge to a saint, and a visit by the composer Scarlatti, and there is enough material for a truly remarkable book. Saramago poignantly captures the powerlessness of individuals against the might of the church and the state (twelve men struggle for weeks to drag an enormous stone slab by ox-team from the quarry to the site of the new monastery; one man is crushed to death; ten years later, the slab forms the quite unnoticed base for just one of the edifice's many balconies), but at the same time he gives us a powerful vision of the survival of the human spirit (and particularly of human love) against the odds.
Although Saramago's use of language is idiosyncratic as always (short on punctuation and full of earthy colloquialisms, with frequent ironic "asides" from the author), Giovanni Pontiero has done a sterling job on the translation, which flows very naturally. This book is altogether a delight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical realism in medieval Portugal 27 Sep 2011
By jacr100 VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Saramago's first major novel is set in eighteenth-century Portugal and is, at its roots, the story of the love between Baltasar, a drifting soldier who lost his left arm in conflict, and
Blimunda, who develops a heightened sense of vision when she fasts. The pair are tasked by the priest Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao (a genuine historical character) to help build La Passarola, a flying machine powered by human will. Interwoven with this narrative is the construction of a colossal convent at Mafra - commissioned by King Joao V after his queen conceives - and the shadow of the Inquisition, whose invisible arm stretches to every corner of Portugal.

The book has a magical realist feel - blending fact, fiction and the unbelievable into one coherent whole, told by an unknown narrator who is prone to asides or reflection on life, love, poverty, despotism and the power of church and state. A wistful tone (perhaps akin to the Portuguese concept of saudade) permeates the tale, alongside a sense of fatalism, an atmosphere of repression, and a fantastic imagination. The narrative style is distinct: occasional sparse sentences are mixed with long, flowing paragraphs that switch between speakers and periods of time without pause; occasionally difficult to follow, the general effect is one of breathlessness.

The ending is one of the best I've read, but there are memorable passages throughout and it's a book that would be just as good on a second reading. Highly recommended.

Style: 8/10

Structure: 9/10

Originality: 9/10

Depth: 8/10

Unputdownability: 7/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mildly disappointing 25 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" in the International Edition, in which it has supplanted "The Double" recommended in the original edition of that publication.

In this novel, as with all Saramago's work, the distinctive authorial voice is ever present - long paragraphs, long sentences, little punctuation (so it requires an alert response) - which reflects as it goes, philosophically, on the nature of the world.

There are stunning juxtapositions, between the life of the poor in early 18th century Portugal, and the life of the rich and the building of convents. The irrepressible spirit of humanity is richly present in the central characters. And there's a central "magical" theme: the early invention of flying (compare: the existence of doubles, the re-writing of the history of the siege of Lisbon, the experience of the Iberian peninsula drifting away from mainland Europe - in some of Saramago's other works).

I have by no means read all of Saramago's work. But I have preferred some of Saramago's other novels: The Double has are more intriguing central "magical" theme and narrative, the History of the Siege of Lisbon a delicate love story, and I retain a soft spot for The Year Of the Death Of Ricardo Reis, my first encounter with this unusual author.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey into history, magic and language. 7 Feb 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is not so much a love story as a fantastical journey through language. Saramago is often praised for his ideas, but people forget to mention what is most striking and astonishing about him, and this is his command of language and vocabulary. Of course some of this might be lost in the translation into English (most of his books are originally written in Portuguese), but it will still leave the reader short of breath. "The building of the convent" as it could freely be translated from its original title, tells us how the decission to construct a convent by the King of Portugal radically changes the lives of generations of medieval Portuguese people, in the times when moving a single rock meant using animals and even humans in a slow and tremendous process. In the tumult we find love and science taking very surprising and magical turns. A classic from a well deserved Nobel Price winner!
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