The Lives of Things collects José Saramago’s early experiments with the short story form, attesting to the young novelist’s imaginative power and incomparable skill in elaborating the most extravagant fantasies. Combining bitter satire, outrageous parody and Kafkaesque hallucinations, these stories explore the horror and repression that paralyzed Portugal under the Salazar regime and pay tribute to human resilience in the face of injustice and institutionalized tyranny.
Beautifully written and deeply unsettling, The Lives of Things illuminates the development of Saramago’s prose and records the genesis of themes that resound throughout his novels.
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The Lives of Things shows Saramago's sense of language in full bloom, with winding sentences that interrupt themselves again and again, subdividing a simple statement with qualifiers and tangents that make any notion of "truth" seem like a trick of perspective.
Though clearly shaded by a (perhaps familiar) sense of hopelessness—Thomsen writes of "doomsday scenarios, broken balance sheets, and government debt"—the review alludes to the idea that in Saramago's poetic, winding parallel worlds we find novel ways to frame our own struggles. The stories have a "renewed vibrancy" in our time:
Visit Bookforum to read the review in full.
They remind us that when the law fails, a good metaphor can take its place. And so we have vampire squids, hooded sweatshirts worn in solidarity, tents propped up on sticks because the police say they can't be placed on the ground.