The Lives of Things by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)


“The Lives of Things” is a refreshingly original collection of six short stories titled “Chair”; “Embargo”; “Reflux”; “Things”; “The Centaur” and “Revenge”. Brimming with satire and hemmed in by imagination, each of these stories are tributes to the powerful writing technique of Jose Saramago,a formidable literary giant of our era.

While the “Chair” is an exquisitely satirical take on the literal fall of Salazar whose antics had Portugal gripped in a frenzy of fear, “Embargo” and “Things” are Orwellian in their tribute to dystopia. “Things” without a shadow of doubt is the pick of the lot. Reading like a condensed version of where 1984-meets-Darkness at Noon-meets-A Brave New World, The story deals with the inexplicable disappearances, and “ill health” (to be remedied by administration of injections) of UOMIs (“Utensils, Objects, Machines and Installations”). Pillar boxes, stair cases and consequently whole buildings disappear leaving the inhabitants either perplexed or dead, and in some cases, both.

“Embargo” deals with a severe petroleum shortage that leads to a man being plastered to his seat for reasons unknown. “Centaur” laments the fall of the final mythical remnant of this magnificent relic.

Each of these stories reach out to the depths of one’s soul seeking clarifications to a restless set of doubts and disbelief. Decadence and despair engage in an unrelenting bout with ambition and aspiration with no clear winner emerging after a bruising battle.

“The Lives of Things” – Alive and Bristling with throbbing energy!

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