Raised From the Ground – Jose Saramago

They can come in now. The doors are opened and the bulls enter, these are the bulls that will be fought today according to the rules and precepts of the art, taunted with a cape, stuck with darts, beaten with sticks and finally crowned with the hilt of a sword, whose point and blade pierce my heart, ole.

It says Jose Saramago on the cover, it’s set in rural Portugal, based on his own families harsh life in the Alentejo, but I can see punctuation, sentences that don’t go on for a page, how can it be Jose? It is though, an earlier version of the man, before he became the nobel prize winning novelist I fell in love with through the year of the death of Ricardo Reis.

Following the poor Mau-Tempo family through several generations, as Portugal wrestles with both National and International events drift into their lives, sometimes as a breeze, other times as a gale, always leaving them planted in the same soil as before.

I have to confess that Raised from the Ground didn’t swirl the magic as Saramago’s other novels, it was more straightforward, more normal, less Saramago. I always put any of his books I get to the bottom of the to-read pile when I shop, such is the enjoyment I get from them, the whole experience wraps around the story and puts him just above everyone else I read. Although one of his earlier novels, this is Saramago not quite polished into the smooth, well worn prose writer he would become.

The book gives a humble and moving account of what living from the ground truly means, the rituals and rights by which those tied to the soil guide their lives, but without preaching or hammering it’s point home. The beginnings of the Saramago I know and love are there, but sadly for me I couldn’t quite appreciate this as much as his later works.

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