Monthly Archives: July 2016

José Saramago’s Sexy Punctuation

Ricardo Reis

The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis

by

José Saramago

 

Forgive me, José Saramago, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, for what most interested me in your novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis: its punctuation. It is not that I have anything disparaging to say about the rest of it or am exercising discretion as one might when praising a fat lady’s bikini in lieu of what the apparel cannot hope to conceal. I have no dietary recommendations lurking and fighting their restraints in the back of my mind. And so do not take it as a slight that I am not particularly moved to comment on matters more literary and how these speak to your arguably more substantive writerly concerns. To me it is not a small matter that your work moves me to focus rather upon your strategy of commas and periods with no recourse to the other available marks of punctuation. The advancement of the possibilities of literary expression is what it accomplishes, moving the reader to greater alertness (why, indeed, can one not write, as do you, Unknown to him he has a sign stuck to his back, a paper dangling from a safety pin, Beast of burden for sale, no one has asked the price so far, even though they taunt him as they pass, Are you such a beast that you don’t feel your burden. Or. To exemplify again. You said the reason you didn’t come back was that you were annoyed, It’s true, Annoyed with me, Not so much with you, what has annoyed me and left me feeling weary is all this going back and forth, this tug of war between memory that pulls and oblivion that pushes, a useless contest, for oblivion and forgetting always win in the end. No quotation marks, no dashes, semi-colons, question marks or unnecessary full stops, all these implicit in the sense of what is said, quite like how we comprehend each other when we speak, quite like our distant literary forebears who were oral, think Homer for one stand-out.) Both reader and yourself feel to be more and more liberated, sensible of the mind’s operation, you become intimate with yourself and we with you. In addition is the inextricable thrill we have in the increasing claims of creative freedom and new territories that await. Let me offer my gratitude for the faith that you have in your readers’ capacity to intuit your scribed intentions without flags and semaphores, your trust in intelligence. To further your enterprise, for this reader, at least, a mere few spaces between thought and its qualifications would work. As for capitalization, not unlike a bikini upon a shapely form, it designates beauty and, if not wholly necessary, should remain.

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