If you never read a novel by Jose Saramago now is your chance. You can begin this experience with his first rejected novel by his publisher. Now I know that may not sound enticing, but trust me — you won’t be sorry you did.
Since his death in 2010 I was always hoping for secret cabin filled with lost Jose Saramago novels. I’ve read every novel that’s been published in English. Last year English readers were given the treat of Raised From the Ground, an earlier work that was previously published in Spanish in 1980.
Skylight is a treasure box filled with the ideas brewing inside the head of Mr. Saramago. It’s a simple story of an apartment building in Lisbon in the 1940s filled with people who are just ordinary citizens trying to get by in the world. Aa couple in a failed marriage wonder what life would be like if they weren’t married. A mother named Candida, her two daughters Adriana and Isaura, and their Aunt Amelia living and working together all wish for different things to happen with their lives. A cobbler, Silvestre and his wife Mariana take in a boarder named Abel who has a problem getting attached to people for too long. The discussions between Silvestre and Abel are true Saramago – always asking the big questions of life. Dona Lidia entertains a gentleman caller to get by in life. Her story connects with another about a couple who try to get their daughter a job at Dona Lidia’s place of employment. Favors are asked but the results leave feelings hurt and hearts broken. The issue of same sex love is throughout this story.
Now reading about this you may ask yourself this just sounds like an ordinary story and by today’s standard of writing it may be but to be truthful most of today’s novels can only dream to be as good as Skylight. Saramago, as he has done throughout his entire career breaks things down to their simplest forms and writes for all readers to see a part of themselves in his characters. It’s that thing that first made me devour the first novel I ever read from him. You are taken completely out of your own world and locked in his. There is no escape from you being affected by his novels.
Had I been lucky enough to have started with this book and then gone through the rest of his novels to his final novel Cain, you would see how his style from Skylight is similar but you would also see a man and his quest for purpose in this world remaining an unanswered question. Skylight opens our eyes and shows us that Jose Saramago truly was one of the greatest writers of our time.