On Brevity (not)


An amusing sample of the prose of a Nobel-Prize winning author.

from Death with Interruptions
José Saramago

Lovers of concision, laconicism and economy of language will doubtless be asking, if the idea is such a simple one, why did we need all this waffle to arrive, at last, at the critical point. The answer is equally simple, and we will give it using a current and very trendy term, that will, we hope, make up for the archaisms with which, in the likely opinion of some, we have spattered this account as if with mold, and that term is context. Now everyone knows what we mean by context, but there could have been doubts had we rather dully used that dreadful archaism background, which is, moreover, not entirely faithful to the truth, given that the context gives not only the background but all the innumerable other grounds that exist between the subject observed and the line of the horizon. It would be better then if we called it a framework. Yes, a framework, and now that we finally have it well and truly framed, the moment has come to reveal the nature of the trick that the maphia thought up to avoid any chance of a conflict that might prejudice their interests. As we have said, a child could have come up with the idea. It was this, to take the sufferer across the frontier, and, once he or she had died, to bring him or her back to be buried in the maternal bosom of his country of origin.

I don't know why the book is written in this way--long discursive paragraphs that include everything imaginable; single sentense that contain pages and pages of dialog, Seemingly endless and pointless detail about minor characters and odd incidents. And yet, despite all of that which seems an over-abundance, there is about this book something really enjoyable. It is a kind of romp that compels the reader through. I'll let you know if I think the same by the end of the book. But for the moment, I'm having a good time trying to figure out the purpose of the choice of narration.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 8, 2008 7:49 AM.

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