Posted tagged ‘Jose Saramago’

Jose Saramago passes

June 18, 2010

Jose Saramago has died. There are few like him in contemporary fiction, and reading one of his novels, especially the later ones, is a challenge, but I’ve loved his story telling, and I’ve read most of his fiction.

This early post of mine was inspired by Saramago’s novel The Cave, and I think the points are as valid now as they were then.

Like most people, I was introduced to him through his novel Blindness, but I’ve gone on from there to read nearly every other piece of fiction he’d written. I knew he was old and that his output could not last forever, but it is heartening to learn that there will be at least one more novel to come from him.

My new narrator — I haven’t met him yet

July 27, 2009

I’ve mentioned here a few times that I will rewrite my current work in progress, The Sleep of Reason, with a third-person narrator. It will make for a much better story, but I don’t know who that narrator is going to be yet.

I’ve also mentioned here a few times (most notably here) that a careful writer must treat the narrator as another character of the story. A narrator should have as much existence (to the writer at least) as any other character in the story. This is the person who tells the tale; it must be a person. Even if this character makes no overt appearance in the story, having a specific person in mind to tell the tale means that the voice of the story will remain consistent, which is the kind of thing a careful writer must think about.

But beyond that, the narrator can do extra work. In many of Saramago’s novels, the narrator provides commentary and judgment on the characters and events. In Iris Murdoch novels, the narrator is often the voice of god. A third-person narrator might contribute to maintaining the tone of the novel. A narrator might provide humor. Or dread. Or sorrow. Or joy.

I’m struggling with just what role my new narrator will have and how that can contribute to the tale. I’ve considered making him (and I assume it’s a him right now) one of the members of the story, though relating the tale long after the fact. He might even be the antagonist character as I now conceive the story. Or he might merely be a wise gentleman sharing a story with friends at their club. Will he relate the facts with a foreknowledge of the end, tossing in hints of this along the way? That would help with the tone I want to maintain. Or will he withhold this kind of information so that the reader must earn it? I’ve thought about having him make cutting observations about what a fool the protagonist is, as a way to create sympathy for the protagonist, but I fear I could overdo that or that I shouldn’t give that much away. Will my narrator have sympathy or contempt for the protagonist? Will he see the protagonist as a victim or a fool?

In any case, my narrator will have to be omniscient, at least to the point of knowing and relating the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings. This is, of course, commonplace in fiction, but if I also make him a member of the story, it will require something like a supernatural quality, which while not a part of the plot, certainly is in keeping with the theme.

I need to give this a lot more thought before I embark on the rewrite, and anyway, there are still two more chapters to write, including one scene that finally explains the title I’ve given the novel.