This early work is deeply personal and José Saramago 's most autobiographical, following the changing fortunes of the Mau-Tempo family – poor, landless peasants not unlike the author’s own grandparents. Saramago charts the family's lives in Alentjo, southern Portugal, as national and international events rumble on in the background – the coming of the republic in Portugal, the First and Second World Wars, and an attempt on the dictator Salazar's life. Yet, nothing really impinges on the farm labourers' lives until the first stirrings of communism.
As full of love as it is of pain, it is a vivid, moving tribute to the men and women among whom Saramago lived as a child.
Time now gives us English-speakers the chance to see how well he worked to serve and deserve such greatness in this early novel
Here Saramago has begun to develop a unique voice which swoops and dives on his own work like a bird (and which is captured with all the skill of a ventriloquist in Margaret Jull Costa’s excellent translation)
By Saramago’s own reckoning it was the book in which he found and developed his style… a novel that resounds with relevance for our own time
This is a rich novel about a family of landless agricultural workers struggling over four generations… Readers of José Saramago will not be surprised at this original combination of serious denunciation of injustice with sarcasm and humour… Such an allusive novel, with its own orthodoxy in punctuation and subtle shifts of tone, is especially hard to translate. It reads beautifully well
A torrent of storytelling delivered with a lively, humorous immediacy, where his narrative drive and digressive thoughts flow unimpeded by conventional punctuation restraints