6/18/10

My encounter with Saramago's Writing


José Saramago died today at 87 in Lanzarote. 

I never considered myself a big Saramago fan, but enough to enjoy his writings. Maybe Saramago was too romantic, too utopian for my taste, but I know that he could also have the ironic twist, the existential side. Those very attributes had consolidated him as a great writer and also made him support social movements that I sympathize with as well.  Nevertheless,  I appreciated his writing, his sometimes hard to follow punctuation, his surrealistic tales in Essay about blindness, for example, his activism, his purpose for having a "revolution of niceness".  Those very attributes also make me sad of his passing today, since I truly believe we need more human beings as him. About a year ago, I linked this blog to Saramago's blog, he wrote daily thoughts and other things about our crazy world from his home in Lanzarote, an Island in Spain. 

I remember about 10 years ago, I bought my first novel by Saramago (The stone raft) in a way I will never forget. I was at the Cultural Center, (CECUT) in Tijuana, waiting for a friend to go to a concert that night. I had arrived about 2 or maybe 3 hours earlier that day, and I decided to go to the bookstore at the center and read some books without the intention of buying one.  Since I was completing my Master´s degree, and mostly reading in English at the time, I was perusing through some literature books in Spanish. I found Saramago´s Gospel According to Jesus Christ, and Baltasar and Blimunda (a novel that allowed Saramago´s wife Pilar del Río to meet him in the 1980´s). My best friend, Alejandra had recommended me the novel of the Gospel by Saramago, and I battled between buying it that day or later since I did not want to be carrying books to the concert that night.  I noticed a man in the bookstore who was staring at me at times. I stared back and he would move away from the row where I was looking. He did this a couple of times while I was there without speaking to me or approaching me. I continued looking at the books, and later I walked away from the bookstore and sat in the rotonda at Cecut. I noticed the same guy was following me and suddenly he asked me if I wanted to buy something, that he knew what I liked. Immediately I panicked, I thought he was going to offer me drugs or something like that, or worse, that he was going to rob me. Before I had time to do anything, he opened his jacket, I was going quickly through my mind trying to come up with good ways to scape or ask for help, and to my surprise, in the interior pockets of his big jacket there were about 8 books that he proudly showed me with a smile......books? in the black market? That was new for sure!
He pulled out a book by Marguerite Yourcenar, and another by José Saramago (precisely the stone raft), and proceeded to offer those to me at half price from the ones at the bookstore! I could not believe what was going on, was this a joke? was this real? When was he going to offer me drugs? I thought. How am I going to ran away from this guy? 
He proceed to show me the books, and said: "I know you will like them, you were looking at those authors inside the bookstore, I saw you". I really like Saramago, he told me, look I have this book.  I asked him: how much do you sell those for? He gave me the price, and as much as I wanted to buy both, I bought only Saramago´s Stone Raft, since I had the one by Yourcenar already. I gave him the money for the book and he told me if I wanted more books, I could see him around the same time, the following week. His name was Carlos? Fernando? I do not remember, but he got the money, put it in his pocket and waved good bye, wishing I would enjoy the reading. I saw him crossing the Ninos Heroes boulevard and looked at my new acquisition: Saramago's book. I have been a fan of Saramago's since. 

Still now, when I see Saramago's book somewhere in my home, I think about this episode in Tijuana, and I wonder if this black market book seller still roams around Cecut, I also wonder if he came back looking for me since I told him I may buy another Saramago's book.... If only the black market was more about books! Hope to get the one written about Ricardo Reis by Saramago. 

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