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Book Review: 'Skylight' By Jose Saramago

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Book Review: 'Skylight' By Jose Saramago

Book Reviews

Book Review: 'Skylight' By Jose Saramago

Book Review: 'Skylight' By Jose Saramago

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Alan Cheuse reviews Skylight by Jose Saramago.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago died in 2010, he left behind an unpublished novel. He'd written it in his early 30s, but it was lost in his publisher's files for decades. Well, you can now get it in the U.S., and Alan Cheuse has our review of "Skylight."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: "Skylight" is a quieter, though not gentler, novel than the books that made Saramago famous. No rewriting of the gospel, no deaths with interruptions in these pages, no countries breaking off from continents and floating out to sea. The young writer set this one in a run-down Lisbon apartment building, and he populated it with a fractious group of families trying to survive an unmentioned dictatorship, the thwarted dreams of youth and the desperation of old age.

At first he pans, as if with a movie camera, through several apartments on different floors. We see a shoemaker with a philosophical bent, a girl secretly reading a French classic about lesbianism in a convent, a kept woman supporting her mother with the proceeds, a chain-smoking young lodger who moves from job to job. The gifted young Saramago makes these characters click together in a way that's extremely sympathetic at the same time that he exposes the darkest of their secrets to the hazy light of a Lisbon spring.

It's unfortunate that early in his career the writer couldn't enjoy the praise this book now calls forth. This book, once lost, now found.

SIEGEL: The book by Jose Saramago is called "Skylight." Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse.

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