The cave, by José Saramago

José Saramago (1922 – 2010) was, without a doubt, one of the most prestigious European novelists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He had won every major literary award before receiving the Nobel Prize in 1998.

The unique literary career of the Portuguese writer represents a rare combination of creative productivity, intellectual leadership and a deeply ethical vision of the writer’s social responsibility.


Since his international fame was consolidated with the publication of Baltazar and Blimunda in 1982, Saramago has captivated his readers with his unique style of storytelling. Making use of various highly original narrative techniques, the writer shows in his novels an incredible ability to reveal the beauty of small and everyday things, but also the beauty of dreams, the unreal and the supernatural. The novelist believes that, through fiction, it is possible to show the decency of people in everything they do to survive; also promote love, understanding and harmony among the inhabitants of this planet, to make it more habitable and just; also dreaming of utopian worlds, with justice and dignity for all; even question and challenge the authorities and institutions. In 2002 I had the privilege and honor of meeting José Saramago and his wife, Pilar del Río. As a very special memory of that meeting, I keep a copy of La caverna (2000), with a dedication of his, and for this reason I would now like to briefly comment on it.


The first sections of the story could make us think of those French films with a slow plot and a reflective purpose that sometimes test the patience of the viewer. But in this novel, if we allow ourselves to be led by the wise, also playful hand of the narrator, we soon enter with enthusiasm into that world so clearly and in detail described, in which a modest potter and his family face the all-powerful and oppressive forces of modernization. And we are delighted with the kindness, gallantry and tenacity of the leading philosopher, Cipriano Algor, who could well be considered a simulacrum of the first Saramago, the restless mechanical worker who became a writer and ended up with a Nobel Prize. And we sympathize with that potter when he argues haughtily with the representatives of a large trading company. And in the same way, we rejoice when we witness the warm bond that unites the craftsman with his daughter, and that is described with great precision and empathy and sometimes also with not a little humor. And we enjoy the friendship that Algor establishes with a found, adopted and humanized dog; a dog that asks with its eyes and answers with its tail.


This book produces a real pleasure in the reader, in part, I think, because the author does not abide by the codes of conventional narrative discourse and because it violates norms and expectations, without apparent provocative intention, but with surprising and delicious effects. A good example is the witty and fluid way in which the writer incorporates the dialogues into the narrative, without warnings, without interruptions. Likewise, the story is told by a gracefully nosy narrator, who freely and capriciously penetrates the thoughts and feelings of the characters, including those of the puppy. A prolific and eloquent narrator, moreover, who unfolds his speech in extensive sentences, sometimes in paragraphs of several pages, and who is given to constant meditations and frequent appeals to the reader, and endowed at the same time with a kind sense of humor and a fine concept of irony. The narrator is in principle an omniscient narrator, but in fact the author shows that omniscience is also relative, since the narrator in his novel is a doubtful omniscient narrator, who imposes limits on himself, who wonders about what is happening and speculates about it. what can happen. He is a dethroned entity from the realm of omniscience, projecting his doubts and apprehensions, thoughts and feelings onto him. That he ponders over the deficiencies of the language, and that ironizes, glosses and corrects himself. That engages the reader and stands in solidarity with him.

A delightful novel.
Gerardo Luzuriaga Arias

The cave, by José Saramago