The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
When he died in 2010 the communist writer Jose Saramago was regarded as one of the giants of European literature.
It's not hard to see why when reading The Life Of Things, a collection of his early short stories published today by Verso Books.
The baleful era of the Salazar dictatorship, whose ultimate demise is marked today in the celebration of the 1975 carnation revolution in Portugal, is the background to these narratives. They display many of the elements of the later and even more wide-ranging work which won Saramago the Nobel Prize For Literature.
"I can't imagine myself outside any kind of social or political involvement," the writer said in a 2006 newspaper interview. In this collection that involvement is with "things," be they cars, centaurs, frogs, buildings, death-obsessed monarchs or dictators.
Revenge (reprinted left) is the final story of the six in the collection, all of which are excellently translated by Giovanni Pontiero. Its spare and ingeniously crafted narrative of human and animal resilience in the face of the "unnatural" has an empathy and descriptive dexterity unique to this great writer.
For new readers, this collection is an essential introduction to Saramago's concerns with social decay, alienation and political repression and the alternatives to them. For devotees, it is one to savour.