Saramago: on the Break-Up

The following is from pp. 96 – 97 of Jose Saramago’s novel, The Double. In this section, Maria da Paz, the protagonist’s hapless girlfriend, has shown up at his apartment to confront him about why he has stopped returning her calls:

Would you like a cup of coffee could serve as an introduction to a bitter debate about feelings that have died or to the sweetness of a reconciliation that neither person knows how to bring about. Maria da Paz should have responded with due coolness, I didn’t come here to drink coffee, but, looking inside herself, she saw that this wasn’t true, she saw that she had really come there to drink coffee, that her own happiness, imagine, depended on that coffee. In a voice that was intended to reveal only weary resignation but which shook with nerves, she said, Yes, I would, and added, I’ll make it. She got up from her chair, and it wasn’t that she stopped as she walked past Tertuliano Maximon Alfonso, how can we explain what happened, we pile up words, words, and more words, the very words we talked about elsewhere, a personal pronoun, an adverb, a verb, an adjective, and, however we try, however hard we struggle, we always find ourselves outside the feelings we so ingenuously hope to describe, as if a feeling were like a landscape with mountains in the distance and trees in the foreground, but the truth is that Maria da Paz’s spirit subtly froze the rectilinear movement of her body, hoping, who knows what, perhaps that Tertuliano Maximo Alfonso would stand up and embrace her, or softly take the hand hanging loose by her side, which is indeed what happened, first his hand taking hold of hers, then the embrace that did not dare to go beyond a discreet proximity, she did not offer him her lips and he did not seek them, there are times when it is a thousand times better to do less than to do more, to hand the matter over to sensibility, which will know better than rational intelligence how best to proceed toward the full perfection of the following moments, if, that is, they were born to reach such heights.

Go ahead, Tertuliano! Dump the woman already, for God’s sake!!! You’re driving self crazy with your indecision and your sentences that go on and on and on which make reading this novel an experience akin to seeing how long you can hold your breath underwater!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Is This For Real?

Self received the e-mail a couple of days ago, but didn’t have a chance to read it (what with self’s younger beagle suffering from snail bait poisoning — !!!) until this evening. And here’s what she read:

. . . on September 21st, you will have a chance to select The Best of the National Book Awards Fiction and win two tickets to the 2009 National Book Awards by visiting the Foundation’s web site at, the first time in its history the Awards will open to a public vote.


Here’s the rest of the announcement:

To celebrate Read the rest of this entry »

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