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Modeled on his own family history, this mid-career novel by Nobel laureate Saramago starts with the prediction that drunken shoemaker Domingos Mau Tempo will end up dangling from a noose of his own making. His son Joao, too young to wield a mattock, is left at the mercy of the latifundio, the system of minimal land-ownership that has plagued Portugal for centuries. Even as it dangles promises of paradise to distract the workers on the feudal estates, the Church largely ignores them in its scramble to fawn upon the landowners. Saramago does not use dates for the events of his novel, but veteran translator Costa provides footnotes that guide readers through the cataclysms of the past century. At length, Joao embraces the communist ideas that begin to percolate through his world, and on a new-risen day, the workers agree to get into trailers and head for the Mantas estate, which they plan to occupy. VERDICT A rich story of serfdom and possible redemption told by a master storyteller. [See Prepub Alert, 6/3/12.]-Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Though Saramago wrote his first novel in 1947 at the age of 24, critics viewing his long career in retrospect have suggested that Raised from the Ground, first published in 1980, was the novel in which Saramago found the distinctive voice that would lead him to literary prominence. Coincidentally or not it is also said to be one of his most personal works. A multigenerational epic set in the vast farmlands of southern Portugal, this story portrays the hardscrabble lives of the Mau Tempo family, defined by never-ending toil set to the harsh rhythms of the agricultural calendar. The bleakness is apparently permanent; world wars and an attempted assassination of dictator Salazar cannot dispel it. Only with the coming of communism and with it the promise of equality and an eight-hour workday might change be possible. Saramago's poetic and political fans of the English-speaking world will unite in appreciation for this long-awaited translation. st1\:*behavior:url(#ieooui) --Driscoll, Brendan Copyright 2010 Booklist