Reviews - What do customers think about La Caverna (Saramago, Jose. Works.)?
Plato's Cavern Myth meets Brave New World Oct 8, 2004
Saramago at his best! As most of what I have read from Saramago, this book is superbly written. One would never imagine that a novel written in a sort of "stream of consciousness" form, would be plesant and absorbing.
The plot and characters are absolutely universal. The story could have taken place anywhere in the world, in the not so distant future, where man is living the desolate life he created for himself.
Freedon is restricted, dreams are non-existent, and everything is colored in different shades of gray.
Even though at first this may seem like a very sad book, it does have its silver lining: we still have a chance to make the world whatever we want it to be.
Finally, a comment about the main character, Cipriano Algor: Suffice it to say he generates a very strong passion....
Not Saramago's Best Nov 27, 2001
I had the honor of meeting José Saramago at a book-signing in Lisbon's Chiado district shortly after he won the Nobel Prize in 1998. At the time, I wondered if receiving the prize would cause my favorite novelist to sit back and write nothing worthy of note, or nothing at all.
Fortunately, "The Cavern" bears the earmarks of earnestness, diligence, and love of the Portuguese language that characterize Saramago's earlier works. But as a novel it's disappointing. The characters are ordinary and there's not much of a plot.
The central theme of "The Cavern" is that a giant, impersonal, and arrogantly managed shopping center, the Centro, is spreading like an oil slick and sucking the commercial life out of the region. The main character, Cipriano Algor, an artisan potter living in a rural hamlet and eking out a living selling dishes to the Centro, is one of the shopping complex's victims. The Centro treats its suppliers ruthlessly: work with us according to the one-sided terms we impose or we'll dispense with you; and we'll dispense with you anyway when you're no longer useful to us. And the Centro no longer wants to sell Algor's stoneware; its customers prefer plastic tableware that's cheaper and less breakable.
Thus, much of the novel consists of the petty indignities the Centro visits on the desperate and humiliated Algor, a situation complicated by the fact that Marçal Gacho, Algor's live-in son-in-law, is a security guard for the Centro and wants to move there with his wife Marta.
There's a plot there, but it's thin, and it's stifled by overlong narratives, asides, and commentaries that dominate the novel. "The Cavern" is like an opera with much singing and little action. Indeed, few events disturb the novel's languor until the final 35 or so pages of the 350-page-long Portuguese version. And there's little that's compelling about Cipriano Algor, Marçal Gacho, Marta, or the family dog, Achado. They're all nice and all without depth. (And incongruously for such uneducated folk, they often speak the king's Portuguese.) Algor is a stiff, diffident and lonely widower whose inability to act on his interest in Isaura, the widow across town, exasperates the reader. Saramago relies heavily on the family dog for character development (a danger sign), extolling Achado's virtues. But in the end, Achado's ordinary canine behavior fails to inspire interest in itself or to illuminate its owners' personalities.
Moreover, some of Saramago's commentaries are trite and cranky; they lack the acuity of the sketches of human behavior and travails that enliven other Saramago novels. Algor, his family, and his dog are portrayed as the salt of the earth, rather like the Joads in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." The conflict between Algor and the arrogant Centro is an allegory for Saramago's dislike of globalization and the liberalization of the world economy--a dislike he made clear in 1998, when he argued, "Injustices multiply, inequalities become worse, ignorance grows, misery spreads. The same schizophrenic humanity able to send instruments to [Mars] to study the composition of its rocks witnesses indifferently the deaths of millions from hunger. . . . Governments fail to do [their duty], because they don't know how to, because they can't, or because they don't want to. Or because those who effectively govern the world don't let them: the multinational and intercontinental corporations whose power, absolutely undemocratic, has reduced almost to nothing what once remained of the ideal of democracy."
In sum, Saramago stands with the protestors of Seattle, Quebec City, and Genoa. His worldview may stem from the degrading poverty and oppression his grandparents experienced in rural Portugal (see his Nobel Prize acceptance speech). Yet if "The Cavern" were less rigid, it would acknowledge that the same liberalization that creates the Centro should permit Algor (with the help of a government economic-development agency) to leave behind the Centro's nouveau-riche customers and haughty management for the armies of foreign tourists who want to buy handmade Portuguese stoneware, or to sell his goods over the Internet to collectors in Montreal, Adelaide, and Sapporo. Algor is simply trying to sell in the wrong place, and it's not the Centro's fault if it rebuffs him, though it may point to flaws in the Centro's marketing strategy. (On the last point: Saramago's portrayal of the Centro is unrealistic. He presents it as omnipotent and destined to be unbound by time. But the Centro's rigidity and pomposity would appear to consign it to the impermanence of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias, fated to become "the decay / Of that colossal wreck . . ." "[h]alf sunk" amid "[t]he lone and level sands . . . ."
It's worth noting that Portugal, like Ireland, has been a European economic success story. According to a Portuguese government report, "Between 1986 and 2000 the Portuguese economy grew by 3.6% per annum, compared with 2.5% for the EU [European Union]. . . . Real GDP growth averaged 5.0% per annum in 1986-90, compared with 3.3% for the EU as a whole, and was the highest in the EU and second highest in the OECD during that period. Growth slowed to 1.7% during 1991-95 in response to a deteriorating European business cycle, but still exceeded the EU average of 1.5%. Portugal pulled ahead in subsequent years, and growth of 3.4% in 1996-2000 was above the EU average of 2.6%." Accompanying that growth, new shopping centers like Lisbon's Amoreiras and Columbo malls have emerged. They have been very popular, and have coincided with a decline in some traditional business districts. Yet Portugal hardly seems economically, socially or culturally the worse for these changes, Saramago's lament notwithstanding. The country was markedly better off in those respects in 1998 than it was when I first visited it in 1992.
My recommendation: if you're a Saramago fan, you may enjoy "The Cavern." But if you're new to him, start by reading one of his better novels, like "The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis," "Blindness," or "All the Names."
La Caverna is brilliant Nov 27, 2001
Do you ever feel like the world around you, the concrete and steel world, has wrapped you in its austere façade? Do you ever feel like the beauty of individuality is hidden in a world that cares not for the human spirit but for the technological advancement of society? Do you ever feel like you would love to embrace your talent for art and carry out the tasks that enhance your reason for existence, but you find that your job at the big corporation consumes all your time and energy? Do you ever feel threatening fear that your abilities may become obsolete and that society may dispose of you at any moment? Saramago's Characters in La Caverna feel like this when they find out that the corporation that buys their ceramic pottery and sells it to the public, will no longer purchase their obsolete products. The book's captivating flow of occurrences unleashes a series of thoughts in the characters' minds as to existence and the due respect for love and life in general. Great book. Once you start reading it, you will not put it down until it is finished.
retrato de un mundo globalizado Nov 13, 2001
La Caverna José Saramago
Carta del nieto de Cipriano Algor encontrada en la sala de su casa y dirigida a sus padres.
Un día desperté a la luz de las estrellas, me encontré perdido en un mar de gente que pasaba a mi lado, todos con la vista puesta en algo. Y así, caminante errante, partí sin rumbo en busca de una salida. Pero salida hacia donde? No estaba dentro de la vida misma. Como era posible escapar a la vida, vivir otra existencia fuera de la mía, de vagabundo errante por el mundo. Vi que podía ver cosas que los demás no podían, pero el mundo era tan inmenso que me costaba trabajo creer que la única persona que pudiese ver las cosas tal y como son, o tal y como yo creía que eran era yo. Por eso era un inadaptado, un paria dentro del grupo social en el cual vivía, un loco u n alienado, un tonto, un holgazán. Me pasaba los días tratando de encontrar una salida mientras los demás se pasaban la vida disfrutando, absortos en la visión de lo que ellos creían que era la felicidad extrema, la dicha, la pasión, el amor. Pero yo sabia que había algo mas allá de las cosas y tenia que averiguarlo. Por fin con paciencia e ingenio logre encontrar en uno de los pisos altos de la edificación una grieta que me condujo al mundo externo. Mi impresión fue tal que no pude dejar de lanzar un grito de libertad. Durante tanto tiempo había vivido encerrado en ese centro que era el mundo, con sus colegios, iglesias, tiendas, con su aire acondicionado y sin mas luz que aquella artificial que iluminaba como un eterno sol y que cuando era niño había confundido con lo que mis padres habían llamado estrellas. Pero ahora era libre. Decidí dejar el centro y nunca mas volver, iría por la carretera en busca de mi abuelo Cipriano, quien según la leyenda había dejado el centro en sus inicios y se había ido a vivir lejos, como en otro mundo, un mundo donde el sol no estaba solo en los libros de historia; donde el agua corría libremente en ríos; donde las estrellas brillaban verdaderas en la noche; y donde la vida, a pesar de ser mas rustica, era mas vida, más humana, sin mecanizaciones de ningún tipo. Por fin después de tanto tiempo, era libre.
Esta situación orwelliana que se describe en la novela de Saramago, es el desplazamiento del hombre por sus maquinas. Como el centro comercial deja de ser una estructura al servicio del hombre para pasar a ser una estructura con hombres a su servicio. El pequeño negocio de Cipriano Algor es dejado a un lado y este debe tomar la difícil situación de irse a mudar en el centro, donde todo es artificial, irreal y risible, pues de lo sublime a lo ridículo solo hay un paso. La novela esta escrita de forma compacta, con todos los párrafos representando sin divisiones, pensamientos, comentarios, diálogos y demás, en lo que para quien no ha leído a Saramago antes es un poco confuso su estilo, pero es la mejor manera de escribir, pues no pierde su fuerza narrativa, deteniéndose a poner excesivos signos de puntuación. En ese sentido comparto con él la manía de escribir oraciones kilométricas a pesar de lo que dicen, que, después de ciertos párrafos, las ideas se confunden y la oración no se hace clara. Escribir para mí es un desafío diario y creo que los lectores deben ser desafiados a seguir las pautas del escritor. La novela merece la pena y bien vale el esfuerzo de sus 454 paginas.
EXCELENTE Nov 2, 2001
Excelente relato! Saramago nos ilustra de manera que despertemos a la realidad.Que tenemos la capacidad de ver luz aun estando entre las sombras,como podemos seguir siendo lo que somos con el solo hecho de ver,analizar y no dejarnos deslumbrar.Es una critica a la llamada vida actual,de las grandes empresas y su virtual retorno a la esclavitud del cuerpo y el espiritu.