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The Manual of Painting and Calligraphy

Jose Saramago

Translated by Giovanni Pontiero

Cover Picture of The Manual of Painting and Calligraphy
Categories: Portuguese
Imprint: Aspects of Portugal
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Translator
  • José Saramago, award-winning author of Baltasar and Blimunda, The Stone Raft and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, and incontestably the greatest Portuguese novelist since Eça de Queiros, began his career with an extraordinary little book which set the agenda for all that followed.
    The last years of Salazar's dictatorship provide a backdrop for The Manual of Painting and Calligraphy. The story is told by H, a second-rate artist commissioned by a wealthy client to paint a family portrait. As he works, he reflects on his struggleto survive in a bourgeois world obsessed with status and affluence. His portrait focuses animosity, his sitters are left uncomfortably exposed. The novel explores wider issues: the functions of art and literature; the critic's role; and, in H's tour of Italian galleries, a meditation on the influences shaping western culture. Back in Portugal, H is embroiled in political fear and mistrust when a friend is arrested by the secret police. He falls in love, too, and by the end of the story defines his objectives and achieves an inner freedom. This coincides with the Portuguese Revolution of 1974 and Salazar's overthrow.
    Giovanni Pontiero
    ... read more
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