Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago

By Jose Saramago

From the recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, a “brilliant...enchanting novel” (New York occasions booklet evaluation) of romance, deceit, faith, and magic set in eighteenth-century Portugal on the peak of the Inquisition. nationwide bestseller. Translated by means of Giovanni Pontiero.

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Sample text

Reassured that the pledge requested of him was worthy, Dom João, the fifth monarch by that name, raised his voice so that all present might hear him speak, and so that what he had to say would be reported throughout the city and the realm the following day, I promise, by my royal word, that I shall build a Franciscan convent in the town of Mafra if the Queen gives me an heir within a year from this day, and everyone present rejoined, May God heed Your Majesty, although no one knew who or what was to be put to the test, Almighty God Himself, the virtue of Friar Antony, the King's potency, or the Queen's questionable fertility.

Meanwhile, Dona Maria Ana is conversing with her Portuguese chief lady-in-waiting, the Marchioness de Unhão. They have already discussed the religious devotions of the day, their visit to the convent of the discalced Carmelites of the Immaculate Conception at Cardais, and the novena of St Francis Xavier, which is due to start tomorrow in the parish of St Roch, the conversation one might expect between a queen and a woman of noble birth, exclamatory and at the same time fearful, as they invoke the names of saints and martyrs, their tones becoming poignant whenever the conversation touches on the trials and sufferings of holy men and women, even if these simply consisted in mortifying the flesh by means of fasting and wearing hairshirts.

It was already spring by the time he had paid off the final instalment he owed the saddler and collected the iron hook, as well as a spike he had ordered, because Baltasar Sete-Sóis fancied the idea of having an alternative left hand. Crafted leather fittings were skilfully attached to the tempered irons, and there were two straps of different lengths to attach the implements to the elbow and shoulder for greater support. Sete-Sóis began his journey when it was rumoured that the garrison at Beira was to remain there instead of coming to the assistance of the troops in Alentejo, where there was an even greater shortage of food than in the other provinces.

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