jeremy's Reviews > Jerusalem

Jerusalem by Gonçalo M. Tavares
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Jun 20, 09

bookshelves: translation, fiction
Read in June, 2009

gonçalo tavares may very well be, in the coming months and years, the world's hottest literary sensation. born in 1970, the portuguese writer published his first book in 2002, and has since gone on to write well over a dozen more. his works have already been translated into nearly twenty-five languages and he is quickly amassing quite the collection of literary awards. as well, he has drawn high praise from a diverse array of prominent authors, including josé saramago and enrique vila-matas.

jerusalem is the first of his books to appear in english translation within the united states (some of his books can be found in english, but as yet have only been published in india). winner of the prestigious portugal telecom prize (2007) and the josé saramago prize (2005), jerusalem is a magnificent and powerful work of fiction. slim in length, yet resounding in effect, jerusalem explores the interplay of a half dozen lives touched by violence, madness, duty, control, self-criticism, and doubt. the character's lives intersect unexpectedly, lending the narrative the necessary thrust to allow the reader to consider the repercussions of history and human nature on the individual. with commanding prose and a thrilling plot, jerusalem is an important work, and, perhaps, an early effort from a literary master in the making.

during the ceremony bestowing the award that bears his name, saramago said, "jerusalem is a great book, and truly deserves a place among the great works of western literature. gonçalo m. tavares has no right to be writing so well at the age of 35. one feels like punching him."

other works by tavares have been highly lauded, and will presumably (and hopefully) find their way into english translation soon. amongst these are the other three books of his "kingdom" series (which includes jerusalem): um homem: klaus klump (klaus klump: a man), a máquina de joseph walser (joseph walser's machine), and aprender a rezar na era da técnica (learning to pray in the age of technology). his "neighborhood" series has also garnered considerable acclaim: o senhor valéry, o senhor henri, o senhor brecht, o senhor juarroz, o senhor calvino, o senhor kraus, o senhor walser, o senhor eliot, o senhor breton, o senhor swedenborg, and o senhor salinger. the "neighborhood" series is apparently comprised of short stories related to and inspired by the author named in the book's title. if all that were not enough, tavares has also written poetry and drama.

gonçalo tavares, arguably the most prolific writer in recent memory, is poised for great things. no living writer has enjoyed so quick an ascendancy, and it appears his imagination and talent are limitless. saramago has said "...there is very much a before gonçalo m. tavares and an after... i've predicted that in thirty years' time, if not before, he will win the nobel prize and i'm sure my prediction will come true. my only regret is that i won't be there to give him a congratulatory hug."
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