Marvin's Reviews > All the Names

All the Names by José Saramago
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Aug 10, 09

Read in September, 2003

One of the strangest books I've ever read (including Tom Robbins's). A clerk works in the Central Registry (the equivalent of our Vital Records office where births, deaths, & marriages are recorded) & lives alone in an apartment attached to the building. The stream-of-consciousness writing effectively conveys the anomie experienced by this isolated individual working in a highly bureaucratic setting. In his off hours, he collects clippings related to famous people, then decides one day to sneak back into the Registry after hours to collect their official records. One day he accidentally picks up & takes back to his apartment the record for an "unknown woman." The rest of the book is devoted to his odd search for additional information about her--an attempt to make a personal connection with this anonymous record. It's the kind of writing that wins prizes because it illuminates everyday lives & circumstances by portraying them in such stark relief--which is to say more stereotypically than realistically.
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