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Union make him a Communist spy. His father's arrest turns a childish fantasy into something "palpable." The story's annotations about the life of Communist spy Richard Sorge sometimes take up more space on the page than the narrative itself. AU of the stories are linked, with characters and events from one story interwoven into the next. Hemon quietly leads the reader through a chaotic world full of despair, yet tinged with hope and humor. The fluidity of Hemon's English, which he learned in the past five years while he was already writing, brings life and meaning to objects and situations both familiar and alien. The narrator in "Islands" wakes up in a strange bed unsure of where he is and says, "I got up, out of my nonbeing, and stepped into the inchoate day." English-speaking readers will find themselves going to the dictionary for definitions of the English words Hemon uses, only to find that they are perfect choices, words that a native writer would never think of using. The result is language refreshingly free from cliché. Hemon's stories are beautiful in their foreignness and heartbreaking in their familiarity. The struggle between life and death is depicted as a personal one, and the epic sweep of war becomes a situation of everyday life. Hemon takes his American readers to new places both in narrative and in language. (KB) All the Names by José Saramago Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret JuIl Costa Harcourt, 1999, 238 pp., $24 From its always playful prose to its piercing insights into life, death and the region between, José Saramago's sixth novel is a remarkable work of fiction. With All the Names, Saramago, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for literature, should further solidify his position as one of the great living international writers. Saramago's protagonist is Senhor José, a lonely clerk employed in the Central Registry, a vast catalogue of the living and the dead. Saramago sets much of the novel in this government -run records institution founded on shortsighted procedures. The Registry is an object of Saramago's satire— as well as a source of conflict that threatens Senhor José's emerging individuality as he searches for a mysterious woman. Throughout his narration of the clerk's quest, Saramago remains faithful to the convoluted thought patterns of Senhor José. At the same time he introduces the reader to a slew of colorful characters , from José's cryptic big-brother boss to hypocritical, spying lackeys. The novel opens with Senhor José engaged in his lowly routine: making banal ink entries of deaths and births, hardly interacting with coworkers. It is a reclusive, private life, and Senhor José displays a fearful adherence to regulation. He resides in a home adjoining the Central Registry, and it is through this proximity that Senhor José is able to carry out his one unique hobby, obsessively collecting famous people's profiles, a feat he manages by illicitly entering the Central Registry after hours to collect information. During one of these forbidden visits, Senhor José accidentally stumbles upon an unknown woman's 178 · The Missouri Review information. This chance event propels Senhor José into an epic and rationally inexplicable journey to find a woman whom he knows only by a name, a birth date and a former residence. In Saramago's deft rendering , the hunt becomes everything. Throughout the suspenseful search, Senhor José must be constantly wary of loose-lipped interviewees and the omniscient Registrar's watchful presence . All the Names is one part vivid realism , one part parable, one part mystery novel and altogether a deeply thoughtful work of literature. Saramago's inspired depiction of the clerk's mind is full of false starts, wild asides and surreal self-reflection. Senhor José grapples with a mix of chance and newfound free will in his search for identity (both his and the woman's), and this theme speaks to Saramago's great sympathy for the extraordinary hidden in the anonymous . Late in the novel a character notes, "I don't believe one can show greater respect than to weep for a stranger." Ultimately, Saramago illustrates this and other striking sentiments while exploring pervasive...


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pp. 178-179
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