Jose Saramago · reading

A web of books

Triggered by Saramago’s A Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis I thought about the particular way texts build connections between themselves through character, book title, and author references. I wondered how large a web of books could be made if one was to take this novel as a starting point…

Saramago gives, if I noted well, twenty-six names. Many of them are great Portuguese writers: Pessoa and his main heteronyms, Camoes, Chiado, Almada Negreiros, Pinheiro Chagas, Eca de Queiros… then, there are Spanish authors: Cervantes, Calderon de la Barca, Unamuno, Valle-Inclan… British: Moliere, Byron, Kipling, Churchill… philosophers: Cicero, Spinoza, Leonardo Coimbra…He mentions The Divine Comedy… than a number of well-known literary characters: Achilles, Don Juan, Hamlet, Werther and D’Artagnan (this one, of course, a historical figure transformed into a literary character by Courtilz de Sandras and Alexandre Dumas respectively).. a reference to Roman mythology (Parcae), The Bible.. and, to me, the most interesting one – a book Ricardo Reis is reading (in nine months time he never managed to finish it and took it to his grave), The God of the Labyrinth by Herbert Quain; a book we can only read about since it is fictional, imaginary. Quain, too, is a fiction. Jorge Luis Borges writes about him and his works in a short essay An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain which can be found in Ficciones. Four pages long, it references to no less than seventeen names and titles! thus making a great second-circle point explosion… I cannot escape the feeling that one can get to every writer in the world reading Borges. He is like an encyclopedia. 

I wonder what would the chart look like if I was to read all the authors named and enter the data… It would resemble an order on the verge of a chaos, probably.

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2 thoughts on “A web of books

  1. This is an awesome post, I got to Borges from Eco’s The Name of the Rose although I am sure one of my friends also name checked him as well. Either way, I can imagine an almost mushroom cloud effect from your reading patterns, or perhaps like stones rippling out in a pond for a more gentle way of putting it.

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