A previously unpublished novel by a literary master, Skylight tells the intertwined stories of the residents of a faded apartment building in 1940s Lisbon.
Silvestre and Mariana, a happily married elderly couple, take in a young nomad, Abel, and soon discover their many differences. Adriana loves Beethoven more than any man, but her budding sexuality brings new feelings to the surface. Carmen left Galicia to marry humble Emilio, but hates Lisbon and longs for her first love, Manolo. Lidia used to work the streets, but now she’s kept by Paulo, a wealthy man with a wandering eye.
These are just some of the characters in this early work, completed by Saramago in 1953 but never published until now. With his characteristic compassion, depth, and wit, Saramago shows us the quiet contentment of a happy family and the infectious poison of an unhappy one. We see his characters’ most intimate moments as well as the casual encounters particular to neighbors living in close proximity. Skylight is a portrait of ordinary people, painted by a master of the quotidian, a great observer of the immense beauty and profound hardships of the modern world.
About the Author
JOSÉ SARAMAGO (1922–2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
MARGARET JULL COSTA has established herself as the premier translator of Portuguese literature into English today.
"The inklings of Saramago’s style swell throughout...Skylight shines in little moments that underscore the awful inanity of a common existence, the compromises we make to live together...[and] offers a rarer glimpse into the mind of a then-young writer, and even into the past itself." --New York Times Book Review
"The gifted young Saramago makes these characters click together in a way that's extremely sympathetic...It's unfortunate that early in his career the writer couldn't enjoy the praise this book now calls forth. This book, once lost, now found." --Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
“An astute, sensitive character study of the family…The prose is beautifully crafted; sentences beg to be savored and reread. In ‘Skylight’ readers will see the beginnings of Saramago’s experimental, avant-gardist style…Whether you read this novel as an exercise in literary archaeology of one of European literature's best contemporary writers, or as an introduction to the author, you will be gifted with a masterfully wrought contemplation — a skylight's ray of light — on some of the most pressing issues of life.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
is a masterwork of characterization, place and point of view…It was only a matter of time before a work of such extraordinary honesty and perception would make its way into the world." –San Francisco Chronicle
bears witness to a craftsman learning his trade, and the text gets better the further the reader advances through it...Having Skylight more than 60 years later is a gift, though, as it shows the master of his craft at a time he was just starting to realize his power as a writer." --Chicago Tribune
“Skylight is a fascinating and startlingly mature work, one that would merit publication even if its author had never written another book. The many hints of the styles and themes of his later novels add interest, but the book is a gem in its own right…Saramago’s talent for charting the darker territories of human nature is unsettling and profound. Dedicated Saramago readers will see many seeds of his later novels here.” –The Boston Globe
“A sketchbook for the superb work that Saramago would ultimately produce. But there is no shortage of wonders to be found in it. This master of human observation…clearly had a few literary faculties in place even as he was ratcheting bolts on cars.” –Washington Post
"Skylight, with its humanity boldly on display, deserves to reside amongst the late author's sincerest efforts. Saramago's gifts were myriad, and even in this, his second novel, it's easy to see why he would go on to become one of the world's most beloved and respected storytellers." --The Oregonian
"It is a work about the strictures of poverty and domesticity but also about momentary glimpses of beauty and fulfillment, and as such, it is immediately recognizable as Saramago, even though his political emphases, and his syntax, would evolve over the years. It will be bittersweet delight for Saramago fans, as this selection may well be his final published work." --Booklist
, starred review
"Saramago’s novel is a delightful creation of characters with universal appeal. Readers will want to explore his other works after reading this gem." –-Library Journal
, starred review
"The novel spins a series of frank, honest stories that strike deep. This translation offers fans the opportunity to read the pages that helped shape a master." –-Publishers Weekly
"Rarely has a novel with a publication delayed as long as this one's proven such a pleasure...an early sign of considerable promise and spirited storytelling." --Kirkus
"[Skylight] has become the Nobel laureate's posthumous gift, and it's a literary explosion of youthful talent...The opening chapter alone is a bravura performance...Skylight is an exuberant classic farce with a philosophical spin...It crackles with subtext, subtle set-ups and unexpected payoffs, turning narrative somersaults with ease...All the elements of Saramago's thought-provoking genius are here, and several of the story threads have profoundly satisfying endings as we watch these early Saramago characters struggle to be happy." --Shelf Awareness
"A must-read for Saramago lovers, with insights into his later themes and characters. And it’s a complete delight. Reading this energetic and wry portrait of the inhabitants of one Lisbon apartment building in the mid-20th Century, with their intrigues, secrets and fantasies, is like watching a classic black-and-white movie."--BBC Culture
is an artful depiction of the every day, and the unknown interiors of the people with whom we live...It’s fascinating to see the germ of his theories about love and how people should, above all, be decent to one another here in their earliest forms...Saramago fans can discover Skylight
like an entryway to the past." --Bustle
"Fluid and imaginative...[Skylight
] is a masterly creation: pessimistic without being bleak, lyrical without being sentimental...Brilliantly structured, the novel contains moments of extraordinary poignancy...[Saramago] shows humanity at its most anxious, its most vulnerable and most true." —The Independent
"Not only does [Skylight
] illuminate the slow development of a radically original artist, but it is an interesting novel in its own right...The explicit sexuality of the book (which may have kept it from being considered for publication in Salazar's Portugal in 1953) is remarkable now only because it is so compassionate...Moving from character to character, the loosely plotted story includes a good deal of mean-spirited evildoing, quite in the tradition of Balzac and the naturalists. It also includes dry humour, and at least one tranquil domestic scene revealed suddenly as almost visionary." —The Guardian
] is shot through with more than enough flashes of brilliance to justify it seeing the light of day." —The National