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The stone raft – José Saramago

The stone raft is a novel written by renowned author José Saramago, which was published in 1986. It tells about how the Iberian Peninsula was geographically separated from the rest of the European continent. It has been translated into more than twenty languages and has also been adapted for cinema.


Summary and Synopsis

It is considered an allegorical novel or a long-term summary, La balsa de piedra, tells us what could happen if it were possible for the Iberian Peninsula to separate from the rest of the European continent and become a floating island in the ocean.

These incredible events are narrated by a handful of the most common and ordinary characters whose lives have been awakened by mystery: Pedro Orce is the only one who has been able to detect that the earth is shaking; Joaquim Sassa acquired in a moment a supernatural force; Joana Carda engraves a line on the ground that cannot be erased; José Anaico is always surrounded by a large flock of birds … And they all have to travel together as they are convinced that they are the ones chosen to solve the floating peninsula, however, they have no idea how they will do it.

The novel contains an epigraph of the excellent Cuban writer, Alejo Carpentier, but with the content of the novel, Saramago manages to deeply understand the coincidences of this story with the indigenous and wonderful aspects of Latin America. Not only for the fantastic of the facts that are spoken, but also for the use of a rather ornate and baroque narration, full of subordinate sentences and many explanatory and descriptive elements. Almost on a conference basis.

Our narrator constantly questions himself in the speech, which also adds a certain thoughtful touch, and constantly corrects himself. This approach to meta-literature and to Latin American culture are central elements since this novel was written thanks to the debates on whether they should integrate the European Economic Community of both Portugal and Spain.
The author describes this novel as “profoundly Iberian relative to Portugal and to the group of Spanish peoples who share a common culture, a culture that is not strictly European.” Following history, the peninsula detaches itself from Europe, moving away until it reaches the middle of the Atlantic, then changing course towards the south, where it varies somewhere between South America and Africa, quite close to the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies.

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Despite the great controversy that the subject entails, the author never neglects its literary quality. He retains, as in all his previous works, his neat and even musical style: the great use of adjectives and difficult to distinguish dialogues and his great skill in handling narrative techniques. To narrate the story, he uses a very fine humor, quite ironic, his interest in people with limited resources, the assailants, and as always, his reflection on topics such as love, death and destiny, especially the latter and using destiny. as an instrument of deep learning. And this is what ends up prevailing in the floating story.

There is no easy, magical and simple solution to the problems in this novel, and the protagonists’ pilgrimage journey finally ends when the relationships and connections between them, whether it be love, or a relationship, or rancor or competition, come to an inflexible point between them, making it impossible to continue. The collective and the personal are combined in a strange ending to the book: “The peninsula stopped, travelers will rest here this day … Men and women will continue on their way, what future, what time, what destination.”

Genre: Fiction novel

sumary The stone raftSaramago has always been an excellent novelist and well-known, especially for the subtle way in which he seeks to get the reader to reflect on the social problems of the moment through his stories. In this novel, fiction opens the way for a very remote possibility, such as the detachment of a part of the continent.

However, through a very particular and peculiar style, it shows us how a society is organized to try to live in this floating environment. He uses the voices of the narrative interchangeably with the dialogues, adding an extra difficulty to the reader almost intentionally, as if inviting him to reflect more on the topic at hand.

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As we already mentioned, Pedro Orce is the only one who has been able to detect that the earth trembles; Joaquim Sassa acquired in a moment a supernatural force; Joana Carda engraves a line on the ground that cannot be erased; José Anaico is always surrounded by a large flock of birds. And in these five main characters these characters are developed, all very delimited and psychologically deepened.

What they have the most in common is the journey, where they find themselves on a kind of spiritual journey, where they detach themselves, both metaphorically and physically, from their experiences and beliefs, and also drift, seeking an explanation and a solution to the problem. of the peninsula, since, somehow, they feel at some point responsible for what has happened. They make a kind of journey within a journey, since as the peninsula travels, they also travel within the peninsula and within themselves.


When we are presented with the perspective of a world in full change, or rather, in full detachment, it gives us the idea of a very big tear, and this metaphor of the tear, makes us realize that not including the peninsula is it causes an emotional tear in the psyches of the people who lived in the middle of that debate.

This very well-constructed novel can also be interpreted as a more deeply human metaphor: since all of Europe must move to the same place, and the peninsula, despite traveling in the same way, drags in its wake the problems that are supposed to have left behind. What it wants to give us to reflect on is how we exclude each other and the relative aspects of our morals and ethics.