Ill-Starred Dogs.


According to ancient legend, Europe was a princess who fell under the spell of the God Zeus who disguised himself as a bull. Their coupling created the minotaur, and this fearsome and mighty creature is a central part of the European story. Modern European civilisation derives meaning from the myth and legend of Ancient Greece and Rome. It imbues European sensibility and culture, it helps us to understand our unique history and place in the wider world.


Jose Saramago was a Portuguese writer who lived and worked through a tempestuous period in his country`s history. He was fiercely critical of the country and was forced to live his latter years in exile in Lanzarote after his work was banned by the authorities. Saramago recalled the dark days of the fascist dictator Salazar, and the brutal regime that was perpetuated in his name.


Portuguese people are still scarred by his legacy and this is an inherent part of the culture. The music of Portugal-Fado, means “fate”. Fate derives from an ancient Greek legend that goddesses assign the destinies of mortals as soon as they are born. Fado songs are long, melancholic reflections upon human experience. Saramago`s 1986 novel “The Stone Raft” is written in the style of a Fado song, long and ponderous sentences are constructed without punctuation to enhance the effect.


It is a book that introduces philosophical themes in an artistic and imaginative way. The initial premise of the book is fantastical-a lone dog barks by an elm tree and causes the Iberian land mass to break away and float out into the sea. However the purpose of the book is to highlight how much fate controls our mortal lives. Saramago did not espouse any overt political belief, even though some critics attribute left-wing ideology to his writing. His fundamental philosophy was humanist, he had a tremendous insight into the collective experience of humans but infused with a distinctive Portuguese voice.