Jose Saramago's book, "All the Names"

Essay by LL94588University, Bachelor'sA+, February 2006

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Jose Saramago's book, "All the Names", is a story about a low-level file clerk who becomes obsessed with a woman he knows only from an index card. Senhor Jose is a low-level clerk who leads us on an exploration not only of his loneliness but of his quest for an unknown woman, and along the way, just as many of us often do Senhor Jose questions in varying degrees importance, courage, and near the end - death.

The names, as referred to in the title of Jose Saramago's book, are those of every man, woman, and child ever born, married, or buried in the unnamed city where the Central Registry is located. Over the centuries, the paper trail grew so monumental and so disorganized that one poor researcher became lost in the labyrinthine catacombs of the archive of the dead, having come to the Central Registry in order to carry out some genealogical research he had been commissioned to undertake.

He was discovered, almost miraculously, after a week, starving, thirsty, exhausted, and delirious, having survived thanks to the desperate measure of ingesting enormous quantities of old documents that melted in the mouth without any chewing.

The filing system in the Central Registry is such that the records of the dead are stored closest to the clerks and are, therefore, more accessible, while those of the living are stored farthest away. The papers relating to the dead, with death certificates clipped to their files, are thrown into the farthest sections of the stacks. The distribution of the tasks among the employees is simple and the clerks are obligated to work long hours doing repetitive tasks.

The archive hall is absent of windows or any sort of holes for the best conservation of its contents. A balance between...