A novel written by the Nobel prize winner (in 1998) José Saramago. The plot is set in the first half of the 18th century, in Portugal, during the years in which the palace of the Convent of Mafra was built (hence the title). The main characters are Baltasar, a former soldier, and Blimunda, a joung woman whose mother has been sent in Angola by the Santo Uffizio.

I won't describe how the story develops, from the meeting of Baltasar and Blimunda in Lisbona during her mother's (and lot of other people) public trial, till the end. Just read it, it's amazing.

I think I love it for two reasons:

  • everywhere in the novel, you can feel yourself deeply in the 18th century Portugal. As far as I know, Saramago spent a lot of time examining the historical documents, and that's pretty clear when you run into endless lists of persons, places, churches, imported goods and so on;
  • nearly each page I read, I was thanking god (given his existence) for being able to read it. Plainly: it's a good instance of how can be beatiful a sets of words put together by an artist. In his pages, the words are not only a tool for communicate a message: the interactions between them are no less important, delivering pure artistic beauty . Well, what I'm trying to say is probably that it's an highly poetic work...
By the way, short excerpts from the book can be found in the Nobel e-museum, following the link http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/1998/saramago-prose-e.html.