All the Names, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Among the file-cards for the living and the dead, one - of an apparently ordinary woman - will transform his life.

By day Senhor Jose labours in the labyrinthine stacks of the city's central registry.

By night he ferrets for facts about the famous, compiling his own archive of births, deaths and marriages.

One day he chances upon an index card of an ordinary woman whose details hold as much fascination for him as any celebrity's.

Striking forth from the regimentation of his daily life, Jose starts to track the woman down, obsessively following a thread of clues in a bid to rescue her from an oblivion deeper than the grave.


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Review by

An unknown clerk traces an unknown woman through the byzantine cities of the living and the dead. Saramago's genius lies in the subtlety of this story about the human struggle between order and chaos. His voice is like a soft-spoken Kafka. Every page contains a stunning line, an insight and a surprise.

Review by

I had to reread this recently and realised that in the urgency with which I devoured Saramago's books one after another after first discovering this author, like a glutton who has stumbled on feast, I had not stopped to savour its exquisite touches of sensitivity. The book is an extensive and highly complex allegory of modernity, reminding us how close we are to the past in all its archaic forms. It would be loved by those who are allow themselves to be enchanted by magical realism, but could equally be enjoyed by readers of good sci-fi, or by those who, like me, love to wander in overgrown cemetries, or those who delve avidly amongst the social dust of registry office records.