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The Tale of The Unknow Island By JOSE SARAMAGO

UNKNOWN-ISLAND

"But what about the unknown island , asked the man at the ship’s wheel. The unknown island doesn’t exist, except as an idea in your head… Ever since the voyage to the unknown island began, we have not seen the man at the ship’s wheel eat, that must be because he is dreaming, just dreaming, and if in his dreams he fancies a bit of bread or an apple, it would be pure invention, nothing more . . ."-From The Tale of The Unknown Island

Man’s eternal quest for the unknown and self-discovery finds a very artistic and highly imaginative expression in Jose Saramago’s illuminating novella The Tale of the Unknown Island which starts with “A man went to knock at the king’s door and said, Give me a boat”. After lot of machinations the king appears hesitatingly, and is astonished when the man asks him for a both for going "in search of the unknown island". When the king speaks with authority that no more unknown islands exist, the man is equally sure that he can discover one, and finally he is granted his boat. The cleaning woman at the palace, after overhearing the conversation had decided that she would rather crew a boat and give herself the chance of discovering unknown islands than spend a lifetime in servitude. She therefore offers to join him in his adventure. When the man points out that she has no experience of sailing, she stoutly points out that neither has he. He therefore accepts her as the partner of of his strange journey.

With the arrival of night, both go to sleep, and the man begins to dream. He dreams of the caravel’s three lateen sails gloriously swell in the wind on the high seas. He dreams of animals wandering in the deck – ducks, rabbits, chickens, the usual domestic livestock. In the words of Saramago in The Tale of the Unknown island , “From the depths of the hold he could hear a chorus of neighing horses, lowing oxen, braying donkeys. . .and behind was something he had not noticed before, a group of women, who even without counting, must be as numerous as the sailors, are occupied in womanly tasks,. . .The man at the ship’s wheel looked for the cleaning woman, but couldn’t see her. . .that at the last moment, she chose not to come, that she jumped onto the quay, shouting, Good-bye, good-bye, since you have only eyes for the unknown island. . .At that moment the sky clouded over and it began to rain, and, having rained, innumerable plants began to sprout from the rows of sacks filled with earth lined up along the sides of of the ship. . .” Disgusted with the strange journey, the inmates of the ship force the man at the wheel to disembark them in one of the known islands falling on the way. “. . .and they immediately all trooped off, first the women, then the men, but they didn’t leave alone, they took the oxen, the donkeys and the horses, and even the seagulls, one after the other, flew off, leaving the boat behind, carrying their nestlings in their beaks, something never seen before, but there’s always a first time. The man at the ship’s wheel watched this exodus in silence, he did nothing to hold back those who were abandoning him, at least they had left him the trees, the wheat and the flowers, as well as the climbing plants that were twining round the masts and festooning the ship’s sides. . .It is a forest that sails and bobs upon the waves, a forest where, quite how no one knows, birds have begun to sing, they must have hidden somewhere and suddenly decided to emerge into the light, perhaps the wheat field is ripening and needs harvesting.”

“Then the man locked the ship’s wheel and went down to the field with a sickle in his hand, and when he had cut down the first few ears, he saw a shadow besides his shadow. He woke up with his arms about the cleaning woman, and her arms about him, their bodies and their bunks fused into one so that no one can tell any more if this is port or starboard. Then as soon as the sun had risen, the man and the woman went to paint in white letters on both sides of the prow the name that the caravel still lacked. Around midday, with the tide, The Unknown Island finally set to sea, in search of itself.” The tale of the Unknown Island comes to an end here, when the journey begins.

Although The Tale of the Unknown island is a slim novella, it is one of the rare kind of literature which constantly reminds mankind of its adventurous spirit and discovery of his own self by the master craftsman Jose Saramago, who started literary activity seriously at the age of 57 but rose to new heights when he produced his masterpiece Balthasar & Blimunda at the age of 66 . He was honoured with the coveted Nobel prize in Literature at the age of 76.
Published: 2008-02-09
Author: NARENDRA NARAYAN DASH

About the author or the publisher
READER, WRITER, TRANSLATOR HAVING A FLAIR FOR LITERATURE,PHOTOGRAPHY, FINE ARTS, DANCE, MUSIC AND OTHER CREATIVE ARTS. BELIEVES IN ENRICHING HUMANITY BY DISSEMINATION AND RECIPROCATION OF ART, LITERATURE & CULTURE OF DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES OF THE WORLD

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