Sadness & death

Posted on April 1, 2009


By Joe Phelan


Blank Gaze is the first novel by Portuguese writer Jose Luis Peixoto to be translated into English. This is a story of love, death, fatalism, triumph and defeat told through two generations. Giants, Siamese twins, the devil amongst others inhabit the nameless Portuguese village where this novel is set.

The heroes of the novel are the two Joses. Father and son. Both are shepherds. Both are caught in unfulfilled love affairs. Faults are repeated. Mistakes are remade. The circle seems endless.

Organised society in the form of religion has vanished and a base naturalism in the form of the devil rules. The sins of the father are literally passed onto the sons in a never ending circle of death of fatalism. And it is this fatalism from which the villagers and both unable or unwilling to escape.

With a preserved giants hand preserved as a relic in the villages abandoned church, a blind prostitute and a general store run by Judas you may be tempted to catalogue this in the literary category of magical realism. But this novel is much more than that. Here we are given the struggle of the villagers in the face of superior forces.

Despite the rather bleak nature of Blank Gaze the novel is strangely enough a remarkable novel filled with memorable characters.

Blank Gaze
Jose Luis Peixoto
Bloomsbury, 2008
256 Pages


Joe Phelan lives and works in Dublin. He has previously had film and book reviews as well as poetry published on Sigla Magazine. Short Stories have appeared in Write Away, a collection of poetry and prose from the Creative Writing Workshop of the People’s College 2007-8.

Posted in: Reading