“Baltasar and Blimunda” (“Memorial do Convento” in the original Portuguese version) is a book written by Portuguese José Saramago, that was published in 1982.
The story follows the construction of Mafra Palace and Convent, whose construction was ordered by the king D. João V in 1717, as a payment of a promise he made before his first daughter was born. The narrative is centered in three main characters, whose stories get crossed somehow along the way, namely Father Bartolomeu, who is originally from Brazil and has the dream of constructing a machine that is able to fly, to which he gave the name “Passarola”, Baltasar, a young ex-soldier, from a low class, who works as a constructor in the Palace, and Blimunda, a young woman with special powers, being the two last ones the romantic pair of the story.
Throughout the book, readers can have a very truthful and close insight on the society of the time, and of the sacrifices and effort needed to build such a monument as Mafra Palace and Convent. However, “Baltasar and Blimunda” is not only an historical romance, since the major part of the narrative and description of the construction of the Palace is always accompanied by the personal story of the main characters, and most of the times the facts related to the construction are told according to the characters’ perspective. The book encapsulates a very strong symbolic component, with several references along the story, and this characteristic helps to maintain the narrative up to date, even though it is about events that occurred in the 18th century.
In “Baltasar and Blimunda”, Saramago mixes the historical narrative with fiction and also a fantastic component, creating a book that is a social and political critique, but above all a reminder of the importance of dreams and love.
Considered by many the masterpiece of the author, “Baltasar and Blimunda” is currently translated into more than 20 languages, and the original Portuguese version is on its 50th edition.