- The Stone Raft by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero
Harvill, 263 pp, £15.99, November 1994, ISBN 0 00 271321 7
We all know what a Euro-novel is. It’s clever and shallow, full of allusions to fashionable figures, and elaborately interested in its own making. The home product, by contrast, is solid and deep, staunchly unaware that there are any other cultural products in the world, and firmly convinced that the art which conceals art is the next best thing to having no art at all. On my left, Umberto Eco; on my right ... there are too many contenders, I can’t make out any individual faces in the crowd. I’m not suggesting there are no British Europeans, or that all Continental Europeans write Euro-novels; or that there aren’t solid and unfashionable novels which are distinctly shallow as well. But what if behind this caricature of a comparison there were genuine literary differences? What if there is a European habit or tradition, and our suspicion of it is chiefly a failure to recognise it for what it is?