The lizard, p.1
The Lizard, page 1
Text and illustrations © 2016 the Estate of José Saramago and the Fundação José Saramago
Translation © 2019 Nick Caistor and Lucia Caistor
© Alejandro Garcia Schnetzer
Woodcuts © J. Borges
Design © Silvadesigners
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
NAMES: Saramago, José, author. | Borges, J. (José), 1935– illustrator.
Caistor, Nick, translator. | Caistor, Lucia, translator.
TITLE: The lizard / José Saramago; woodcuts, J. Borges; translation, Nick Caistor & Lucia Caistor.
DESCRIPTION: First edition. | New York, NY : Seven Stories Press, 
Audience: Ages 8–12 | Audience: Grades 2-3 |
SUMMARY: “When a lizard appears in the neighborhood of Chiado, in Lisbon, it surprises passers-by, and mobilizes firefighters and the army”—Provided by publisher.
IDENTIFIERS: LCCN 2019023788 (print) | LCCN 2019023789 (ebook)
ISBN 9781609809331 (hardcover) | ISBN 9781609809348 (ebk)
SUBJECTS: CYAC: Lizards—Fiction. | Fear—Fiction.
Lisbon (Portugal)—Fiction. | Portugal—Fiction.
CLASSIFICATION: LCC PZ7.1.S2644 Liz 2019 (print)
LCC PZ7.1.S2644 (ebook) | DDC [E]—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019023788
LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019023789
Ebook ISBN 9781609809348
Book design by Stewart Cauley and Abigail Miller
About the Author, Illustrator, and Translators
This is a fairy tale.
Not that any fairies appear in it (nor did I say they did), but in what other kind of story would a lizard appear in Chiado?
Yes, one day a lizard appeared in Chiado. A big, green lizard, its eyes like black glass, its writhing body covered in scales, with a long, wavy tail and quick feet.
It stood there in the middle of the street, its mouth half-open, flicking its forked tongue, while the fine, white skin of its throat beat rhythmically.
It was a superb creature. Raised up on its back legs, as if to skitter off at any moment, it confronted passersby and automobiles. Fear all around. People and cars, everything came to a halt. Onlookers stood and watched from a distance. Some of the more nervous among them fled down side streets, pretending to themselves, in order not to admit their cowardice, that fatigue produces hallucinations, or so the doctor says.
Of course, the situation was untenable. A lizard standing there, a pallid crowd on the sidewalks, automobiles abandoned in neutral
—and suddenly an old woman shouting.
That was the last straw.
In the blink of an eye, the street was deserted.
The shopkeepers pulled down their shutters, a little girl selling violets (they were in season) dropped her basket and the flowers rolled over the ground, making a perfect ring around the lizard, like a perfumed garland.
The animal didn’t move.
It slowly swished its tail and raised its triangular head, sniffing.
Somebody must have raised the alarm.
There was the sound of whistles; both ends of the street were blocked off.
At one end, firemen with all their equipment; at the other, soldiers fully outfitted.
Some said the lizard was poisonous, others that its scales were bulletproof.
The old woman was still shrieking, though no one knew where she was.
Panic filled the air.
A squadron of planes flew through the sky, observing, and down by Rossio could be heard the typical rumble of armored cars. The lizard took a few steps, breaking through the garland of violets.
The old woman was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
This tale is almost at an end. We’ve reached the precise moment when the fairies intervene, although only indirectly. With all available forces assembled, the order was given to advance.
Fire hoses on one side, bayonets on the other,
And the thunder of the armored cars climbing the hill
—the all-out attack began.
From their windows, people gave advice and opinions from a safe distance. All against the lizard.
Suddenly the lizard (thanks to the fairies, don’t forget) was transformed into a crimson rose, the color of blood, spread out on the black asphalt like a wound in the city.
Apprehensive, the attackers hesitated.
The rose grew, opened its petals, blossomed, perfumed the grimy house fronts.
In the hospital, the old lady asked: What happened?
Then the rose spun round, turned white, its petals became feathers and wings—and a dove took flight into the blue sky.
A story like this can only end in verse:
Silently, many remember,
In the prose of their houses,
The lizard that was a rose
The white rose with wings.
You don’t believe me?
As I was saying:
fairies aren’t what they used to be.
JOSÉ DE SOUSA SARAMAGO (1922–2010) was a Portuguese writer and recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature. His works, some of which can be seen as allegories, commonly present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the theopoetic human factor. More than two million copies of Saramago’s books have been sold in Portugal alone and his work has been translated into twenty-five languages. He was a founding member of the National Front for the Defense of Culture in Lisbon in 1992, and co-founder with Orhan Pamuk of the European Writers’ Parliament (EWP).
J. BORGES is one of the greatest popular artists of Brazil, and a key figure in the tradition of string (loose sheets with texts and images that tell stories). In 1964 he published his first work in the genre: O encontro de dois vaqueiros no Sertão de Petronila, which would be followed by over two hundred more. His work has been the subject of exhibitions in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico, and Venezuela. He currently resides in his hometown, where he teaches the art of wood engraving (xilogravura) to his family.
NICK CAISTOR is an award-winning translator of more than fifty works from Spanish and Portuguese. He has also published short biographies of Octavio Paz, Fidel Castro, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, as well as cultural histories of Buenos Aires and Mexico City. His daughter, LUCIA CAISTOR, is a social researcher focusing on cities and how people experience them and has translated several works from Argentina, Brazil, and Portugal.
Jose Saramago, The Lizard
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