José Saramago

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What is the meaning of the ending in The History of the Siege of Lisbon by José Saramago?

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As there are two key components to José Saramago’s novel, there are also two endings. One part of the story is that of the proofreader-turned-writer Raimundo Silva. The other part is The History of the Siege of Lisbon, an actual phase of Portuguese history that Silva finds himself rewriting. Saramago concludes the re-written history first. As the Christians take over Lisbon, their victory is clinched when the inhabitants in the last fortress surrender. However, one soldier takes it upon himself to carry out a final act. Inside the great mosque, the muezzin, who calls Muslims to prayer, calls out to Allah. This particularly zealous Christian soldier races up the minaret’s stairs,

-and with one blow from his sword beheaded the old man, in whose blind eyes a light flickered at the moment of death.

In the next paragraph, the very last one in the book, comes the end of Silva’s story. Exhausted at having completed his history, he crawls into bed beside Maria Sara. In answer to her questions, he tells her that it is finished and ends with the muezzin’s death. She wants to know about two key characters. He says that Mougeime and Oorouana will leave for Galicia rather than stay in Lisbon. As they drift off to sleep, Silva admits that staying would be more logical. The idea of departure can be seen as representing Silva’s decision, helped by Maria Sara’s prompting, to embark on the creative life rather than stay within the confines of his proofreader job.

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