Portuguese writer José Saramago wrote Skylight in the 1940s or 50s, and initially submitted the manuscript for publication in 1953. However, he did not receive a response from the publishing house and, consequently, the novel did not make it to print contemporaneously. It was only in 1989 that the book was finally discovered and given the attention it deserved, yet by this point Saramago had decided that it would not be published during his lifetime. He died in 2010, with publication in 2011.
Set during the late 1940s, Skylight offers a no-frills insight into the lives of the various occupants residing in an unglamorous apartment block in Lisbon. The novel’s epigraph is a quote from Raul Brandão, the Portuguese writer/journalist/officer: “In all souls, as in all houses, beyond the façade lies a hidden interior”. And that is exactly what Skylight seems to be all about. For, whilst each inhabitant thinks that they know everything there is to know about their neighbour, the reality is that they are all a bunch of strangers – albeit strangers who happen to live side by side.
From a pair of anxious and lost sisters living and working in each other’s pockets with their mother and aunt, to a married couple that will do anything to see one another suffer, Skylight traces the complex and heartbreaking relationships hidden within the apartment block’s shabby walls. And so, whilst it does not necessarily have a clear plot – and some stories are left more or less unresolved – the novel’s merit lies in its discerning examination of the peculiar way in which loved ones – and neighbours – behave towards one another.