All the Names

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Happiness is never stopping to think if you are.
Palmer Sondreal
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All the Names (published in 1997, original title Todos os Nomes) was written by Nobel Prize laureate José Saramago. These quotes are taken from the 2000 translation by Margaret Jull Costa.


  • The distribution of tasks amongst the various employees follows a simple rule, which is that the duty of the members of each category is to do as much work as they possibly can, so that only a small part of that work need be passed to the category above. This means that the clerks are obliged to work without cease from morning to night, whereas the senior clerks do so only now and then, the deputies very rarely, and the Registrar almost never.
  • The caressing, melodious tones of humility and flattery never sang in the ears of the clerk Senhor José, these have never had a place in the chromatic scale of feelings normally shown to him.
  • [...], indeed nothing so tires a person as having to struggle, not with himself, but with an abstraction.
  • None of his colleagues noticed who had arrived, they responded to his greetings as they always did, Good morning, Senhor José, they said and they did not know to whom they were speaking.
  • [...], perhaps that's how you learn, by answering questions.
  • No, there are three people in a marriage, there's the woman, there's the man, and there's what I call the third person, the most important, the person who is composed of the man and woman together.
    • The woman in the ground floor flat
  • Consciences keep silence more often than they should, that's why laws were created.
    • The Registrar
  • The bread was dry and hard, only a scraping of butter was left, he was out of milk, all he had was some rather mediocre coffee, as we know, a man who had never found a woman who would love him enough to agree to join him in this hovel, such a man, apart from rare exceptions which have no place in this story, will never be more than a poor devil, it's odd that we always say poor devil and never poor god, [...]
  • [...] the skin is only what we want others to see of us, underneath it not even we know who we are, [...]
    • Senhor José's ceiling
  • [...], old photographs are very deceiving, they give us the illusion that we are alive in them, and it's not true, the person we are looking at no longer exists, and if that person could see us, he or she would not recognise him or herself in us, Who's that looking at me so sadly, he or she would say.