Jose Saramago

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José Saramago
Born José de Sousa Saramago
November 16 1922(1922-11-16)
Azinhaga, Ribatejo, Portugal
Died June 18 2010 (aged 87)
Tías, Lanzarote, Spain
Occupation Playwright, Novelist
Nationality Portugal
Writing period 1947 – 2010
Notable work(s) Baltasar and Blimunda, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Blindness, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature

José de Sousa Saramago, GColSE (pronounced [ʒuˈzɛ sɐɾɐˈmagu]; November 16, 1922 - June 18, 2010) was a Nobel-laureate Portuguese writer, playwright and journalist. His works, some of which can be seen as allegories, commonly present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the human factor rather than the officially sanctioned story.

Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. He founded the National Front for the Defense of Culture (Lisbon, 1992) with among others Freitas-Magalhaes. Saramago was born in Portugal but later moved to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain, residing there with his Spanish wife, journalist Pilar del Río, until his death in 2010.


Saramago was born into a family of landless peasants in Azinhaga, Portugal, a small village in the province of Ribatejo some hundred kilometers north-east of Lisbon. His parents were José de Sousa and Maria de Piedade. "Saramago," a wild herbaceous plant known in English as the wild radish, was his father's family's nickname, and was accidentally incorporated into his name upon registration of his birth. In 1924, Saramago's family moved to Lisbon, where his father started working as a policeman. A few months after the family moved to the capital, his brother Francisco, older by two years, died. Although Saramago was a good pupil, his parents were unable to afford to keep him in grammar school, and instead moved him to a technical school at age 12. After graduating, he worked as a car mechanic for two years. Later he worked as a translator, then as a journalist. He was assistant editor of the newspaper Diário de Notícias, a position he had to leave after the political events in 1975. After a period of working as a translator he was able to support himself as a writer.

Saramago married Ilda Reis in 1944. Their only child, Violante, was born in 1947. In 1988, Saramago married the Spanish journalist Pilar del Río, the official translator of his books into Spanish. They remained together until his death in June 2010.


Saramago was a member of the Portuguese Communist Party since 1969,[1] and a self-described pessimist.[2] His views aroused considerable controversy in Portugal, especially after the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Members of the country's Catholic community were outraged by Saramago's representation of Jesus Christ as a fallible human being. Portugal's conservative government would not allow Saramago's work to compete for the European Literary Prize, arguing that it offended the Catholic community. As a result, Saramago and his wife moved to Lanzarote, an island in the Canaries.[3]

Saramago also aroused controversy ostensibly as a result of his opposition to Israel's actions in Palestine and Lebanon. In 2002, he wrote in El Pais, the international Spanish-language paper of record, that Israel brutalizes Palestinians because of Judaism itself.

Intoxicated mentally by the messianic dream of a Greater Israel which will finally achieve the expansionist dreams of the most radical Zionism; contaminated by the monstrous and rooted 'certitude' that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God and that, consequently, all the actions of an obsessive, psychological and pathologically exclusivist racism are justified; educated and trained in the idea that any suffering that has been inflicted, or is being inflicted, or will be inflicted on everyone else, especially the Palestinians, will always be inferior to that which they themselves suffered in the Holocaust, the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner.[4]

During the 2006 Lebanon War, he signed a statement together with Tariq Ali, John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy and Howard Zinn, condemning what they characterized as "a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation."[5]

Literary themes

Saramago’s novels often deal with fantastic scenarios, such as that in his 1986 novel, The Stone Raft, wherein the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from the rest of Europe and sails about the Atlantic Ocean. In his 1995 novel, Blindness, an entire unnamed country is stricken with a mysterious plague of “white blindness.” In his 1984 novel, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (which won the PEN Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Award), Fernando Pessoa’s heteronym survives for a year after the poet himself dies.

Using such imaginative themes, Saramago succinctly addresses the most serious of subject matters with empathy for the human condition and for the isolation of contemporary urban life. His characters struggle with their need to connect with one another, form relations and bond as a community; and also with their need for individuality, and to find meaning and dignity outside of political and economic structures.


Saramago's experimental style often featured long sentences, at times more than a page long. He used periods sparingly, choosing instead a loose flow of clauses joined by commas. Many of his paragraphs match the length of entire chapters by more traditional writers. He used no quotation marks to delimit dialog; when the speaker changes Saramago capitalized the first letter of the new speaker's clause. In his novels Blindness and The Cave, Saramago sometimes abandoned the use of proper nouns; indeed, the difficulty of naming is a recurring theme in his work.


José Saramago was in his mid-fifties before he won international acclaim; his publication of Baltasar and Blimunda brought him to the attention of an international readership. This novel won the Portuguese PEN Club Award.

Famous American literary critic Harold Bloom stated that he considered José Saramago the "most gifted novelist alive in the world today" and considers him to be "a permanent part of the Western canon", while James Wood praised "the distinctive tone to his fiction because he narrates his novels as if he were someone both wise and ignorant."[6]

Major Works

Title Year English title Year ISBN
Terra do Pecado 1947
Os Poemas Possíveis 1966
Provavelmente Alegria 1970
Deste Mundo e do Outro 1971
A Bagagem do Viajante 1973
As Opiniões que o DL teve 1974
O Ano de 1993 1975
Os Apontamentos 1976
Manual de Pintura e Caligrafia 1977 Manual of Painting and Calligraphy 1993 ISBN 1857540433
Objecto Quase 1978
Levantado do Chão 1980
Viagem a Portugal 1981 Journey to Portugal 2000 ISBN 0151005877
Memorial do Convento 1982 Baltasar and Blimunda 1987 ISBN 0151105553
O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis 1986 The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis 1991 ISBN 0151997357
A Jangada de Pedra 1986 The Stone Raft 1994 ISBN 0151851980
História do Cerco de Lisboa 1989 The History of the Siege of Lisbon 1996 ISBN 015100238X
O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo 1991 The Gospel According to Jesus Christ 1993 ISBN 0151367000
Ensaio sobre a Cegueira 1995 Blindness 1997 ISBN 0151002517
Todos os Nomes 1997 All the Names 1999 ISBN 0151004218
O Conto da Ilha Desconhecida 1997 The Tale of the Unknown Island 1999 ISBN 0151005958
A Caverna 2001 The Cave 2002 ISBN 0151004145
O Homem Duplicado 2003 The Double 2004 ISBN 0151010404)
Ensaio sobre a Lucidez 2004 Seeing 2006 ISBN 0151012385
Don Giovanni ou o Dissoluto Absolvido 2005
As Intermitências da Morte 2005 Death at Intervals 2008 ISBN 1846550203
As Pequenas Memórias 2006


  1. Biography, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1998 Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  2. Adam Langer, "Pessimism is our only hope. The gospel according to José Saramago.""José Saramago: Prophet of Doom.". Archive Book (November/December 2002). Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  3. "José Saramago: Autobiography.". 1998. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  4. Martin Levin, Who's the real racist? Globe and Mail, July 6, 2002. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  5. "Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine" (signed by) Tariq Ali, John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy, José Saramago & Howard Zinn, July 19, 2006. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  6. Julian Evans, The militant magician The Guardian, December 28, 2002. Retrieved September 10, 2016.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bastos, Baptista. José Saramago: Aproximação a um retrato. Dom Quixote, 1996. ISBN 978-9722013413
  • Cerdeira da Silva, T.C. Entre a história e aficção: Uma saga de portugueses. Dom Quixote, 1989. ISBN 978-9722007320
  • da Conceição Madruga, Maria. A paixão segundo José Saramago: a paixão do verbo e o verbo da paixão. Campos das Letras, Porto, 1998. ISBN 978-9726100607
  • Costa, Horácio. José Saramago: O Período Formativo. Ed. Caminho, 1998. ISBN 978-9722111607
  • Kaufman, Helena I. Ficção histórica portuguesa da pós-revolução. Madison, 1991. OCLC 25452165
  • Lopes, O., Os sinais e os sentidos : Literatura portuguesa do século XX. Lisboa: 1986. OCLC 159845062
  • Losada, B. "Eine iberische Stimme," Liber 2 (1) (1990): 3.
  • Reis, Carlos. Diálogos com José Saramago. Ed. Caminho, Lisboa, 1998. ISBN 978-9722112284
  • Seixo, M. Maria. O essential sobre José Saramago. Imprensa Nacional, 1987. OCLC 181066292
  • "Saramago, José (1922-)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ed. Tracie Ratiner. Vol. 25. 2nd ed. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005. Discovering Collection. Thomson Gale. University of Guelph, 2007. ISBN 978-0787622213

External links

All links retrieved August 5, 2022.


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