José Saramago

Look at your bed side table... Chances are that you may have a novel by Saramago on it! Being one of the Portuguese language best-selling authors it is likely that you've either heard of him or read something about or by him. If neither, act now and solve the problem. You don't know what you're missing. Here's some help for you: a short article on him by one of our Portuguese Teachers that often recommends Saramago to advanced students during our Portuguese lessons!

It is true that a writer's quality is not measurable by the number of prizes received or by the number of books written, but a writer who won more than 20 prizes in Literature (including the Nobel Prize), who wrote more than 30 books, who has almost 40 “Honoris Causa” PhD degrees and was distinguished more than 40 times all over the world has to be very good. José Saramago's controversial ideas are still the main focus of many philosophical arguments, literary articles, Portuguese language lessons and everyday's conversations.

José Saramago Photograph - One of the most important personalities for Portuguese Culture in the last decadesHis ideas concerning religion and the international fight against terrorism are very clear and revolutionary. He even talked of himself as a “revolutionary journalist” when he was the director of Diário de Notícias. He has always used words as weapons; he tried to fight using words, using the Portuguese language to set his points of view. His novel Blindness, adapted to cinema, is the evidence of the statement above. For some, he has a harsh and severe way of exposing his points of view, for others even it is even unbearable as he sharply uses Portuguese expressions and words along the novel. You get this sense of discomfort throughout the book as the insulting question arises, “Can't you see what's going on around you?!” , or even the menacing future reality “that's what will happen to all of us if we keep on closing our eyes to what's around us”. Blindness can become chaos, and that's what Saramago says in a brilliant way.

He was brilliantly shocking in what he did. He is still described by his wife Pilar as “transgressor”.

The documentary “José & Pilar” recently opened in cinemas throughout the world to give us a real and more personal view of Saramago and his daily work and life. As you watch the film, you get an extraordinary feeling of compassion for that old man and at the same time, for fans of the Portuguese language and literature, an extraordinary sense of loss.

The documentary ends as Saramago has this outrageous idea of writing a novel about Caim, the son of Adam and Eve. So when you're ready to think of Saramago as a dead writer, you have a reminder of his immortal genius as he is pictured once again as a transgressor.

Another mark left by him is the José Saramago Foundation whose main goals are the preservation of his literary work, the help and spread of the Portuguese language in the name of the old and the new Portuguese writers as well as the exchange of Lusophone Literatures. Furthermore, he wanted this Foundation to be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its activities and principles to also focus on the environmental problems and the destruction of the planet by global warming, before it’s too late.

62 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 12 years after winning the Nobel Prize, the members of the José Saramago Foundation organized a meeting, in Lisbon, where these subjects were reminded, discussed again, and the speech made when he was receiving the Nobel In Stockholm was reread and remembered. And 12 years after writing it, it still makes total sense nowadays. Even more every day. And it has to, otherwise the world will be submerged into blindness.

So if you're not satisfied with the current order in the world, if you do not agree with the political systems ruling, if you do not see where you're heading as a member of society you must read Saramago! And you should do it in Portuguese! He is one of the best authors to read in Portuguese as he manipulates words and sentences as a true master.

If you have already read Saramago in your language and loved him, there is no turning back - you're hooked! The next step has to be learning Portuguese and being able to savouring each word as he originally intended.

OdP's Team