The chicken or the egg? Saramago or Portugal? Am I enjoying reading Jose Saramago because of my recent fascination with Portugal, or did the Portugal fascination open the door to Saramago? I honestly do not know which came first. I do know for sure that over the past couple of weeks I have enjoyed planning a someday trip to Portugal and am pleased to have finally read the great Portugese Nobel Laureate.
Born in Libson and with limited formal education, Saramago worked as a mechanic, translator, journalist, and newspaper editor before finding critical acclaim as a sixty-year-old novelist. The Swedish Academy awarded Saramago the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, citing him as a writer "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality." I agree with the Swedish Academy, but add this: Saramago succeeds in writing beautifully while vigitantly maintaining his resolute beliefs. Only the best writers do that.
Mr. Saramago passed away June 18, 2010. Below are three of his books I greatly admire.
Saramago's journal from his last year. Originally published in blog format as his family had convinced him to keep a blog where he could write daily about anything he desired while allowing fans to follow his musings.
Blindness strikes as an epidemic and the frayed edges of society unravel
Journey to Portugal
Saramago's cultural history of his beloved country. Saramago deftly reveals the beauty, history, and riddle that is Portugal.