Saturday, November 26, 2005

José Saramago is a Golden God

José Saramago is a hell of a writer, a literary master. Of all those writing fiction these days, Saramago is one of the few that people will be reading after each of us has passed from this earth. Forget Grisham, Crichton and all of the rest of the popular authors whose latest work immediately jumps to the top of the best-seller lists. Saramago is the real deal.

Yet, to many, the Portuguese writer is an unknown.

The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, his is a remarkable story. Born in 1922 in Azinhaga (north of Lisbon), he was forced to abandon school in order to earn a living. Saramago first became a mechanic and -- before becoming a journalist, translator, and writer -- he performed a number of labor-intensive jobs. It wasn't until the mid-1970's that he first started writing novels and not until the age of 60 that his writing earned their first critical kudos; last week, he turned 83. His autobiography can be found here.

I only discovered Saramago in 2001, when I came across his novel "Blindness". His writing is extremely dense -- sometimes impenetrable -- prose that immerses the reader in these realities he has created. In "Blindness," an epidemic of blindness spreads in a nameless city. In honoring him with the Pulitzer Prize, the committeee wrote that this book illustrates a "horrific journey through the interface created by individual human perceptions and the spiritual accretions of civilization. Saramago's exuberant imagination, capriciousness and clear-sightedness find full expression in this irrationally engaging work." I still remember reading this and being absolutely blown away by the author's work.

The wonderfully quaint "All the Names" and the allegory-heavy "The Cave" are the two other books I have read by the author, both are wonderful. I just picked up his newest-- "The Double" -- and while I'm still early on in the book, this is pretty close to the greatness of "Blindness."

Be sure to check out this author if you haven't already, can't recommend him enough.

1 comment:

TrickyDicky said...

Saramago has just published a new novel: Las intermitencias de la muerte. A translation of an interview with him by the Spanish newspaper El País can be found here: