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All About Portugal | February 26, 2021

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Saramago, an immortal writer

Jose Saramago
Clara Campos

Jose Saramago was one of the most important Portuguese writers, having been the first one to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

Saramago was born in 1922 in Azinhaga, a small village of Ribatejo into a poor family of peasants.

Saramago, that means wild radish in English, was the nickname of his father family and not the real surname. However, it was mistakenly added to baby José’s name upon registration of his birth. In 1924 his family moved to Lisbon in search of a better live, as it was then usual with people from the rural areas.

In spite of the being a good student, Saramago was not able to graduate due to economic reasons and is forced to go to a technical school. Saramago’s first job was as a mechanical locksmith. Later on he worked as designer, translator, editor and journalist, assuming the coordination of the cultural pages of the Diário de Lisboa newspaper between 1972 and 1973.

He belonged to the first board of Directors of The Portuguese Writers Association and years later in 1985 he became President of the General Assembly of the Portuguese Authors Association. He occupied this position until 1994.

Between April and November 1974 he was assistant director of the newspaper Diário de Notícias. After 1976 he decided to devote himself to his literary work, first as a translator and then as an author. In spite of having published his first book, “Terra do Pecado”, in 1947, the world recognition only came at the age of sixty, with his fourth novel “Memorial do Convento” that brought him the Portuguese PEN Club Award. The book’s translation in 1988 as “Baltasar and Blimunda” set his name under the international spotlight of the literary scene.

He was a member of the Portuguese Party as well as atheist. These ideas, often reflected on his work, arose a lot of controversial, especially with his book “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” and with his latest work “Cain”.

However, Saramago’s talent is way above all the controversies and he was awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988 mainly due to his “parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony” and his “modern skepticism about official truths” in the words of the Nobel committee.

Saramago died in June 2010 at the age of 87, leaving us a priceless literary spoil that granted him immortality.

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