José de Sousa Saramago, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1998

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José de Sousa Saramago

Birthdate: (87)
Birthplace: Azinhaga, 2150 Golegã Municipality, Santarem, Portugal
Death: June 18, 2010 (87)
Tías, Las Palmas, Spain
Place of Burial: Lisbon, Portugal
Immediate Family:

Son of José de Sousa and Maria de Sousa
Husband of <private> del Río Sánchez (del Río)
Ex-husband of Ilda Reis
Father of <private> Matos
Brother of Francisco de Sousa Saramago

Occupation: Playwright, novelist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1998
Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About José de Sousa Saramago, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1998

He was a Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist, playwright and journalist. His works, some of which can be seen as allegories, commonly present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the human factor.

Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. He founded the National Front for the Defense of Culture (Lisbon, 1992) with Freitas-Magalhães and others. In the last years of his life, since 1992, he lived in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain.

Saramago was born in 1922 into a family of landless peasants in Azinhaga, Portugal, a small village in the province of Ribatejo some hundred kilometers northeast 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. He spent vacations with his grandparents in a village called Azinhaga. When his grandfather suffered a stroke and was to be taken to Lisbon for treatment, Saramago recalled, "He went into the yard of his house, where there were a few trees, fig trees, olive trees. And he went one by one, embracing the trees and crying, saying good-bye to them because he knew he would not return. To see this, to live this, if that doesn’t mark you for the rest of your life," Saramago said, "you have no feeling." 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. From 1988 until his death in June of 2010 Saramago was married to the Spanish journalist Pilar del Río, who is the official translator of his books into Spanish.

Later life and international acclaim:

José Saramago was in his mid-fifties before he won international acclaim, when his publication of Baltasar and Blimunda brought him to the attention of an international readership. This novel won the Portuguese PEN Club Award. Saramago has been a member of the Portuguese Communist Party since 1969, as well as an atheist and self-described pessimist. His views have 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 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 Spanish Canaries.

Saramago learned he was to be made a Nobel Laureate in October 1998 when he was about to fly to Germany ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair.This came as a surprise to him and his Portuguese editor, Zeferino Coelho, recalled: “When he won the Nobel, Saramago said to me, ‘I was not born for all this glory.’ I told him, ‘You may not have been made for this glory, but I was!’”.He used his Nobel lecture to call his grandfather Jerónimo “the wisest man I ever knew”.Even so he remained a divisive character in Portugal.

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Saramago 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".He was a critic of both the European Union and the International Monetary Fund; however, he stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for the European Parliament in the 2009 election.

Literary themes:

Saramago’s novels often deal with fantastic scenarios, such as that in his 1986 novel The Stone Raft, in which the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from the rest of Europe and sails around 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. Additionally, his novel Death with Interruptions (also translated as Death at Intervals) revolves around a country in which nobody dies over the course of seven months beginning on New Year's Day, and how the country reacts to the spiritual and political implications of the event.

Using such imaginative themes, Saramago 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. In 2007, literary critic Harold Bloom praised his writing but criticized his comparison of conditions in the Palestinian territories to the Auschwitz concentration camp and referred to Saramago as a "Portuguese Stalinist" — nevertheless, he declared that Saramago was the second greatest living novelist in the world, behind only Philip Roth.


Saramago's experimental style often features long sentences, at times more than a page long. He uses periods sparingly, choosing instead a loose flow of clauses joined by commas. Many of his paragraphs extend for pages without pausing for dialog, which Saramago chooses not to delimit by quotation marks; when the speaker changes, Saramago capitalizes the first letter of the new speaker's clause. In his novel Blindness, Saramago completely abandons the use of proper nouns instead choosing to refer to characters simply by some unique characteristic, an example of his use of style to enhance the recurring themes of identity and meaning found throughout his work.

Some books by him:

ALL THE NAMES (Paperback)


BLINDNESS (Paperback)







SEEING (Paperback)

SEEING (Trade Paperback)


THE CAVE (Paperback)

THE DOUBLE (Paperback)

THE DOUBLE (Hardback)

THE DOUBLE (Trade Paperback)

THE STONE RAFT (Paperback)



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 The Year of 1993

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 with Interruptions 2008 ISBN 1846550203

As Pequenas Memórias 2006 Memories of my Youth

A Viagem do Elefante 2008 The Trip of the Elephant ISBN 9789722120173

Caim 2009 Cain


His official site:

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José de Sousa Saramago, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1998's Timeline

November 16, 1922
Azinhaga, 2150 Golegã Municipality, Santarem, Portugal
June 18, 2010
Age 87
Tías, Las Palmas, Spain
June 2010
Age 87
Lisbon, Portugal