José Saramago: Wikis


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José Saramago

Born José de Sousa Saramago
16 November 1922 (1922-11-16) (age 87)
Azinhaga, Ribatejo, Portugal
Occupation Playwright, Novelist
Nationality Portuguese
Period 1947–present
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
Official website
This is a Portuguese name; the family name is Sousa Saramago.

José de Sousa Saramago, GColSE (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʒuˈzɛ sɐɾɐˈmaɡu]; born 16 November 1922) is 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 among others. He currently lives on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain.



Saramago was born into a family of landless peasants in Azinhaga, Portugal, a small village in the province of Ribatejo some hundred kilometers north-east 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. Since 1988, Saramago has been married to the Spanish journalist Pilar del Río, who is the official translator of his books into Spanish.

José Saramago was in his mid-fifties before he won international acclaim; 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,[1] as well as an atheist[2] and self-described pessimist.[3] His views have aroused considerable controversy in Portugal, especially after the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.[4] 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 Canaries.[5]

During the 2006 Lebanon War, he 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 characterize as "a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation".[6] He stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for the European Parliament in the 2009 election.[7]

Literary themes

Saramago at San Sebastián International Film Festival (holding the Persian translation of his book, Blindness)

Saramago’s novels often deal with fantastic scenarios, such as that in his 1986 novel, The Stone Raft, wherein the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from the rest of Europe and sails about 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. Literary critic Harold Bloom considers Saramago the second greatest living novelist in the world, behind only Philip Roth, but criticized his comparison of conditions in the Palestinian territories to the Auschwitz concentration camp and referred to Saramago as a "Portuguese Stalinist".[8]


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.


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

See also



  • Baptista Bastos, José Saramago : Aproximação a um retrato, Dom Quixote, 1996
  • T.C. Cerdeira da Silva, Entre a história e aficção : Uma saga de portugueses, Dom Quixote, 1989
  • Maria da Conceição Madruga, A paixão segundo José Saramago : a paixão do verbo e o verbo da paixão, Campos das Letras, Porto, 1998
  • Horácio Costa, José Saramago : O Período Formativo, Ed. Caminho, 1998
  • Helena I. Kaufman, Ficção histórica portuguesa da pós-revolução, Madison, 1991
  • O. Lopes, Os sinais e os sentidos : Literatura portuguesa do século XX, Lisboa, 1986
  • B. Losada, Eine iberische Stimme, Liber, 2, 1, 1990, 3
  • Carlos Reis, Diálogos com José Saramago, Ed. Caminho, Lisboa, 1998
  • M. Maria Seixo, O essential sobre José Saramago, Imprensa Nacional, 1987
  • "Saramago, José (1922-)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ed. Tracie Ratiner. Vol. 25. 2nd ed. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005. Discovering Collection. Thomson Gale. University of Guelph. 25 Sep. 2007.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

José de Sousa Saramago, GCSE (born 1922-11-16) is a Portuguese writer, playwright and journalist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. He founded the National Front for the Defense of Culture (Lisbon, 1992) with Freitas-Magalhães among others.



All the Names (1997)

Todos os Nomes (1997); tr. Margaret Jull Costa, London: The Harvill Press, 1999, ISBN 0151004218

  • You know the name you were given,
    You do not know the name you have
    • "The book of certainties"
  • No life is without its lies.
    • p. 172
  • when you are old and realize that time is running out, you start imagining that you have the cure for all the ills of the world in your hand, and get frustrated because no one pays you any attention,
    • p. 172
  • In order to protect the physical hygiene and mental health of the living, we usually bury the dead.
  • p. 181
  • What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over.
    • p. 185
  • That it’s possible not to see a lie even when it’s in front of us.
    • p. 210
  • The distribution of tasks among the various employees follows a simple rule, which is that the duty of the members of each category is to do as much work as they possibly can, so that only a small part of that work need be passed to the category above. This means that the clerks are obliged to work without cease from morning to night, whereas the senior clerks do so only now and then, the deputies very rarely, and the Registrar almost never.
    • p. 2
  • The caressing, melodious tones of humility and flattery never sang in the ears of the clerk Senhor José, these have never had a place in the chromatic scale of feelings normally shown to him.
  • [...], indeed nothing so tires a person as having to struggle, not with himself, but with an abstraction.
  • None of his colleagues noticed who had arrived, they responded to his greetings as they always did, Good morning, Senhor José, they said and they did not know to whom they were speaking.
  • [...], perhaps that's how you learn, by answering questions.
  • No, there are three people in a marriage, there's the woman, there's the man, and there's what I call the third person, the most important, the person who is composed of the man and woman together.
    • The woman in the ground floor flat
  • Consciences keep silence more often than they should, that's why laws were created.
    • The Registrar
  • The bread was dry and hard, only a scraping of butter was left, he was out of milk, all he had was some rather mediocre coffee, as we know, a man who had never found a woman who would love him enough to agree to join him in this hovel, such a man, apart from rare exceptions which have no place in this story, will never be more than a poor devil, it's odd that we always say poor devil and never poor god, [...]
  • [...] the skin is only what we want others to see of us, underneath it not even we know who we are, [...]
    • Senhor José's ceiling
  • [...], old photographs are very deceiving, they give us the illusion that we are alive in them, and it's not true, the person we are looking at no longer exists, and if that person could see us, he or she would not recognise him or herself in us, Who's that looking at me so sadly, he or she would say.

The Cave (2001)

A Caverna (2001); tr. Margaret Jull Costa, Vintage, 2003; Harvest, 2002, ISBN 0151004145

  • The young have the ability, but lack the wisdom, and the old have the wisdom, but lack the ability.
    • p. 4 (Vintage 2003)
  • He got out of the van to see how many other suppliers were ahead of him and thus calculate, more or less accurately, how long he would have to wait. He was number thirteen, he counted again, no, there was no doubt about it. Although he was not a suspirations person, he knew about that number’s bad reputation, in any conversation about chance, fate or destiny, someone always chips in with some real-life experience of the negative, even fatal influence of the number thirteen. He tried to remember if he had ever been in this place in the queue before, but the long and the short of it was that either it had never happened or else he had simply forgotten. he got annoyed with himself, it was nonsense, utterly absurd to worry about something that has no real existence, yes, that was right, he had never thought of that before, numbers don’t really exist, things couldn’t care less what number we give them, its all the same to them if we say they’re number thirteen or number forty-four, we can conclude, at the very least, that they do not even notice the position they happen to end up in. people aren’t things, people always want to be in first place,
    • p. 9 (Vintage 2003)
  • Destiny isn’t taken in by people trying to make what came first come afterwards.
    • p. 12 (Vintage 2003)
  • There comes a point when the confused or abused person hears a voice saying in his head, Oh well, might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, and, depending on the particular situation in which he finds him he either spends his last bit of money on a lottery ticket, or places on the gaming table the watch he inherited from his father and silver cigarette case that was a gift from his mother, or bets everything he has on red even though he knows that red has come up five times in a row,
    • p. 14 (Vintage 2003)
  • Even the strongest spirits have the moments of irresistible weakness,
    • p. 15 (Vintage 2003)
  • We would know far more about life’s complexities if we applied ourselves to the close study of its contradictions instead of wasting so much time on similarities and connections, which should anyway, be self-explanatory.
    • p. 15 (Vintage 2003)
  • There is relationship between sight and touch, something about eyes being able to see through the fingers touching the clay, about fingers being able to feel what the eyes are seeing without the fingers actually touching it.
    • p. 20 (Vintage 2003)
  • Earthenware is like people, it needs to be well treated.
    • p. 21 (Vintage 2003)
  • The only time we can talk about death is while we’re alive, not afterwards.
    • p. 22 (Vintage 2003)
  • Life is like that, full of words that are not worth saying or that were worth saying once but not any more, each word that we utter will take up the space of another more deserving word not deserving in its own right, but because of the possible consequences of saying it.
    • p. 28 (Vintage 2003)
  • I don’t doubt that a man can live perfectly well on his own, but I’m convinced that he begins to die as soon as he closes the door of his house behind him.
    • p. 29 (Vintage 2003)
  • He spent the whole time sitting on a log in the woodshed, sometimes starting straight ahead with the fixity of a blind man who knows that even if he turns his head in the other direction he will still not see anything,
    • p. 30 (Vintage 2003)
  • At this time of life even a day makes a difference, the only saving grace is that sometimes things improve.
    • p. 43 (Vintage 2003)
  • Where do begin, he asked, Where you always have to begin, at the beginning,
    • p. 53 (Vintage 2003)
  • Authoritarian, paralyzing, circular, occasionally elliptical, stock phrases, also jocularly referred to as nuggets of wisdom, are malignant plague, one of the very worst ever to ravage the earth. We say to the confused, Know thyself, as if knowing yourself was not the fifth and most difficult of human arithmetical operations, we say to the apathetic, Where there’s a will , there’s a way , as if the brute realities of the world did not amuse themselves each day by turning that phrase on its head, we say to the indecisive, Begin at the beginning, as if that beginning were the clearly visible point of a loosely wound thread and that all we had to do was to keep pulling until we reached the other end
    • p. 54 (Vintage 2003)
  • The beginning is never the clear , precise end of a thread, the beginning is a long, painfully slow process that requires time and patience in order to find out in which direction it is heading, a process that feels its way along the path ahead like a blind man the beginning is just the beginning, what came before is night on worthless.
    • p. 54 (Vintage 2003)
  • Encyclopedias are like immutable cycloramas , prodigious projectors whose reels have got stuck and which show, with a kind of maniacal fixity, a landscape which , because it is condemned to be only and for all eternity what it was, will at the same time grow older more decrepit and more unnecessary.The encyclopedia purchased by Cipriano Algor's father is magnificent and as useless as a line of poetry we cannot quite remember.
    • p. 57 (Vintage 2003)
  • (a picture of)a naked woman, although she was covering her pubis with her right hand and her breasts with her left._ _ _ _ covering yourself up like that is worse than showing everything,
    • pp. 58–59 (Vintage 2003)
  • You can learn almost everything from reading, But I read too, So you must know something, Now I’m not so sure, You’ll have to read differently then, How, The same method doesn’t work for everyone, each person has to invent his or her own, whichever suits them best, some people spend their entire lives reading but never get beyond reading the words on the page, they don’t understand that the words are merely stepping stones placed across a fast-flowing river, and the reason they’re there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it’s the other side that matters, Unless, Unless what, Unless those river don’t just have two shores but many, unless each reader is his or own shore, and that shore is the only shore worth reaching,
    • p. 60 (Vintage 2003)
  • In general, fakirs, like scribes and potters, are sitting down, when he’s standing up, a fakir is just like an other man, and sitting down, he’ll be smaller than the others,
    • p. 60 (Vintage 2003)
  • The day before is what we bring to the day we're actually living through, life is a matter of carrying along all those days-before just as someone might carry stones, and when we can no longer cope with the load, the work is done.
    • Page 61, 2002 Harvest Hardcover edition
  • ... because contrary to what people say, two weaknesses don't make for a still greater weakness, but for renewed strength ...
  • Very few people are aware that in each of our fingers, located somewhere between the firs phalange, the mesophalange and the metaphalange, there is a tiny brain. [...] It should be noted that fingers are without brains, these develop gradually with the passage of time and with the help of what the eyes see…. That is why the fingers have always excelled at uncovering what is concealed.
    • p. 64 (vintage 2003)
  • Each part in itself constitutes the whole to which it belongs.
    • p. 68 (vintage 2003)
  • Age carries with it a double load of guilt,
    • p. 69 (vintage 2003)
  • The emptiness of old age had caused him to forget that, in matters of feeling and of the heart, too much is always better than too little.
    • p. 69 (vintage 2003)
  • He felt very tired, not from the mental effort, but because he had suddenly seen what the world was like, how there are many lies and truths,
    • p. 73 (vintage 2003)
  • After all, we are always on time, behind time, in time, but never out of time, no matter how often we are told that we are.
    • p. 73 (vintage 2003)
  • Don’t quibble with the king over pears, let him eat the ripe ones and give you the green ones.
    • p. 78 (vintage 2003)
  • It’s is the old who age a day every hour,
    • p. 85 (vintage 2003)
  • The best way to killing a rose is to force it open when it is still only the promise of a bud.
    • p. 89 (vintage 2003)
  • Every thing in life is a uniform; the only time our bodies are truly in civilian dress is when we’re naked.
    • p. 92 (vintage 2003)

• Creating is always so much more stimulating than destroying.

• P107 (vintage 2003)

• Lord knows why they depict death with wings when death is everywhere.

• P112(vintage 2003)

• Time is a master of ceremonies who always ends up putting us in our rightful place, we advance, stop and retreat according to his orders, our mistake lies in imagination that we can catch him out.

• p115(vintage 2003)

• human nature is, by definition ,a talkative one, imprudent, indiscreet, gossipy, incapable of closing its mouth and keeping it closed.

• P117(vintage 2003)


  • Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.
  • Blind people do not need a name, I am my voice, nothing else matters.

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