The page of Saramago, José, English biography
BiographyJosé Saramago (born November 16, 1922) is a Portuguese writer, playwright, and journalist. He usually presents subversive perspectives of historical events in his works, trying to underline the human factor behind historical events, instead of presenting the usual official historical narratives. Some works of his can also be seen as allegories in several contexts.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. He currently lives on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain. He was in his mid-fifties before he won the acclaim of an international audience. It was the publication in 1988 of his Baltasar and Blimunda that first brought him to the attention of an English-speaking 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 positions have aroused considerable controversy in Portugal, especially after the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. José Saramago’s novels often deal with fantastic scenarios and situations such as the one his 1986 novel, The Stone Raft, where the Iberian Peninsula breaks from the rest of Europe and begins sailing around the Atlantic. In his 1995 novel, Blindness, an entire unnamed country is stricken with a mysterious plague, or “white blindess”. In Saramago's 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. With these highly imaginative themes, Saramago succinctly deals with the most serious of subject matter with boundless wit and keen insight. He sprinkles many quirky segues and asides into his sparsely punctuated, but richly decorated narrative thread. His greatest asset as an author is his empathy of the human condition and the isolative nature of contemporary urban life. His characters struggle with their need to connect with one another, form relationships, bond as a community, and their need for individuality, to find meaning and dignity outside of political/economic structures.
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 Jose de Sousa and Maria de Piedade. "Saramago," a wild herbaceous plant, was his father's family's nickname, which got 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 moving to the capital, his brother Francisco, older by two years, died. Although Saramago was a good pupil, his parents were unable to afford to keep him attending a grammar school, moving him to a technical school at age 12; after finishing school, he worked as a car mechanic for two years. Later he worked as a translator, then as a journalist, and finally, a writer. Saramago married Ilda Reis in 1944. Their only child, Violante, was born in 1947. He is currently married to Pilar del Río, of a very powerful Barcelona family of editors who actively promote his books around the world.
Saramago tends to write long sentences, using punctuation that most of us have been taught is incorrect. He uses no quotation marks to delimit dialog. Many of his "sentences" can be a page long or more, as he uses commas where most writers would place periods. Many of his paragraphs match the length of some authors' chapters. Surprisingly, it does not take most readers long to become adjusted to reading his unique style of prose. In his novel Blindness, Saramago completely abandons the use of proper nouns.