Saturday, June 26, 2010

In Memoriam: Jose Saramago

Jose Saramago, the first Portuguese writer to win the Nobel Prize, passed away on June 18.

For a career that began only in earnest when Saramago was in his late 50s, his artistic output rivals that of any of his peers, and while his politics invited condemnation in some quarters, when all is said and done (when is that, exactly?), he will be counted among the literary luminaries of our age.

Saramago had an allegorical bent, most noticeable in his best-known novel, Blindness, a harrowing and viscerally shocking work that will not fail to leave you shaken. In The Cave, as well, Saramago played with allegory, updating Plato's Parable of the Cave for modern audiences.

Several of his novels deal with historical and political themes, including his masterpiece (my favorite), The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, which expands on a character among the constellation of the poet Fernando Pessoa's universe to provide a reckoning of Portugal's dictatorship...

Saramago was a novelist of ideas (as they are called), but one of the more humane ones, a writer who understood and sympathized with the ambiguities of our troubled lives and who gave expression to those feelings that can be called, for lack of a better or more precise word, universal.

Not only that, but several, if not all, of his novels include a dog who often steals the show. In the aforementioned The Cave, the dog is called Found. Found is a remarkably memorable character. Go find out for yourself.

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