José Saramago: Biography Of A Writer Who Enlightened Us About A Blind Society

José Saramago: biography of a writer who enlightened us about a blind society

José Saramago was one of the most notable Portuguese writers of all time. His unique writing style earned him the Nobel Prize. What made him stand out in particular was his ability to stand by his words even in the face of heavy headwinds. Works like City of the Blind are  today an extraordinary reference for catharsis and philosophical reflections, a legacy that literally opens our eyes.

People like to say about Saramago that he has always sharpened people’s awareness. He denounced injustices and took a stand in the face of the conflicts of his time. In one of his lectures, he defined himself as a passionate writer, as someone who had to lift up every stone, even though he knew that real monsters could be hiding underneath.

Through his search for the truth and his efforts to wake up society, he was able to develop a unique style of writing. He used parables based on fantasy, irony, and compassion to show us a reality that no one can leave indifferent.

Even after Saramago’s death, his works continue to be published in various languages. The new generations discover and admire this diverse personality who even sought to add a charter of duties and obligations  to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  .

He was one of the most important writers that Portugal brought us. He was the author of provocative, magical and thought-provoking works that invite us to see the present through his eyes.

“Modern man suffers from three diseases: incommunication, the technological revolution and a life geared towards personal triumph.”

José Saramago

José Saramago in a rowboat

Biography of a wise man who came from a humble background

José de Sousa Saramago was born on November 16, 1922 in Golegã, Portugal. His parents were José de Sousa and María da Piedade, a couple who came from humble backgrounds and lived from their work in the countryside. When little José was two years old, they decided to emigrate to Lisbon in order to improve their financial situation.

After settling in the Portuguese capital, they were able to build a certain stability. The father started working as a police officer, and Saramago was given the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship. For a few years he attended a vocational school until his parents could no longer afford to finance a higher education.

So he had no choice but to work in a forge. But beyond this professional activity, with which he was able to earn a living, Saramago led a different life: that of a wise man. He never stopped reading, learning, and most importantly, writing. So, at the age of 25, he published Land of Sin . In that year, 1947, his daughter Violante was born.

The maturation process of a committed writer and journalist

In 1955, José Saramago began translating the works of Hegel and Tolstoy into Portuguese. At the same time he endeavored to give his writing style a suitable maturity in order to have a chance of success with his own works. But despite his talent, no publisher dared to publish his works.

After his work Clarabóia or Where the light falls was  rejected, several years passed before he tried again. It wasn’t until 1966 that he started another attempt with Probably Fröhlichkeit  and later with O Ano de 1993  (in German: The year 1993 , not yet available in German; 1975). Both were enthusiastic, so that Saramago with the Portuguese publisher Estúdios Cor. could work together.

As he achieved increasing literary success, José Saramago felt the need to devote himself to journalism. He started to work at the Diário de Notícias  and later at the Diário de Lisboa  , where he became deputy director and political commentator.

Black and white photo of Saramago

However, after the Carnation Revolution began in Portugal on April 25, 1974, he decided to focus solely on writing. He was a recognized and respected personality and wanted to give the world more works, more books. In 1976 he published Os Apontamentos: crónicas política (in German: Notes: political chronicles , not yet available in German), and later plays such as Die Nacht  (1979) and short stories such as The Chair and Other Things  (1983).

The Nobel Prize

In the 1980s, José Saramago was a world famous author. He received the literary consecration with the monument of the monastery. As a result, works like The Stone Raft  (1986) The Gospel According to Jesus Christ  (1991) and, not to forget, The City of the Blind  (1995) should be published.

His spelling is refined, his books are written with brains, which is why the Stockholm Committee (Sweden) awarded him the highest honor in 1998: the Nobel Prize for Literature. At that time he was already living in two countries, Lisbon in Portugal and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. He stayed in the Canary Islands with his last wife, María del Pilar del Río Sánchez, a Spanish journalist and translator.

José Saramago died of leukemia on June 18, 2010. He was 87 years old and had started writing a new novel that was only 30 pages long to date.

The city of the blind

They are not always blind, they are going blind. With these words, José Saramago gives shape to one of the most disturbing argumentative metaphors in his work. In his work, The City of the Blind  , he speaks about the inability of people to recognize their neighbor. He depicts man as an infamous being, as a creature who needs the guidance of others in order to understand and survive.

This work deals in depth with the human soul. It is a dystopian novel about the fact that humans are trapped in a kind of white blindness that spreads like a disease. The government then decides to quarantine the sick and impose strict rules on them.

In the group of people who play the main role in this story, only one person can see: a woman who only faked blindness in order to be able to accompany her husband and help everyone else. The scenario is more than frightening: There is no hygiene, the soldiers do not hesitate to shoot, if someone comes too close to them, and the smell of decay is spreading. Chaos reigns and hope gradually dies.

Several people wear a black blindfold

We are therefore dealing with a work in which, above all, we are shown how blind the human soul is. It is this inability to recognize one another that leads to the loss of sanity, selfishness, conflict and fear. It is a scenario in which José Saramago invites us for courageous moral reflection.

The City of the Blind  is a compelling book that is considered one of the great works of contemporary literature. Diving into this book again, or reading it for the first time, is always worth an hour of reading.

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