José Saramago, from landless peasant to nobel prize

Portuguese author José Saramago was born in 1922 to a family of landless peasants. Over seventy years later, he would win the Nobel Prize in Literature. When asked about his primitive roots: ‘If my grandfather had been a rich landowner, and not an illiterate pig breeder, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.’

On my last layover in Lisbon I stumbled upon the Fundação José Saramago. The original house was built in 1521-23 and has a diamond shaped pattern (bicos) on the outside, given the house an amazing appearance from the street. We were on our way to dinner and didn’t have time to go inside, but it will be a must see on my next visit. To walk though the house, see samplings of his work, his preserved writing studio, even his Nobel Prize.

At age 13, Saramago trained to be a mechanic but spent his extra time in the library pouring over books.

The Land of Sin was published in 1947, but he would not get recognition until 1982, over Baltasar and Blimunda.

He was a self-proclaimed atheist and member of the communist party, which didn’t sit well with the Catholic Portuguese. When The Gospel According to Jesus Christ was published in 1991, he was forced to move to the Canary Islands.

Best known for his novel Blindness. ‘Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.’ José Saramago.


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