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O Ano da Morte do José Saramago
June 18, 2010 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Portuguese writer and 1998's Nobel Prize for Literature recipient José Saramago has died, age 87. [News link in Portuguese] He died in Lanzarote, Spain, where he had lived since a bust-up in the early 1990s with Portugal's government over his controversial book, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Saramago wrote nearly 30 books, and was cited for the Nobel as a writer "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality." No holiday for death, after all.
posted by chavenet (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite book of his is The Stone Raft.

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posted by chavenet at 5:36 AM on June 18, 2010


The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis was like a revelation to me. Saramago will be sorely missed.

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posted by Bromius at 5:39 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is a brief English news item from the Associated Press.
posted by chavenet at 5:47 AM on June 18, 2010


Blindness was excellently done but so grim I could barely stand it. (I haven't dared to watch the Hollywood movie version of it, assuming they kept the depressing and replaced the literary quality with melodrama and overacting.)
posted by aught at 5:48 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


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The world of Literature has lost a great one.
posted by Fizz at 5:49 AM on June 18, 2010


The Stone Raft is an astounding novel. Blindness and Balthasar & Blimunda, too.

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posted by oulipian at 5:56 AM on June 18, 2010


I just finished The Stone Raft last weekend. It's fantastic.

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posted by ethand at 5:58 AM on June 18, 2010


My typography teacher, this big bear of a guy who had been a "boy preacher" in the South as a teen, referred to Saramago as "the Portuguese massssssssterrrrr," which always made me laugh, though he wasn't wrong.
posted by liketitanic at 6:08 AM on June 18, 2010


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( the semi-colon just seemed so much more appropriate than the customary period.)
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:11 AM on June 18, 2010


No, no, wait, in retrospect, it was always the comma, right? I just wanted the semi-colon.

RIP Saramago.

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posted by .kobayashi. at 6:15 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by smrtsch at 6:21 AM on June 18, 2010


I have reread the conversation between Jesus, Satan, and God from The Gospel According to Jesus Christ dozens of times. For a heathen like me, I always felt it was one of the most moving depictions of Jesus coming to terms with his fate.

Baltasar and Blimunda was one of my favorites though. Now I need to move Death with Interruptions up on my reading list.

Blindness scared the crap out of me, especially reading it on a subway for some reason.

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posted by gladly at 6:24 AM on June 18, 2010


Blindness was excellently done but so grim I could barely stand it. (I haven't dared to watch the Hollywood movie version of it, assuming they kept the depressing and replaced the literary quality with melodrama and overacting.)

I loved, loved, loved Blindness; I equally haven't been able to risk watching the movie in case they peed all over that great work of literature. Sad news.
posted by Forktine at 6:25 AM on June 18, 2010


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posted by farishta at 6:25 AM on June 18, 2010


Blindness was so wonderful I didn't want to ruin my idealation of him by reading anything else by him in case it wasn't as good. And yeah, no movie for me either, even though my father is in it.
posted by saucysault at 6:29 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Saramago was one of those writers who made me ashamed that I couldn't read his work in the original language. Even through the fogged glass of translation, though, he was one of the most incisive, brilliantly inventive writers of recent times.

His characters were often sketched with a few clean lines and still managed to have more life to them than a whole novel full of florid, over-detailed caricatures. He was a master of subtle and flexible allegory, a genre which has far too much in the way of heavy-handed polemic floating around. And he was witty. Darkly, quietly witty, and always just at the right time.

What I'm saying is, we've lost a damn fine writer.
posted by him at 6:34 AM on June 18, 2010


No dia seguinte, ninguem morreu.

Most of the obits don't move me, but awwwww. . .
Saramago's As Intermitências da Morte was the first book I ever read in Portuguese, so he'll always be important to me as an author.
posted by whatzit at 6:35 AM on June 18, 2010


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posted by TheyCallItPeace at 6:42 AM on June 18, 2010


I'll go with

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as well. And we can all forgo indents for this day.
posted by oneironaut at 6:44 AM on June 18, 2010


And back to the earth he goes.

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posted by Back to you, Jim. at 6:50 AM on June 18, 2010


I find this photo of Saramago from the NYT obituary very moving. He looked so frail, and so human.
posted by Bromius at 6:57 AM on June 18, 2010


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posted by sigmagalator at 7:42 AM on June 18, 2010


Blindness was a life changing book for me. It ripped out my heart while offering a faint glimmer that sometimes in some places there is still a little hope for humanity. I couldn't bring myself to watch the movie either. Some of the scenes in that book still haunt me- so grotesque and yet a reflection of many actual atrocities.

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posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 7:45 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This just knocked the wind out of me. We've truly lost a literary giant. Somehow, I didn't know he was so old.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:53 AM on June 18, 2010


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posted by nfg at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2010


I met him once at a bookfair, in Mexico City (2001) at a "private" book signing. He was sitting alone, in a big chair, in the middle of a big 19th century room, surrounded by paintings. I was 20 years old. He looked small and old, but lively. He shook my hand, grabbed my cheek, signed my book (Blindness), and said to me, in perfect Spanish: "¿Eres escritor? Lo pareces; pareces un buen chico." [Are you a writer? You look like one; you seem like a nice kid.]

I am now an editor and a writer, but I wouldn't have pursued my career if it hadn't been for that encounter.

He will be missed.
posted by omegar at 8:40 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I shouldn't be surprised; I've been reading his work for the past 10 years and slowly catching up on his entire canon, so I knew how old he was, but I just gasped. The world has just lost an amazing, incredible writer.

What I enjoyed most about reading him is that after (or while) I read one of books, I'd unconsciously pick up his basic writing style and forgo short sentences for a while.

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posted by hopeless romantique at 8:49 AM on June 18, 2010


I once fell in love with someone over a shared copy of All The Names.

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posted by mochapickle at 9:03 AM on June 18, 2010


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posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:10 AM on June 18, 2010


oh damn.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:15 AM on June 18, 2010


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posted by dog food sugar at 9:15 AM on June 18, 2010


NYT obit post
posted by hopeless romantique at 9:44 AM on June 18, 2010


Sad, sad. Markson and Saramago, two master craftsmen, so close together. Sad to lose them both. The History of the Siege of Lisbon was my favourite of his. A great writer (and, judging from interviews, a great human too), who mill be missd.
posted by hydatius at 9:50 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's pretty weird to see this as I wake up from my jet-lagged nap on my first day of my vacation in Portugal. Weird weird weird.

I read Blindness (or most of it) before I had even thought about considering visiting Portugal, so in that way I've been familiar with Saramago longer than I've been familiar with Portugal. I've read parts of a lot of his work, but never finished any. He's an extremely unforgiving writer and isn't going to shy away from making his point, even if said point is fairly brutal. I found Blindness to be one of the most beautifully written and completely disturbing books I'd ever read. So, you could say that Saramago definitely made an impression on me.

It'll be interesting to see what the reaction will be like around here over the next few days. (If, y'know, I can stay awake to see it.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:17 AM on June 18, 2010


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posted by Beardman at 10:28 AM on June 18, 2010


damn. I guess there is no avoiding the lavender letter from death.

Glad to realize that I still have not read all his books, I will ration myself to make them last.

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posted by Joad at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2010


I've only read Blindness so far, but my, what a book.

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posted by JauntyFedora at 11:13 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by cowbellemoo at 11:27 AM on June 18, 2010


I'm in the middle of moving, and all my books are boxed up. Dammit.

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posted by queseyo at 1:09 PM on June 18, 2010


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Are you on your way to the Unknown Island?
posted by yoga at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2010


I liked Blindness, and LOVED The Double.

Saramago was one of those writers who made me ashamed that I couldn't read his work in the original language.

Agreed. Ernesto Sabato is another. And Bulgakov.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:08 PM on June 18, 2010


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One of my very favourite writers.
posted by ob at 3:12 PM on June 18, 2010


No!

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posted by mdonley at 10:50 PM on June 18, 2010


All the Names is next to my bed, with Senhor José having just crashed to the floor not at all like a drifting leaf. Saramago could make authorial asides with such unique grace and authority that I pause and admire each. Such beauty, such charm... oh, José Saramago, you said the artist didn't have to die, you let Death sleep, and still here we are!

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posted by teremala at 12:41 AM on June 19, 2010


I somehow missed this news until right now. Somewhat fittingly, I just finished Death with Interruptions a few days ago. When I first read Saramago, I had a bit of trouble adapting to his rolling, flowing style; now I couldn't imagine his tales told any other way. Sometimes it still seems a bit difficult to really fall into his pace, but there's a certain point in his books where it all comes together, picks up steam, and reading his prose becomes fluid and rapid, or like a slow tumbling fall down an infinite flight of stairs.

Thanks for the words.

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posted by 1UP at 5:11 AM on June 21, 2010


Trivially, Playboy Portugal may be shut down over its "controversial" cover + photo shoot in homage to Saramago. (Links are NSFW)
posted by chavenet at 10:40 AM on July 8, 2010


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