Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, José

José Saramago, (that's a Portuguese name, not Spanish, so it's [ʒuˈzɛ sɐɾɐˈmaɣu] zho-ZEH sah-rah-MAH-goo) was born today in 1922, to family of landless peasants in the village of Anzihaga, Portugal. His books have been translated into at least 25 languages, and he's a Nobel laureate. His style is idiosyncratic, his themes humanity, individuality, commonality... I find him either brilliant or incomprehensible; some of his books I love and some I can't get past the first chapters...

He spent much of his life, and died - just last year, in June -, on Lanzarote (one of the Spanish Canary Islands), because Portugal's conservative government would not allow Saramago's novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ to compete for the European Literary Prize, arguing that it offended the Catholic community.

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At 9:41 AM, November 16, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Wikipedia reports that "O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo" was published back in 1991, which makes me wonder if the Portuguese government of today might have been more tolerant of it.

It's true that Saramago left Portugal for Spain in a snit over his government's refusal to nominate that book for a prize. BTW, a few unreligious Socialist Portuguese friends told me that in his later years Saramago, whose second wife was Spanish, advocated the unification of Spain and Portugal (with Spain obviously predominating, due to its vaster population). Needless to say, this endeared Saramago even less to the Portuguese people (even leftist ones), who already found him to be a querulous sort.

At 3:08 PM, November 17, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I probably should have pointed out how long ago that was. I doubt Portugal would be so uptight today.

And I did notice a (ahem) certain amount of "We're all Iberians" in The Stone Raft... after all, its premise is the Iberian peninsula, less Gibraltar, suddenly separating from Europe and heading off into the Atlantic, with one course change to avoid crashing into the Canaries...


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