José Saramago


José Saramago

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

José Saramago
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1998

Born: 16 November 1922, Azinhaga, Portugal

Died: 18 June 2010, Lanzarote, Spain

Residence at the time of the award: Portugal

Prize motivation: “who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality”

Language: Portuguese

Prize share: 1/1


José Saramago became a full-time author in his fifties. Before that he worked as a car mechanic and a journalist, among other things. His international breakthrough came with the novel Baltasar and Blimunda, published in 1982. Saramago was an atheist and politically involved in the Communist Party in Portugal, which is reflected in his literary output. His writings were controversial in his native country, and consequently Saramago came to settle on Lanzarote later in life.


José Saramago frequently makes use of allegory in his writing, and fanciful elements are interspersed with a detailed and critical look at society. A characteristic of Saramago’s style is the blending of dialog and narration, with sparse punctuation and long sentences that can extend for several pages. In one of his most successful novels, Blindness (1995), the population is stricken with an epidemic of blindness that quickly leads to societal collapse.

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