The Communist Prince of the Magical Realism: José Saramago

''If you can see, look.

If you can look, observe.'


José Saramago ''Blindness''


José de Sousa Saramago, as a staunch atheist, a loyal communist, and a rebellious figure of Portugal, may be the most bewildering writer of the late 20th century. The author, who did not recognize any political, religious, and social authority throughout his life, took his readers on legendary journeys by using the art of literature with all its depth. Saramago, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, was asked how he felt about it, and he replied: “At 63, my second life began. I can’t complain. The things you think are a big deal are not so big. I’ve won the Nobel Prize. And so?”


José Saramago. “Yo escribo para comprender.” El Viejo Topo, 2019, www.elviejotopo.com/topoexpress/yo-escribo-para-comprender.



José Saramago was born in 1922 into a modest family of rural workers in the Ribatejo region of Portugal. When he was two years old, he moved with his family to the city of Lisbon, where his father would work as a policeman. Economic difficulties haunted the writer's family during his childhood and youth. Therefore, before devoting himself completely to writing, Saramago worked in many professions, such as a mechanic, draftsman, journalist, and translator. His first novel Land of Sin whose original name actually was ''The Widow'' was published in 1947 when he was the age of 24. Saramago, who took a 19-year break from writing, published his poetry book Possible Poems in 1966 and his second book, Manual of Painting and Calligraphy, in 1977. At this point, it is also worth mentioning that 1969 was a very special year for the author; so much so that Saramago joined the Portuguese Communist Party that year, of which he would be a lifelong loyal member.


Saramago has received a lot of criticism for his political opinion, although not much in literary terms. Criticism was on why Saramago still failed to grow up politically in a developing and changing world and was stuck in communist ideology. From a historical perspective, Saramago's stubbornness to communism does not seem very difficult to understand. Having grown up under the regime of António Salazar, Portugal's notorious fascist dictator, Saramago joined the Portuguese Communist Party, the most important opposition party against Salazar. Saramago sums up his insistence on communism: "I carry such a hormone that I have no choice but to be a communist.''


Farrell, Jenny. “José Saramago: Visions of a Better World.” Copyright (c) 2016 - 2021 Culture Matters Co-Operative Ltd; FCA Registration No: 4347; Registered Office: 8 Moore Court, Newcastle NE15 8QE, 29 Sept. 2018, www.culturematters.org.uk/index.php/arts/fiction/item/2897-jose-saramago-visions-of-a-better-world.



In 1991, his controversial book The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, was published, won the Portuguese Writers’ Association Prize, and was nominated for Ariosto, the European Union literary contest. However, because of this book, in which he critically discussed God and Satan, the author was ostracized by the Catholic Church. As a matter of fact, the Portuguese government, which surrendered to pressure from conservative sections and the Catholic Church, banned the book from participating in the competition. After this incident, the Portuguese writer settled in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where he would live with his wife Pilar until his death.


Saramago was revolutionary not only intellectually, but also literarily. With his unique grammar rules, style, and striking sentences, he first creates a shock effect on the reader. It is quite possible for someone reading him for the first time to get lost in the maze of long sentences of the writer who does not use any punctuation other than dots and commas. One of the most striking features of his novels is the ambiguity of time and place. In some of his works, the characters do not even have names, there is no chapter, there is no chapter ending. Saramago rebelled in literature as well as in politics. Adding surreal events to ordinary lives, the author thus shows a world where the border between reality and surreality is blurred. In one of the interviews, he states, ''All my novels are based on some kind of impossibility; the impossibility of everyone being blind at the same time, the impossibility of Plato's famous cave being under a shopping mall. I mean, I wouldn't be able to write a novel if it wasn't for the impossibilities.''


Bravo, Fernanda Muslera/Alfonso Armada/Julio. “El mundo llora la muerte de Saramago.” abc, 18 June 2010, www.abc.es/cultura/libros/saramago-reacciones-201006180000_noticia.html?ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F.



Reading Saramago means going on unknown journeys, getting lost between dotless sentences and finding yourself again, embracing impossibilities and miracles, and looking at the world with a critical eye. José Saramago, the rebellious prince of literature passed away from this world in 2010 and left behind his works that had repercussions in the world, such as Baltasar and Blimunda (1982), The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1986), Blindness (1995), All the Names (1997), the Cave (2000) and The Elephant's Journey (2008).


Finally, it would be appropriate to end with his words:



''One day the sun disappears and everything ends.
And the universe is unaware that we even exist.
And it doesn't even know that Homer wrote The Iliad.''




References:








Author Photo

Umut Açıkgöz

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