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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,

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.''