Sonntag, 20. Juni 2010

seitens der Städte.. Lissabon: Saramago

José Saramago

Saramago was born in 1922 into a family of landless peasants in Azinhaga, Portugal, a small village in the province of Ribatejo some hundred kilometers northeast of Lisbon. His parents were José de Sousa and Maria de Piedade. "Saramago", a wild herbaceous plant known in English as the wild radish, was his father's family's nickname, and was accidentally incorporated into his name upon registration of his birth.
In 1924, Saramago's family moved to Lisbon, where his father started working as a policeman. A few months after the family moved to the capital, his brother Francisco, older by two years, died. He spent vacations with his grandparents in Azinhaga. When his grandfather suffered a stroke and was to be taken to Lisbon for treatment, Saramago recalled, "He went into the yard of his house, where there were a few trees, fig trees, olive trees. And he went one by one, embracing the trees and crying, saying good-bye to them because he knew he would not return. To see this, to live this, if that doesn't mark you for the rest of your life," Saramago said, "you have no feeling." Although Saramago was a good pupil, his parents were unable to afford to keep him in grammar school, and instead moved him to a technical school at age 12. After graduating, he worked as a car mechanic for two years. Later he worked as a translator, then as a journalist. He was assistant editor of the newspaper Diário de Notícias, a position he had to leave after the political events in 1975.[2] This is the darkest period of his life. While assistant editor, he fired 24 journalists that demanded more pluralism in the editorial line of the Diário de Notícias.
After a period of working as a translator he was able to support himself as a writer. Saramago married Ilda Reis in 1944. Their only child, Violante, was born in 1947.[2] From 1988 until his death in June 2010 Saramago was married to the Spanish journalist Pilar del Río, who is the official translator of his books into Spanish.

José Saramago didn't achieve widespread recognition and acclaim until he was in his mid-fifties, when his publication of Baltasar and Blimunda brought him to the attention of an international readership.[2] This novel won the Portuguese PEN Club Award.
He became a member of the Portuguese Communist Party in 1969 and remained so until the end of his life.[4] Saramago was also an atheist[5] and self-described pessimist.[6] His views have aroused considerable controversy in Portugal, especially after the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.[7] Members of the country's Catholic community were outraged by Saramago's representation of Jesus as a fallible human being. Portugal's conservative government would not allow Saramago's work to compete for the European Literary Prize,[2] arguing that it offended the Catholic community. As a result, Saramago and his wife moved to Lanzarote, an island in the Spanish Canaries.

Saramago learned he was to be made a Nobel Laureate in October 1998 when he was about to fly to Germany ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair.[2] This came as a surprise to him and his Portuguese editor, Zeferino Coelho, recalled: "When he won the Nobel, Saramago said to me, 'I was not born for all this glory.' I told him, 'You may not have been made for this glory, but I was!'".[2] He used his Nobel lecture to call his grandfather Jerónimo "the wisest man [he] ever knew". Despite the award, though, he remained a divisive character in Portugal, both criticised and praised.

Saramago was an unflinching supporter of communism, a fact which dampened his popularity.[3] He was a critic of both the European Union and the International Monetary Fund; however, he stood (unsuccessfully) as a candidate for the European Parliament in the 2009 election.
During a visit to Ramallah in March 2002 during the second intifada, Saramago compared the Palestinian city, which was blockaded at the time by the Israeli army, to the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Holocaust survivors and intellectuals, including some who were themselves highly critical of Israel, condemned Saramago's statement as false and antisemitic. On the same occasion, he opined that "the Jews are unworthy of any more sympathy for their sufferings during the second World War". The Anti Defamation League called the statement antisemitic.

In an article in the Madrid newspaper El Pais (as translated by Paul Berman in The Forward) on April 21, 2002, Saramago wrote that:
"Intoxicated mentally by the messianic dream of a Greater Israel which will finally achieve the expansionist dreams of the most radical Zionism; contaminated by the monstrous and rooted 'certitude' that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God and that, consequently, all the actions of an obsessive, psychological and pathologically exclusivist racism are justified; educated and trained in the idea that any suffering that has been inflicted, or is being inflicted, or will be inflicted on everyone else, especially the Palestinians, will always be inferior to that which they themselves suffered in the Holocaust, the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner."
In a speech in Brazil on October 13, 2003, Saramago stated, regarding Jews, that: “Living under the shadows of the Holocaust and expecting to be forgiven for anything they do on behalf of what they have suffered seems abusive to me. They didn’t learn anything from the suffering of their parents and grandparents.
During the 2006 Lebanon War, Saramago signed a statement together with Tariq Ali, John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy and Howard Zinn, condemning what they characterized as "a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation".

Saramago at San Sebastián International Film Festival (holding the Persian translation of his book, Blindness)Saramago's novels often deal with fantastic scenarios, such as that in his 1986 novel The Stone Raft, in which the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from the rest of Europe and sails around the Atlantic Ocean. In his 1995 novel Blindness, an entire unnamed country is stricken with a mysterious plague of "white blindness". In his 1984 novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (which won the PEN Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Award), Fernando Pessoa's heteronym survives for a year after the poet himself dies. Additionally, his novel Death with Interruptions (also translated as Death at Intervals) revolves around a country in which nobody dies over the course of seven months beginning on New Year's Day, and how the country reacts to the spiritual and political implications of the event.
Using such imaginative themes, Saramago addresses the most serious of subject matters with empathy for the human condition and for the isolation of contemporary urban life. His characters struggle with their need to connect with one another, form relations and bond as a community; and also with their need for individuality, and to find meaning and dignity outside of political and economic structures.

Saramago's experimental style often features long sentences, at times more than a page long. He uses periods sparingly, choosing instead a loose flow of clauses joined by commas, in clear disrespect of grammar rules. Many of his paragraphs extend for pages without pausing for dialog, which Saramago chooses not to delimit by quotation marks; when the speaker changes, Saramago capitalizes the first letter of the new speaker's clause. In his novel Blindness, Saramago completely abandons the use of proper nouns instead choosing to refer to characters simply by some unique characteristic, an example of his use of style to enhance the recurring themes of identity and meaning found throughout his work.

Saramago died on 18 June 2010, aged 87, having spent the last few years of his life living in Lanzarote, Spain. The Guardian described him as "the finest Portuguese writer of his generation",[18] while Fernanda Eberstadt of The New York Times said he was "known almost as much for his unfaltering Communism as for his fiction". Saramago's translator, Margaret Jull Costa, paid tribute to him, describing his "wonderful imagination" and calling him "the greatest contemporary Portuguese writer".[18] Saramago had continued his writing until his death. His most recent publication, Cain, was published in 2009, with an English translation expected in late 2010. Saramago had suffered from pneumonia a year before his death. Having been thought to have made a full recovery, he was scheduled to attend the Edinburgh Festival in August 2010.