For an account of the São Paulo event, see http://sic.sapo.pt/online/noticias/cartaz/20051028Saramago+novo.htm;
and for a preview of the book’s first few pages, in the Portuguese original, published in the Brazilian magazine EPOCA on 31 October 2005, see http://revistaepoca.globo.com/Epoca/0,6993,EPT1062463-1655,00.html.**
The novel, set in an imaginary country, begins: ‘No dia seguinte ninguém morreu’ (‘On the next day no-one died’), and will explore the idea of the instantaneous and unexpected disappearance of death and its social, political and ideological consequences. It is clear from the published extract that there will be a strong element of satire directed against organised religion (the Minister of Health gets an urgent and distressed phonecall from a cardinal), and it may already be legitimate at least to politely speculate as to how, in Britain, the Blair government or its successor will react to the English translation.**
It is, meanwhile, interesting to note that Saramago chose to launch the book neither in his native country, Portugal, nor in Spain, his adoptive home, but in Brazil (on 31 October he presented the book in another Brazilian city, Belo Horizonte, to an audience of 2000 – most of them, surprisingly, young – thanks to Virgílio Almeida for this information). Is this a straw in the wind, a sign – like the huge advances recently paid to diasporic Indian writers Vikram Seth and Vikram Chandra – of the increasing weight of the big emerging nations and their markets in the world literary system?