Anyone interested in José Saramago could usefully look at an article at:
(Three Monkeys Online – book blog – 31 August 2010), entitled "José Saramago – an appreciation",
by William Wall, an Irish novelist who has before now been longlisted for the Booker Prize.
This article is primarily a review of the English translation (‘The Notebooks’) of Saramago’s ‘O Caderno’ – if I mistake not, the first volume of his political and general short writings to appear in English? – but it also makes some extremely valid points about the political nature (an aspect sometimes occluded) of the Nobel Laureate’s work as a whole, finding ‘The Notebook’ ‘a fascinatingly direct insight into the mind of a literary Nobel prizewinner who no longer cared very much what effect his opinions could have on his own standing, but who wanted passionately to cut through the fake discourse, the lies that he called the "other truth", that allow our modern form of semi-democracy to flourish’.
I am also pleased to note that Wall quotes and links to my own article on Saramago and Orwell (see entry on this blog for 25 April 2006):
– ‘How totalitarianism begins at home: Saramago and George Orwell’, in In Dialogue with Saramago: Essays in Comparative Literature, eds. Mark Sabine and Adriana Alves de Paula Martins, Manchester: University of Manchester, 2006, pp. 105-120; http://yatrarollason.info/files/SaramagoandOrwell.pdf
Wall states: ‘In the USA his communism damaged his reputation – and the sales of his books – and it was divisive in Portugal where it sat awkwardly with Portuguese pride in his Nobel Prize, but in other parts of the world it was understood and welcomed, among readers of the European Left, and more particularly in South America where it was especially appreciated by the vast Lusophone population of Brazil.’ I am not sure if the remark about the USA is fair, since Saramago has certainly had a higher profile (and higher sales) there than most recent non-Anglophone writers; and the remarks about Brazil are also true of Spanish-speaking Latin America. At all events, though, this is one of the best brief introductions to the master’s work that I have seen in quite some time!
William Wall’s piece has also appeared in the on-line journal Irish Left Review (26 August 2010),
under the same title, ‘José Saramago: An Appreciation’:
It is also now on his blog (slightly amended):