Conference: José Saramago, 20 Years of the Nobel – Coimbra (Portugal), October 2018

From 8 to 10 October 2018 I had the pleasure of attending the international conference ‘José Saramago: 20 Anos com o Prémio Nobel’ (José Saramago, 20 Years of the Nobel), held at the Convento de São Francisco conference centre in Coimbra to mark the 20th anniversary of the award in 1998 of the Nobel Prize for Literature to José Saramago (1922-2010), novelist, dramatist, essayist and more and the first Portuguese-language writer to receive that honour. The conference, whose official pages are at:
was co-sponsored by a number of entities, notably the Centre for Portuguese Studies of the University of Coimbra’s Faculty of Letters and the Fundação José Saramago. The opening ceremony was attended by, among others, the President of the Republic and Saramago’s widow, Pilar del Río. The co-organisers were Professor Carlos Reis and Professor Ana Paula Arnaut, both of the Faculty of Letters.

Presented at the conference was the hitherto unpublished final volume of Saramago’s ongoing notebook ‘Cadernos de Lanzarote’, corresponding to the time of his Nobel.

The plenary lectures, panels and presentation sessions encompassed a vast range of topics related to the life’s work of the Portuguese Nobel, from perspectives ranging from the literary and the political/journalistic through to the theological, and the atmosphere was at all times both welcoming and intellectually stimulating. The proceedings concluded with a lecture by Carlos Reis on character and allegory in Saramago, a moving address by Pilar del Río, and an excellent theatrical adaptation of the novel O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis.

tThe text of my own paper, ‘The reception of José Saramago’s O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis in the Anglophone world: translation and criticism’, is on-line at:

(Photos: Scenes in Lisbon associated with O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis)

Bringing together a multitude of specialists and attended by some 200 people, this memorable event will indeed serve to further broaden and deepen research and dialogue at global level in the ever-fecund field of Saramago studies. Participation was a pleasure, and post-conference debate will be eagerly awaited!

Note added 25 June 2020: The papers from this conference have now been collected and published (physically and electronically) by the University of Coimbra Press. For details, see entry for 24 June 2020. 


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