Some interesting things about José Saramago

This week’s Weekly Geek task is to find out some interesting facts about your favourite author. I wasn’t sure whether I’d participate, but once I started looking up José Saramago I couldn’t stop – he is such an interesting man!


Portuguese author José Saramago was born in 1922 into a family of landless peasants. Their surname was De Sousa, but an error in registering his birth meant that his father’s nickname ‘Saramago’ was accidentally added to his birth certificate. The drunken registrar also wrote his birth date wrong on the form  – meaning his official birth date is two days after his real one!

Saramago is proud of his impoverished background:

“If my grandfather had been a rich landowner and not an illiterate pig breeder, I wouldn’t be the man I am today,”

At the age of 2 Saramago’s family moved from their small village to the city of Lisbon where his father became a policeman. This failed to improve their financial situation and the family had to pawn their warm blankets to have enough money to survive.

At 13, Saramago started at a vocational school, where he trained to be a car mechanic. He didn’t own any books, but his love of reading meant that he often went to the library after studying.

In 1947 his first book The Land of Sin was published, but it wasn’t until 1982 that he finally acheived critical acclaim for his book Baltasar and Blimunda.

Saramago is a member of the communist party and a proclaimed atheist. His views have caused controversy in the strongly Catholic country of Portugal and on the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ in 1991 he was forced to move to the Canary Islands.

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, but described winning as not being very important.

He is often described as being cold,” “arrogant,” and “unsympathetic.” but when questioned about his attitude Saramago replied:

“I am not a bad person,”  “I hurt only with my tongue!”

I love Saramago’s writing. If you haven’t read any of his books then I highly recommend you try Blindness.

Do you love Saramago’s books?

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  1. Verity says:

    That’s a clever idea for a blog post! I’ve not read any books by him but might find myself doing something like that for one of my favourite authors!

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I look forward to seeing some interesting facts about authors on your blog soon!

  2. Hi Jackie,

    I love Saramago! And he started writing so late in life too – inspiring! Have you read his recent memoir, Small Memories? I reviewed it for Bookmunch here: – worth checking out!


    1. Jackie says:

      Valerie, I haven’t read his memoir yet – but will be after finding out what an interesting life he has led. Thanks for the review!

  3. Blindness will be read, Blindness will be read, Blindness will be read…

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, Hopefully if you say it enough it will come true! LOL!

  4. I don’t love his books…yet. But I think I’m going to: does that count?! He’s been in the column of my mental list that includes Pamuk and Naguib Mahfouz, writers with whom I am eyeing with twinned enthusiasm and anxiety because I have a feeling that, if I actually start reading them, they’re going to join the list that includes Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges…the list of writers that make me want to learn other languages so that I can more properly devote myself to their works!

    1. Jackie says:

      BuriedInPrint, I’m not sure that counts! I have a list of great authors I need to try, but I am finding them very hit or miss. I hope that Saramago falls into the hit category for you!

  5. What a history he had – thank you for the introduction…


    1. Jackie says:

      Erotic Horizon, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time!

  6. Annabel says:

    What an interesting man. Blindness was wonderful. I have a couple of others in my TBR piles, including the Gospel according to Jesus Christ – I love books which make you think and question your beliefs, as his do.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I haven’t read The Gospel According to Jesus Christ yet either – I need to actively seek out a few of his books, as they never end up in charity shops!

  7. Beth F says:

    Interesting Geeks assignment. I haven’t read any of his books.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I love this assignment – there are lots of interesting author facts in the weekly geek world today!

  8. Sandy says:

    I think leading a difficult life like that only can make the writing more interesting. I loved Blindness, and would really like to read more of his work. I find it curious that he is described as basically being an unlikable person! I love this type of post. I may give some thought to doing something like this in the future.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, It looks as though most of my favourite authors have had difficult lives and are unlikable! I think hardship and isolation makes good writers great!

  9. softdrink says:

    I’ve never read Saramago, but he is on my list of authors to someday read. I’m a little scared of Blindness, though.

    1. Jackie says:

      softdrink, Blindness can be considered scary, both in terms of writing style and content. Perhaps you should start with The Double? I think it is much simpler, but still very good.

  10. cbjames says:

    I cound myself as a fan of Blindness, but that’s the only one of his books I’ve made it through to date. He certainly is an interesting man, though.

    1. Jackie says:

      cbjames, I hope you read some more of his books soon. I’ll keep an eye out for your reviews!

  11. She says:

    I’m glad to know something about the man behind Blindness. It was such an intense book, and it seems to mirror its author. Thanks for posting this!

    1. Jackie says:

      She, Thank you! It is good to know it is interesting to you.

  12. claire says:

    Thanks for writing about Saramago! He’s one of my most favourite authors as well. Though I haven’t read Blindness yet, but maybe this year, I super loved The History of the Siege of Lisbon. Love his voice, love hois writing style, amazing writer!

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I love his writing style too! I haven’t read The History of the Siege of Lisbon yet, but it is good to know that you enjoyed it. I hope to read it sometime this year.

  13. diane says:

    That was interesting Jackie. I own several of his books, but have only read Blindness (2X) – loved that book as well.

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I’ve just got the Blindness DVD. I hope to watch it in the next few days. While I’m not expecting to love it I am hoping that it will be interesting to compare it to the book.

  14. pussreboots says:

    I’ve never read his books. The story of his name being mangled reminds me of one of the versions regarding my husband’s family name. One way or another it was mangled from something else.

    1. Jackie says:

      pussreboots, It is great to have these interesting little stories in your family. It would be good to find out more about that one day – perhaps you should write a post about it?

      1. pussreboots says:

        You can do a search for Sammis and find many versions of the story. I’m not sure I’d have much more to add to the story.

  15. JoAnn says:

    I’ve never read Saramago, but plan to start with Blindness… soon.

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, I hope that you enjoy it!

  16. Steph says:

    How interesting! I’ve only read one book by Saramago – All the Names – but I really enjoyed it and have since acquired a ton of his other books. I think Blindness will be the one I tackle next, and definitely this year!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, It is good to know you are a Saramago fan – I hope that you enjoy Blindness.

  17. kimbofo says:

    He sounds like an interesting man, but I’d like to know the sources you used — in particular, where did the quotes come from?

  18. Tricia says:

    What an interesting man! Neat story about the birth certificate – little did the registrar know that he was creating a name that would be famous!

    I like Saramago a lot – I’ve read Blindness and All the Names and hope to read more!

    1. Jackie says:

      Tricia, I don’t think the registrar knew a lot at the time! I wonder if he found out in later life?

  19. I have only read Blindness by him. Need to check out more.

    WG: Sylvia Plath

    1. Jackie says:

      gautami tripathy, I have heard so many good things about all his books. I really need to read some more too!

  20. Kathleen says:

    I’ve read none of his books but am fascinated by his life story and how it led him to be a writer.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, You should give one of his books a try – I’m sure you’d enjoy his writing.

  21. I haven’t read anything by him, but plan to change that this year. Think I’m going to go for Death at Intervals, because, it’s got one of the most fantastic covers I’ve ever seen. Drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

    Didn’t realise his life was so interesting… wow! I’m well and truly impressed.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, It does have a fantastic cover! I hope that you enjoy your first Saramago experience!

  22. Jenners says:

    That was interesting … and he seems like an abrupt and honest person. I do want to try “Blindness” at some point.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I like the way that he is prepared to make his feelings known, even to the extent of being forced out of his own country. I don’t think I’d be prepared to make that sacrifice, but I admire him for doing so.

  23. Kari says:

    1947??? How old is this man?

    1. Jackie says:

      Kari, Born in 1922, so I assume 88.

  24. Rebecca Reid says:

    I haven’t yet read any but I remember your review of BLINDNESS so I really do want to read that one. Thanks for sharing this. So interesting!

  25. Andi says:

    Great list of facts!! I love his quote about only hurting with his tongue. I know a few people like that (not me, nooo!). :)

    I have several of his books on my stacks, but somehow I always manage to work around them. I think that may change because I can’t wait to read Death with Interruptions.

  26. Bellezza says:

    I doubt I’ll ever forget Blindness. I haven’t seen the film, nor do I particularly want to, but the imagery in the novel could not have been more lasting. I consider it more a premise on society, than about being blind, though.


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