The majority of writers, even the majority of great writers, write with noticeable similarity. A few write with such utter unique distinction, that they can truly be said to write like no one else. Jose Saramago, the great Portuguese novelist, is one of them. Once you’ve read Saramago, you will never mistake him for anyone else.
Saramago is blessed with two astounding gifts: the most penetrating insight into metaphor ever found in a writer, and a style so clear and simple it literally does not need periods, paragraphs, or quotations marks to be understood. In America, such a style is found almost entirely in the overheated, over-praised works of pretentious writers whose novels are only made more obtuse and opaque by the use of such a heavy handed approach. With Saramago, the result is the opposite: a streamlined, breezy, and remarkably nimble prose that refuses to tax the reader and rarely calls attention to itself.
As for Saramago’s other grand gift, a quick glance at the titles of his many novels provides immediate insight into his use of metaphor: Blindness, Seeing, The Cave, The Double…But where most writers explore a metaphor only from one or two angles, on a few simple levels, Saramago circles round and round and round, exhausting every possible whiff of meaning, delving deeper and deeper until the reader questions everything they thought they knew about a subject. Just what does it mean to be blind? Or to see? Or to be on an island? Or to die?
Just recently, Saramago passed away, and the world lost one of the greatest voices it ever heard.
Jose Saramago Books to Read:
Blindess, Seeing, Death with Interruptions, The Stone Raft, All the Names, The Double, The Cave, The Elephant’s Journey, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.
Jose Saramago Links:
New York Times Jose Saramago Obituary
Jose Saramago Official Blog (translated)
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