José Saramago (sah-rah-MAH-goh) is Portugal’s best-known and most celebrated writer. He was born to a family of poor farmworkers in the central Portuguese village of Azinhaga. When Saramago was two years old, his family moved to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. After graduating from technical school in Lisbon, Saramago took a job in an automobile repair shop, where he worked for two years before moving on to a job with the Portuguese Social Welfare Service. He married his first wife, Ilda Reis, in 1944, and their only child was born three years later. During this time, Saramago would regularly spend his after-work hours in the public library, broadening his literary education. He also wrote his first novel, Terra do pecado (land of sin), publishing it in 1947 at the age of twenty-five. Saramago was disappointed with this work and, after finishing an unpublished novel and working on another one, he gave up writing for two decades.
During his silent period, Saramago took a job with a publisher in Lisbon, and this helped him maintain contact with the literary scene. He translated the works of a number of major writers from French to Portuguese. He finally returned to publishing his own writing in 1966 with a book of poetry, Os poemas possíveis (possible poems). He followed this book with his 1970 collection of poems, Provàvelmente alegria (probably joy), and, in 1975, the long poem O ano de 1993 (the year 1993).
In 1969 Saramago joined the Portuguese Communist Party. The decade of the 1970’s was a time of change for Portugal and for Saramago. In 1970 António O. Salazar, who had come to power in Portugal in the 1930’s, died. The dictatorship continued under Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano, who had held control since Salazar suffered a stroke two years earlier. In that same year, Saramago and Reis divorced. Saramago left his publishing job in 1971 and turned to newspaper work. From 1971 to 1973, he worked as an editor at the newspaper Diário de Lisboa and then became deputy director of the Diário de Nóticias until 1975. Most of his nonfiction works during this period are collections of his newspaper writing.
In 1974 a military revolt...
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