The Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago, one of the twentieth century's greatest writers, passed away last week. I first came across his work as a student in England in 2000, when I bought most of his novels, in beautiful paperback editions published by The Harvill Press (now Harvill Secker, and not quite the same thing), in a garage sale. They seemed to me to express a wholly original sensibility and a fruitful impatience with many fossilised novelistic conventions, and this taught me a great deal. The last Saramago novel I read, and delighted in writing about, was the wondrous Death At Intervals, in which he gave body, life and voice to that spectre that flits in the margins of our consciousness all our lives, death.
Here is an old post on one of Saramago's most charming books, "Jose Saramago's Unknown Island", and here is a link to his lovely meditation on literature delivered when he won the Nobel Prize in 1998, "How Characters Became the Masters and The Author Their Apprentice" ("Now I can clearly see those who were my life-masters, those who most intensively taught me the hard work of living, those dozens of characters from my novels and plays that right now I see marching past before my eyes, those men and women of paper and ink...").