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"I had nothing to say!"
by FREE! Magazine
2007-04-04 11:04:53
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José Saramago, the genial Portuguese writer, awarded with the Literature Nobel Prize in 1998, visited Finland for several days, giving some speeches about his life and work at Helsinki University, as well as at some bookshops in the capital. Despite being 84, Saramago conserves a great vitality and lucidity, even correcting his Finnish translator in some dates of publication of his previous works.

Having no boundaries at all at expressing his personal opinions, convinced Communist until the end, and atheist, Saramago has provoked polemic and admiration towards his creativity and integrity, plus he was unanimously considered a worthy winner of the Nobel Prize. During his intervention in Helsinki, he pinpointed the fact of having a break in his writing process for more than 20 years.

Actually, he did not publish anything from 1947 to 1966, because, as he has repeated many times, “I had nothing to say.” And he also had time to defend the respect for the elderly, “When I started to be published internationally, I was 60-years-old and I was a beginner, when many others are retired. So I have a message for the young people, and also for the ones who are not so young. That means basically for everybody, and it is that life does not end when you are 30…or 40 or 50. I have written my best books when I was old. And I enjoy working, I do not believe in this thing called retirement. So please, respect the older people because they still have many things to offer.”

And really, like with a good wine, the work of Saramago improved with the passage of time. Since 1980 he has written many acclaimed titles such as The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, The Cave and The Double.

The author is quite a talkative person who does not feel shy at all to analyze his works or his previous experiences. He exhales an aura of satisfaction about all the things achieved in his life, but, at the same time, he is very humble and respectful in his comments and answers. Although Saramago's schedule was very hectic, he kindly had some minutes to answer a couple of answers from FREE! Magazine:

Mr Saramago, coming back to the topic of your book The Double, how would you feel if you went out to the street and met a duplicate of yourself?

I think I would not like it at all. As I said, I think that if you meet a person exactly the same as you, the tendency would be to eliminate that person. The topic goes very faraway in time; it was treated already in old Greek Mythology, in the story of Zeus in the role of Amphitrion to get Alcmena, his wife. And we could discuss a long time about nowadays issues such as cloning, but well, I think we have not enough time, and better things to do…

What was your reaction when you received the Nobel Prize?

Well, at the beginning I was shocked, it was like if they had hit me with a hammer in the head. But then, I took it more relaxed. Of course, it was very nice to go to Stockholm and receive the prize and everything…but you know… I was alone at an airport when I received the phone call that gave me notice of being awarded with the prize, and after a while, I just thought…well… I have won the Nobel Prize… so what? Life goes on…

After renouncing to take a taxi, preferring to take the arm of his wife, the Spanish Pilar Del Río, who is also his translator, they walk off into an exceptionally sunny day in Helsinki. Later, at the end of one interview in a bookstore full of admirers and curious people, he received a quick visit from a very special fan: the president of Finland, Tarja Halonen.

By Antonio Díaz

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alexandra pereira2007-04-04 23:54:51
You must understand Saramago was being ironic at the same time: it was an incredibly grey and boring dictatorship period in Portugal, he had nothing to say then... or he had (too) many things to say?
even the vatican repudiated that "an inveterate communist" was awarded with the Nobel, and still in 1992 "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ" was an object of censorship, when the portuguese sub-secretary of Culture Sousa Lara rejected its nomination to the European Literary Prize, what gave Saramago one more reason to abandon Portugal and move to Spain.
congratulations for your article.

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