Jose Saramago died today.
He was the first and so far the only Portuguese Literature Nobel. I must have been about 16 when I first read “Baltasar and Blimunda” and it’s still one of my favourite love stories. His opening scene is burnt in my memory: the King’s visit to the Queen’s bed. The de facto beginning of the story of the Convent of Mafra, which King Joao V builds to thank God for giving him an heir. It was also my entry point into the world of historical fiction.
And what other great stories came out of Saramago’s head: In The Stone Raft, he imagines the Iberian Peninsula drifting away from Europe, in Blindness he describes a country dealing with an epidemic of white blindness, but in the sequel Seeing that country decides to vote blank en masse. In Death with Interruptions he writtes about a town where, from one day to the next, no one dies…