José de Sousa Saramago (November 16, 1922 - June 18, 2010) was a Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist, playwright and journalist. His works, some of which can be seen as allegories, commonly present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the human factor.
Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. His books have been translated into 25 languages. He founded the National Front for the Defence of Culture (Lisbon, 1992) with Freitas-Magalhães and others.
In 1992, following a public spat with the Portuguese government, he moved to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain, where he resided until his death.
Saramago was born into a family of landless peasants in Azinhaga, Portugal, a small village in the province of Ribatejo some hundred kilometers northeast of Lisbon. His parents were José de Sousa and Maria de Piedade. "Saramago", a wild herbaceous plant known in English as the wild radish, was his father's family's nickname, and was accidentally incorporated into his name upon registration of his birth. In 1924, Saramago's family moved to Lisbon, where his father started working as a policeman. A few months after the family moved to the capital, his brother Francisco, older by two years, died. He spent vacations with his grandparents in a village called Azinhaga. When his grandfather suffered a stroke and was to be taken to Lisbon for treatment, Saramago recalled, "He went into the yard of his house, where there were a few trees, fig trees, olive trees. And he went one by one, embracing the trees and crying, saying good-bye to them because he knew he would not return. To see this, to live this, if that doesn’t mark you for the rest of your life," Saramago said, "you have no feeling." Although Saramago was a good pupil, his parents were unable to afford to keep him in grammar school, and instead moved him to a technical school at age 12. After graduating, he worked as a car mechanic for two years. Later he worked as a translator, then as a journalist. He was assistant editor of the newspaper Diário de Notícias, a position he had to leave after the political events in 1975. After a period of working as a translator he was able to support himself as a writer. Saramago married Ilda Reis in 1944. Their only child, Violante, was born in 1947. Since 1988, Saramago has been married to the Spanish journalist Pilar del Río, who is the official translator of his books into Spanish.
José Saramago was in his mid-fifties before he won international acclaim, when his publication of Baltasar and Blimunda brought him to the attention of an international readership. This novel won the Portuguese PEN Club Award. Saramago has been a member of the Portuguese Communist Party since 1969, as well as an atheist and self-described pessimist. His views have aroused considerable controversy in Portugal, especially after the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Members of the country's Catholic community were outraged by Saramago's representation of Jesus as a fallible human being. Portugal's conservative government would not allow Saramago's work to compete for the European Literary Prize, arguing that it offended the Catholic community. As a result, Saramago and his wife moved to Lanzarote, an island in the Canaries.
Saramago's novels often deal with fantastic scenarios, such as that in his 1986 novel The Stone Raft, in which the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from the rest of Europe and sails around the Atlantic Ocean. In his 1995 novel Blindness, an entire unnamed country is stricken with a mysterious plague of "white blindness". In his 1984 novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (which won the PEN Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Award), Fernando Pessoa's heteronym survives for a year after the poet himself dies. Additionally, his novel Death with Interruptions (also translated as Death at Intervals) revolves around a country in which nobody dies over the course of seven months beginning on New Year's Day, and how the country reacts to the spiritual and political implications of the event.
Using such imaginative themes, Saramago addresses the most serious of subject matters with empathy for the human condition and for the isolation of contemporary urban life. His characters struggle with their need to connect with one another, form relations and bond as a community; and also with their need for individuality, and to find meaning and dignity outside of political and economic structures.
Saramago's experimental style often features long sentences, at times more than a page long. He uses periods sparingly, choosing instead a loose flow of clauses joined by commas. Many of his paragraphs extend for pages without pausing for dialog, which Saramago chooses not to delimit by quotation marks; when the speaker changes, Saramago capitalizes the first letter of the new speaker's clause. In his novel Blindness, Saramago completely abandons the use of proper nouns instead choosing to refer to characters simply by some unique characteristic, an example of his use of style to enhance the recurring themes of identity and meaning found throughout his work. wikipedia (19/06/2010)
Kyrgyzstan killings are attempted genocide
It was early afternoon when the mob surged down an alley of neat rose bushes and halted outside Zarifa's house.
The Kyrgyz men broke into her courtyard and sat Zarifa down next to a cherry tree. They asked her a couple of questions.
After confirming she was an ethnic Uzbek, they stripped her, raped her and cut off her fingers. After that they killed her and her small son, throwing their bodies into the street. They then moved on to the next house. Guardian
Mr Barroso: the end of the democracy
Democracy could ‘collapse’ in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned.
In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso set out an ‘apocalyptic’ vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money. dailymail.co.uk
Note: Mr Barroso was the portuguese First Minister and Mr Barroso left Portugal in a political and economic mess to get his European Job...
The rise and fall of British Petroleum
BP has come close to collapse before, and is a repeat offender in the US after earlier major accidents in Texas and Alaska. Internal company documents published last week by news website ProPublica revealed high-level concern that safety and environmental policies were being ignored. A BP report into the 2005 Texas City disaster, when a massive explosion at a refinery killed 15 workers, concluded there had been "apparent complacency toward serious safety risk". Guardian
how many of you complained to management about the policies and practices from which you benefited all these years? Or do you just complain when these policies and practices inflict profound economic and other costs on others, for which your company may be held responsible? Harry Shearer/huffingtonpost
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, referred to in much of the world as the Tiananmen Square massacre and in the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the June Fourth Incident (officially to avoid confusion with two prior Tiananmen Square protests), were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the PRC beginning on 14 April 1989.
Led mainly by students and intellectuals, the protests occurred in a year that saw the collapse of a number of communist governments around the world.
An intelligence report received by the Soviet politburo estimated that 3,000 protesters were killed, according to a document found in the Soviet archive.
Saville's conclusion that none of the 14 dead was carrying a gun, no warnings were given, no soldiers were under threat and the troops were the first to open fire, marked a final declaration of innocence for the victims of the biggest British military killing of civilians on UK soil since the Peterloo massacre in 1819. Guardian
Note: "The report appeared to exonerate the army's then commander of land forces, in Northern Ireland General Robert Ford, of any blame. He had agreed to deploy the Parachute Regiment in the city against the advice of a senior police officer in Derry."
Note 2: Ford expressed this commitment directly to the soldiers on the ground as they surged forward into the Bogside, shouting: "Go on the Paras, go and get them." (Niall Ó Dochartaigh / guardian.co.uk)
The collapse of the capitalist system
Capitalism has struck the deadly reef of corruption and is now sinking fast. But passengers of the American ship of state--already drowning in the murderous waters of loss of homes and jobs--are still believing politicians' reassurances that everything's being taken care of.
The lifeboats, courtesy of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. treasury, are "saving" big financial institutions: Bear Stearns, IndyMac, and a host of others to the tune of over 24 trillion dollars so far.