Jose de Sousa Saramago

Just last week I picked up Jose Saramago's The Notebook from the library. I am only half way through the book, which is a collection of the blog entries he wrote from September 2008 to August 2009. His voice is sometimes ponderous, even somewhat cantankerous–especially on the subject of Palestinian independence–but above all, vivaciously humane. The sense of the man one gets from The Notebook is one who is fully engaged in the world, who is committed to pointing out to an indifferent world the injustices he sees around him, but who remains nonetheless sensitive to the small beauties of that same world. As he wrote, "beauty doesn't merely belong to the category of what we call aesthetic, it can equally be found in moral undertakings." So the news that Saramago had died today came as a complete shock to me. I was just getting to know him, to learn so much about him and his singular take on life, and suddenly, he is no longer in life. In the words of the Nobel committee which awarded Saramago literature's highest prize, he was one "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality."

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