1998 Nobel Prize in Literature
José Saramago
"who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality."
  • 8 October 1998 (1998-10-08) (announcement)
  • 10 December 1998
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1997 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1999 →

The 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Portuguese author José Saramago (1922–2010) "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality."[1] He is the only recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature from Portugal.[2][3]


Main article: José Saramago

José Saramago frequently makes use of allegory in his writing, and fanciful elements are interspersed with a detailed and critical look at society. A characteristic of Saramago's style is the blending of dialog and narration, in parabolic forms, with sparse punctuation and long sentences that can extend for several pages. In one of his most successful novels, Ensaio sobre a Cegueira ("Blindness", 1995), the population is stricken with an epidemic of blindness that quickly leads to societal collapse.[4] Among his other well-known literary masterpieces include Memorial do Convento ("Baltasar and Blimunda", 1982), O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis ("The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis", 1984), História do Cerco de Lisboa ("The History of the Siege of Lisbon", 1989), and O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo ("The Gospel According to Jesus Christ", 1991).[2][4] Saramago's last published work was Caim ("Cain", 2009), which narrates Adam and Eve's son as he witnesses and recounts passages from the Bible that add to his increasing hatred of God.[2]


The choice of Saramago as the Nobel Prize laureate was internationally generally well received. One commentator in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter described it as a safe choice: "an authorship that is appreciated by everyone and won't be questioned by anyone". In Saramago's home country reactions were however radically mixed, lauded by the left wing press and heavily criticised by the bourgeois press.[5]

Following the Swedish Academy's decision to present Saramago with the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Vatican City questioned the decision on political grounds, though gave no comment on the aesthetic or literary components of his work. Saramago responded: "The Vatican is easily scandalized, especially by people from outside. They should just focus on their prayers and leave people in peace. I respect those who believe, but I have no respect for the institution."[6] He received the news when he was about to fly to Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair, and caught both him and his editor by surprise.[7]


  1. ^ The Nobel Prize in Literature 1998 nobelprize.org
  2. ^ a b c José Saramago britannica.com
  3. ^ Alan Riding (8 October 1998). "Nobel in Literature Goes to Jose Saramago". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  4. ^ a b José Saramago – Facts nobelprize.org
  5. ^ Helmer Lång Hundra nobelpris i littedatur 1901-2001, Symposion 2001, p.376-377
  6. ^ "Nobel Writer, A Communist, Defends Work". The New York Times. 12 October 1998. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  7. ^ Quoted in: Eberstadt, Fernanda (26 August 2007). "The Unexpected Fantasist". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 August 2009.