The tragic story of José Saramago’s brother, who forever marked the writer’s life


It’s called “Secret Files – Never Told Stories of Portuguese Politics and Society” and is the new book by journalist Luís Osório. He arrived at bookstores on May 6, pulling out little-known stories about great national figures who raced with the author throughout his career.

“There was no objective reason why it was now. A few years ago I wanted to write this book, a wish that is also an obligation to record stories told to me by the protagonists of the story. I had the privilege of meeting almost all the protagonists of the last 50 years of Portuguese society. It is my obligation to give back to the country what is left of these meetings, ”explains Luís Osório NiT.

The book, an edition by Contraponto, has 216 pages and is available for € 16.60. NiT is now publishing one of the “Secret Files” stories that show how the tragic death of José Saramago’s brother Francisco, who was only four years old, was decisive for the life of the writer.

“I came to her through José himself in a long conversation in Lanzarote. In fact, the vast majority of the 50 stories I tell in Secret Files were told to me by the writers themselves. This is a special feature of the book and I think it is a guarantee for those who read it, ”added Luís Osório.

“More than the death of José’s older brother, it was the sign that this event had for her mother. Francisco was his mother’s favorite, and José grew up isolated, alone and without affection. The event will determine your path and, most likely, your liberation through writing. “

Luís Osório is the author of the book. José Lorvão photo

The death of José Saramago’s brother

“I’m not going to tell you an unfamiliar story of Saramago – I would love to if I had it, but I won’t say anything about meeting him that I may not know. To be with José meant to be with Pilar. Every time I approached, perhaps illusory, their truth was close at hand. When the two of us were together, I found the Creator’s head there in a disjointed body, a helplessness that was only resolved when she returned to you. I have only been to Lanzarote once with them. I was also at a few colloquia, at one or the other dinner, on the phone, in interviews.

I was talking to Frei Bento Domingues when someone sent me the messages. I didn’t read it until after the meeting was over. He went down the steps of the Dominican monastery and pondered the lack of understanding of life when I found out Saramago had died. I thought about going to the funeral and about going to the funeral. I replaced all of this with the idea of ​​writing one letter to Pilar and another to Zeferino Coelho, his usual editor. I didn’t go, I didn’t write. Because? I know little about a correct answer.

There was a garden in Lanzarote. A garden surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. We spent a while, we felt the fresh air while Pilar prepared dinner. I had asked him why he seemed so unhappy when it was all accomplished. José was silent and we stayed there for a few minutes, then he mumbled a few words and I didn’t dare cross my eyes with his.

I was by my side, watching him as if he were there. The murmur was confused with the wind and the rustle of the leaves; In the garden he replied that the paradox was fair: “I have everything. A house I call the house, a great place, a person I love and who I am married to, a series of books that can take anything they need, even been awarded a Nobel Prize. Why am I no longer what others wanted me to be? Maybe because happiness is never joy. Personally, I don’t want anything else, I just wish the world wasn’t what it is. »

Jose’s smile was never forced, it was limited to not smiling. One day he told me almost unimportantly about the death of his only brother. Diphtheria had brought him to the age of four, two years older than José.

He remembered a picture. Little Chico opened the drawers of the dresser to use them as stairs, always the same image when his first loss appeared. José never had a clue whether what he was seeing was real or imagined. All he knew was that the dresser had multiple drawers and that Chico climbed as far as he could.

What he remembered well was that his mother remembered him. That he was flushed, amused and given a lot – every time his mother told the others about Chico, Jose was all the sadder to be pale, not having much fun and not giving anything. He got used to mumbling at parties and feeling too much.

Obviously he remembered his mother’s absence. He never blamed her, he just felt that the loss of his eldest son had somehow deprived him of the ability to accept what was left of a mother’s love.

When I heard about this childhood episode, I connected it to the absence of God. I don’t think it was fair, José Saramago denied the connection and things are rarely that simple. The parents did not believe that the world was ruled by the heavenly order. They didn’t do this, as José judged out of ideological or libertarian respect, they just weren’t that lucky.

José and his parents lived in an attic. And this was the first and one of the last times that he heard a Catholic celebration from end to end. He accompanied the neighbors on the first floor, a couple with a couple of children, kneeling down next to them and joining hands as they had taught him to do. The moment everyone bowed their heads, José raised his own. He concluded that there was nothing special about it. He asked his mother not to return.

At the ceremony where he received the Nobel Prize, he spoke of grandfather Jerónimo and grandmother Josefa. But if I had only been able to take two people in, I would not have hesitated to take my mother and father with me. Chances are you are asking the question (and Pilar?). It’s probably because I asked it when I said it. “Pilar is something different, Pilar is an extension of me and me of her, she didn’t act as if she were saying that it wouldn’t be me,” he replied.

The father, the PSP police, a flat force in the last two years of World War I, died before his son started writing. The mother lived more years but was illiterate. He could never read anything he wrote. José thought of them when he was applauded in Stockholm, of the pride they would have felt when they saw a son who opened the drawers of all the dressers and sat down on the world.

That night he had to hear it from her mouth to hear the pride and love when he doubted that the affection in them was exhausted after little Chico left. “

It’s been available for two weeks.