The 20th anniversary of José Saramago's Nobel Prize has not been peaceful in Portugal. The current president of the country attacked the previous one (of his own party) at the opening of the congress about the writer who organizes the University of Coimbra.
In 1992, the government headed by Aníbal Cavaco Silva (PSD) vetoed the candidacy of The gospel according to Jesus Christ for the European Literary Prize. Six years later he received the Nobel Prize, but the pressure and recommendations of the Spanish intellectual and literary industry were more influential than the Portuguese Government.
At the opening of the congress of Coimbra that these days dedicated to the writer, the current president of the country, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, recalled that disagreement, which was not punctual. A few days before Cavaco Silva left office in 2016 – as prime minister he was elected president – he decorated the then Undersecretary of State for Culture, António Sousa Lara, "for his relevant services to Portugal." Sousa Lara has gone down in history as the creator of the veto.
"We met on that October 8, 1998, when I was the leader of a party, the PSD, whose government had been the reason invoked for José Saramago to leave the lands of Portugal for the Spanish islands." Rebelo de Sousa recalled at the University of Coimbra that disagreement and how he fixed it later. "… I crossed a Madrid square to go to give Saramago a hug, thus putting an end to what was a lack of sense and lack of taste at the same time, in terms of experience in Portuguese society."
In the Congress of Coimbra, inaugurated by Primo Levi and with the presence of the widow of the Nobel, Pilar del Río, has been spoken of the controversial transiberism of Saramago. Three decades have passed since The stone raft, where the Iberian Peninsula breaks away from the rest of Europe and begins to navigate the Atlantic. A reaction of the writer to the conditions in which both countries had entered the European Union.
For Antonio Sáez Delgado, professor at the Évora University, the Nobel Prize winner was the last Iberian, "but cultural". And it connects it, as well, with Pessoa, Almada Negreiros, Torga, Eduardo Lourenço, Valle-Inclán, Margall, Unamuno or Clarín. "Saramago saw a plural and multiple Spain, constituted by a State articulated by several nationalities on an equal footing, which would facilitate dialogue with Portugal. It would not be, as Alamad Negreiros wanted, a dual Portugal-Spain dialogue but a choral conversation between several voices, after the danger of Castile. "
Saramago was evolving from "cultural iberism" to a "trasiberismo" that would welcome the Latin countries of America and Africa, although, tired of controversy with this issue, he recognized that "being Iberian is dangerously close to treachery".