A Polyphonic Perception of the World
6 9 2019
A Polyphonic Perception of the World

Pilar del Río and Silvio Parrella on Saramago’s long-lost notebooks

Pilar del Río confesses that she was a little worried about returning to Mantova alone, without her late husband José Saramago, twenty years after his attendance in 1998. The Spanish journalist and writer, who shared 22 years of her life with the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner, does not want to disappoint the expectations of the public who were so fond of her husband's work.

But what takes place in the courtyard of Palazzo San Sebastiano between Pilar del Río and literary critic Silvio Parrella is an intense conversation permeated by the musicality of Saramago’s words and the nostalgia of his absence.

El cuaderno del año del Nobel is a posthumous notebook that remained hidden for many years “in the electronic darkness of a computer,” as Pilar del Río defines it. It was meant to be the sixth of The Lanzarote Notebooks but Saramago changed his computer a little after announcing its publication, and then seemingly forgot about it. All the ideas, emotions, and events he wrote about during 1998, the year he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, were lost until Pilar del Río rediscovered them in 2018.

Among his notes are numerous letters between the Portuguese author and his readers. Frank questions which he always answered with honesty and attention. Del Río recalls this trait of her husband, a writer who was always very close to his readers, in an effort to continually listen to them.


Parrella mentions how Saramago urgently sought to grasp the voices of the people to populate his writing. This exchanges of letters in the notebooks show once again how Saramago was gifted by what Parella calls “a polyphonic perception of the world“, the ability to intone the voices of his characters even without using punctuation and direct speech.