The novel narrates the adventures of a man on the streets of Lisbon and is a panoramic view of Portuguese life. The 70-year-old Saramago's book was described in the Independent as 'a bold and ambitious adventure by a novelist of the grandest sort'; in the New York Review of Books as 'capacious, funny and threatening'; in the Irish Times as 'a strange masterwork'; in the Observer as 'menacingly atmospheric' and in the Philadelphia Enquirer as 'one of the masterpieces of the 1980s'.
The judges were: Penelope Fitzgerald, Jonathan Keates, Gabriel Josipovici, Anthony Lane, Doris Lessing, Trevor McDonald, Jill Neville, Blake Morrison, Natasha Walter, Tim Waterstone, Robert Winder and Michael Wood.
The 1991 award went to Immortality by Milan Kundera, translated by Peter Kussi; in 1992 it went to The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys, who translated it with Barbara Wright.
Translator's art, page 20
In tomorrow's Independent: Jose Saramago interviewed, and an extract.