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Saramago vs Silvio: Nobel laureate rails after Italian publishers axe book

Jose Saramago has launched a blistering assault on Silvio Berlusconi, whose publishing house has dropped the Portuguese Nobel laureate’s latest offering because it describes the Italian prime minister as a “delinquent”.

The Einaudi publishing house, which is part of Mr Berlusconi’s Mondadori empire, has published all Saramago’s works in Italian for 20 years. But it declined to publish El Cuaderno (The Notebook), a compilation of Mr Saramago’s blog entries, because it contained “accusations that would be condemned in any court”.

The offending passage reads: “In the land of the Mafia and the Camorra, how important is the proven fact that the prime minister is a delinquent?”

Mr Saramago, who won the Nobel literature prize in 1998, said yesterday he was relieved to be no longer contributing to Mr Berlusconi’s fortune.

The 86-year-old then let rip: “I find it strange that a man like that who uses the worst methods and wins millions of votes hasn’t produced a social movement of revulsion in protest at the simple fact that he’s ruined the prestige of his country,” he told El Pais. “How much longer must we put up with him?”

Mr Saramago, long a scourge of the establishment, moved to Spain in 1991, after Portuguese authorities tried to censor his work.

El Cuaderno, which has already appeared in Portuguese and Spanish, lashes out against George W Bush, Tony Blair, the Pope, Israel and Wall Street.

Another Italian publisher has already snapped up the work.