Barbara’s Picks: Dec. 2012, Pt. 1: Nobel Prize Winners Saramago and Wiesel

Saramago, José. Raised from the Ground. Houghton. Dec. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780151013258. $26. LITERARY FICTION
Even as it weathers financial storms, the publisher continues putting out works by the great Portuguese Nobel prize winner that have not yet been translated, and we can only be grateful. This latest, a City of Lisbon prize winner published in 1980, just before Saramago made his name with Baltasar and Blimunda, offers the author’s classic understanding of the personal through larger historical forces. Like his own grandparents, members of the peasant Mau Tempo family work the land they don’t own in southern Portugal, dominated by huge agricultural estates. Even as he details their daily lives, Saramago shows us the coming of the republic of Portugal, two world wars, the attempted assassination of Salazar, and, finally, the one thing that does change the rhythm of the Mau Tempos’ lives, the rise of communism.

Wiesel, Elie. Open Heart. Knopf. Dec. 2012. 92p. ISBN 9780307961846. $20. MEMOIR
Although the title might belong to any one of his cri-de-coeur novels‚ and in fact expresses his own moral fervency‚ this book is a memoir by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has done so much to help us see the horrors of the Holocaust and the need vigilantly to choose between good and evil . In summer 2011, at age 82, Wiesel had open-heart surgery, resulting in five bypasses. Before the surgery, he reflected on key aspects of his life, to give us this brief but undoubtedly bracing study. Get ready to feel humbled. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.