Thus José Saramago began his Nobel lecture*:
The wisest man I ever knew in my whole life could not read or write. At four o'clock in the morning, when the promise of a new day still lingered over French lands, he got up from his pallet and left for the fields, taking to pasture the half-dozen pigs whose fertility nourished him and his wife. My mother's parents lived on this scarcity, on the small breeding of pigs that after weaning were sold to the neighbours in our village of Azinhaga in the province of Ribatejo. Their names were Jerónimo Meirinho and Josefa Caixinha and they were both illiterate. In winter when the cold of the night grew to the point of freezing the water in the pots inside the house, they went to the sty and fetched the weaklings among the piglets, taking them to their bed. Under the coarse blankets, the warmth from the humans saved the little animals from freezing and rescued them from certain death. Although the two were kindly people, it was not a compassionate soul that prompted them to act in that way: what concerned them, without sentimentalism or rhetoric, was to protect their daily bread, as is natural for people who, to maintain their life, have not learnt to think more than is needful.
And these were his last words:
I conclude. The voice that read these pages wished to be the echo of the conjoined voices of my characters. I don't have, as it were, more voice than the voices they had. Forgive me if what has seemed little to you, to me is all.
Well, I do have nothing to forgive.
José Saramago's voice to me was and is not all - and sometimes his style would cause me a frown - but his Seeing of the Blindness in the Cave we call progressing civilisation means much for me.
So much, indeed, that in the cathedral of this agnostic's heart there's been lit a candle of thankfulness.
And yes! Amongst the wisest (wo)men I ever knew in my (so far not) whole life were quite a few who could hardly read or write.
* The complete English translation is to be found here.
Anticipating some non-permanent readers' thoughts and answering them:
Ah, a communist. - Nah.
Ah, an atheist. - Nah. Although, I do like Buñuel's aphorism: I am atheist, thanks to god.
Ah, ... - Nah! Why not come back and try harder?