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Portugal's Jose Saramago, Nobel winner for literature, dies at 87

June 18, 2010 | 10:30 am


Jose Saramago, who became the first Portuguese-language winner of the Nobel Literature prize although his popularity at home was dampened by his unflinching support for Communism, blunt manner and sometimes difficult prose style, died Friday. He was 87.

Saramago died at his home in Lanzarote, one of Spain's Canary Islands, of multi-organ failure after a long illness, the Jose Saramago Foundation said.

International critical acclaim came late in his life, starting with his 1982 historical fantasy "Memorial do Convento," published in English in 1988 as "Baltasar and Blimunda."

The story is set during the Inquisition and explores the battle between individuals and organized religion, reinforcing Saramago's recurring theme of the loner struggling against authority.

Saramago was an outspoken man who antagonized many. He moved to the Canary Islands after a public spat in 1992 with the Portuguese government, which he accused of censorship.

His outspokenness set off a storm of protest in 2002 when during a visit he compared Ramallah, a Palestinian city blockaded at the time by the Israeli army, to the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Holocaust survivors and intellectuals, including left-wing doves who were highly critical of the Israeli government's policy toward the Palestinians, condemned Saramago's statement as false and anti-Semitic.

More later at

-- Associated Press

Photo: Portuguese writer Jose Saramago at his home in the Canary Islands in 2009. Credit: EPA / Martinez de Cripan