Death of Portuguese novelist Saramago


LISBON/MADRID – Nobel prize-winning Portuguese novelist José Saramago died yesterday at his home in Lanzarote, aged 87.

Saramago, a communist who won the Nobel prize in 1998, courted controversy throughout his long career, his works often harshly critical of Portuguese conservatism and religion.

The Saramago Foundation said he had died of multiple organ failure after a prolonged illness.

“I think this is a great loss for Portuguese culture,” prime minister José Socrates told journalists. “His works have made Portugal proud, his death will leave our culture poorer.”

Just last year, Saramago angered the Catholic Church when he said at the launch of his last book, Cain, that the Bible was “a handbook of bad morals” and a “catalogue of what is worst in human nature”.

Saramago went into exile in 1992 after the government excluded his novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christfrom its official entry for a literary prize.

He was born into a poor rural family in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal in 1922. He attributed his sympathy for the underdog – his characters include chambermaids, peasants and victims of persecution – to his humble roots. – (Reuters)