José Saramago Dies

Saramago died on 18 June 2010, aged 87, having spent the last few years of his life in Lanzarote, Spain.

He was reported to have consumed breakfast and chatted with his wife for a time before ill health overcame him and killed him. The Guardian described him as "the finest Portuguese writer of his generation", while Fernanda Eberstadt of The New York Times said he was "known almost as much for his unfaltering Communism as for his fiction". Saramago's translator, Margaret Jull Costa, paid tribute to him, describing his "wonderful imagination" and calling him "the greatest contemporary Portuguese writer". Saramago had continued his writing until his death. His most recent publication, Cain, was published in 2009, with an English translation made available in August 2010. Saramago had suffered from pneumonia a year before his death. Having been thought to have made a full recovery, he was scheduled to attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2010.

Portugal declared two days of mourning. There were verbal tributes from senior international politicians: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil), Bernard Kouchner (France) and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (Spain), while Cuba's Raúl and Fidel Castro sent floral tributes.

Saramago's funeral was held in Lisbon on 20 June 2010, in the presence of more than 20,000 people, many of whom had travelled hundreds of kilometres, but also notably in the absence of right-wing President of Portugal Aníbal Cavaco Silva who holidayed in Azores as the ceremony took place. Silva, the Prime Minister when Saramago's name was removed from the shortlist of the European Literary Prize, said he did not attend Saramago's funeral because he "had never had the privilege to know him". Mourners, who questioned Silva's absence in the presence of reporters, held copies of the red carnation, symbolic of Portugal's democratic revolution. Saramago's cremation took place in Lisbon, with his ashes being scattered in his birthplace of Azinhaga and in Tias in Lanzarote, his home until his death.

José Saramago, the Portuguese writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998 with novels that combine surrealist experimentation with a kind of sardonic peasant pragmatism, died on Friday at his home in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. He was 87.

The cause was multiple organ failure after a long illness, the José Saramago Foundation said in an announcement on its Web site,

A tall, commandingly austere man with a dry, schoolmasterly manner, Mr. Saramago gained international acclaim for novels like “Baltasar and Blimunda” and “Blindness.” (A film adaptation of “Blindness” by the Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles was released in 2008.)

The Portuguese novelist José Saramago, who explored Portugal's troubled political identity in a series of novels published over the last four decades and won the Nobel prize for literature in 1998, died today at the age of 87.

An outspoken atheist and communist, he challenged the orthodoxies of post-dictatorship Portuguese life with novels such as Baltasar and Blimunda, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis and All the Names, but reached his widest audience with the 2008 film of his 1995 novel, Blindness, directed by Fernando Meirelles. He spent the last years of his life in Lanzarote after the Portuguese government had vetoed the nomination of his novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ for an EU literary prize in 1992.

Hundreds of people, some bearing red carnations, paid their last respects to Portuguese Nobel literature laureate Jose Saramago whose body was returned home Saturday after 17 years in “exile.”

Saramago, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1998, left Portugal nearly two decades ago in a dispute over censorship.

He died on Friday on the Spanish Canary island of Lanzarote at the age of 87, prompting the government to announce two days of national mourning.