Nobel-winning Portuguese author Saramago dies at 87

Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:24pm EDT
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By Axel Bugge and Inmaculada Sanz

LISBON/MADRID (Reuters) - Jose Saramago, the Nobel prize winning Portuguese writer who riled authorities with his works melding magical realism and biting political comment, died on Friday at his home on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, aged 87.

Saramago, a card-carrying member of Portugal's Communist Party who won the Nobel prize in 1998, courted controversy through his long career, his works often harshly critical of Portuguese history, 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 Jose Socrates told journalists. "His works have made Portugal proud, his death will leave our culture poorer."

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said that Saramago "will always be a point of reference in our culture."

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 "catalog of what is worst in human nature."

His confrontations with Portuguese authorities were frequent, which may help to explain why his popularity was perhaps greater abroad than at home.

"He may have been better known abroad than in Portugal," said Batista Bastos, a fellow writer.   Continued...

<p>Portuguese Nobel literature laureate Jose Saramago attends a news conference to promote the film "Blindness" in Madrid March 3, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera</p>