José Saramago, 1922-2010

Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese author José Saramago, 87, died Friday June 18, 2010, at home on the island of Lanzarote in the Spanish Canary Islands, after a long illness. Saramago received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998; he was the first Portuguese-language author to receive this honor.

Many of his works dealt with fantastic themes, notably allegorical novel Ensaio sobre a Cegueira (1995; in English as Blindness, 1997), about a nameless country whose citizens are all stricken with blindness.

Saramago was born November 16, 1922 in Azinhaga Portugal, and grew up in Lisbon. He worked as a journalist and translator, and was an editor at newspaper Diario de Lisboa. After the overthrow of the nascent Portugese Communist revolution in 1975, Saramago focused on writing fiction. His works have since been translated into more than 25 languages.

Saramago was an outspoken Communist and atheist, views which sometimes brought him into conflict with conservative Catholic elements in Portugal. After the Portuguese government prevented his novel, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, from competing for the European Literary Prize, Saramago left Portugal, relocating to the Canary Islands in 1992.

Saramago was married twice, to Ilda Reis in 1944, and to Pilar del Rio in 1988; he is survived by his wife and a daughter from his first marriage.

Full obituary in the July issue of Locus.
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