Jose Saramago, Nobel-Winning Novelist, Dies At 87 Saramago, the first Portuguese writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, died Friday at his home in the Canary Islands. He was known for his imaginative blend of fantasy, fact and folklore. A committed Communist, Saramago was controversial cultural icon in his homeland.
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Jose Saramago, Nobel-Winning Novelist, Dies At 87

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Jose Saramago, Nobel-Winning Novelist, Dies At 87

Jose Saramago, Nobel-Winning Novelist, Dies At 87

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Lynn Neary has this remembrance.

LYNN NEARY: But Helder Macedo, emeritus professor of Portuguese literature at King's College, London, says he never stopped educating himself.

HELDER MACEDO: He was an avid reader, indeed a voracious intellectual in the sense of, you know, acquiring information as much as he could.

NEARY: In 1974, his party membership cost him his job as editor of a small Lisbon newspaper. It was then, says Macedo, that Saramago returned to fiction.

MACEDO: It was best thing that happen to him because, suddenly, he was without a job and with some time, and he started writing seriously. He is a belated writer, you know, a writer that really, I mean, if he hadn't written the books that he wrote when he was well into his 50s, we wouldn't be talking about him today.

NEARY: In 1998, he became the first Portuguese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. At a banquet in Oslo celebrating the award, Saramago said he owed a great debt to all those who have written in Portuguese.

JOSE SARAMAGO: (Through translator) The ones of the past and of today, it is through them our literatures exist. I am but one of them.

NEARY: Helder Macedo.

MACEDO: It's not a once-upon-a-time but a what-if? What if suddenly the world population went blind? What if the Iberian Peninsula became separated geographically from Europe? He writes fables, you know, in a sense.

NEARY: The next year, the Portuguese government withdrew it from competition for a literary prize. Saramago accused the government of censorship and moved to the Canary Islands.

MARGARET JULL COSTA: He's a writer who divides people. I think people either love him or hate him.

NEARY: Margaret Jull Costa has translated many of Saramago's novels.

JULL COSTA: It's the way he writes. Partly, the people see it as being difficult, although it isn't really once you start reading it. And, you know, he liked this sort of argument, and so he did, I think, antagonize certain people, people of the right. You know, he liked to be polemical, I think.

NEARY: Lynn Neary, NPR News.

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