Saramago was born to a poor family in Portugal’s rural Alentejo province in 1922, and spent much of his life railing against his country’s conservative Catholic dictatorship, which fell in the mid-1970s. He didn’t become a well-known novelist until he was in his late 50s, but has since become Portugal’s most-celebrated literary figure.
“I think this is a great loss for Portuguese culture,” Portugal’s prime minister, José Socrates, told reporters in Lisbon. “His works have made Portugal proud. His death will leave our culture poorer.”
Saramago’s flowing, fable-like writing has sometimes been compared to that of the Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Márquez, in a style dubbed as magical realism that blends fantasy and fact.
Perhaps the most well-known of the more than a dozen books Saramago wrote was his 1995 novel Blindness, a terrifying look at what might happen if everyone in a city went blind simultaneously.