One of the highlights of José Saramago’s career was at the age of 76, when he received the Nobel prize for literature in 1998.
This was a writer who had his first major success at the age of 60, with the publication of the book Baltasar and Blimunda.
His work has been translated into dozens of languages, with many of his novels dealing with fantastic scenarios.
His writing style is often described as idiosyncratic: his sentences are long, sometimes more than a page long, and instead of full-stops there are phrases joined together with commas.
He also doesn’t use quotation marks for dialogue. An irritation for some readers; something groundbreaking for others.
Since his late forties, and during the Portuguese revolution in 1974, Saramago was a member of the Portuguese Communist party. He’s also described himself as an atheist. He was born in 1922 into a poor family in the Ribatejo region near Lisbon.
After various manual jobs, he went on to work as a translator and then journalist.
Saramago attracted his fair share of controversy during his life.
The Catholic Church was outraged by his 1991 book “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ”, which depicted Jesus as a fallible human being.
The writer and his wife moved to one of the Canary Islands in protest when Portugal’s conservative government stopped the book from being put forward for the European Literary Prize.
Some of his other major works included Blindness, The Stone Raft, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis and The History of the Siege of Lisbon.
As with his novels, refusing to be restrained within traditional boundaries, Saramago was never afraid to express his political views. His opposition to the way the European Union’s been built, for example, is well documented. Comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the 2006 war in Lebanon were also among topics that stirred up controversy.