José Saramago, the Portuguese writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998 with novels that combine surrealist experimentation and a kind of sardonic peasant pragmatism, died Friday at his home in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. He was 87. The cause was multiple organ failure after a long illness, the José Saramago Foundation said in an announcement on its Web site.
Mr. Saramago, a tall, commandingly austere man with a dry, schoolmasterly manner, gained international acclaim for novels like “Baltasar and Blimunda” and “Blindness.” (A film adaptation of “Blindness” by the Brazilian director Fernando Mireilles was released in 2008.)
Mr. Saramago was the first Portuguese-language writer to win the Nobel Prize, and more than two million copies of his books have been sold, his friend and editor, Zeferino Coelho, said.
Mr. Saramago was known almost as much for his unfaltering Communism as for his fiction. In later years he used his status as a Nobel laureate to deliver lectures at international congresses around the world, accompanied by his wife, the Spanish journalist Pilar del Río. He described globalization as the new totalitarianism and lamented contemporary democracy’s failure to stem the increasing powers of multinational corporations.