Nobel-winning Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago’s body taken from Spain to Lisbon for funeral

By Francisco Seco, AP
Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saramago’s body taken to Portugal for funeral

LISBON, Portugal — The body of Nobel-winning Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago arrived in his homeland Saturday for a funeral to be held in downtown Lisbon.

Saramago’s remains were flown from his home on the Spanish island of Lanzarote aboard a Portuguese air force C130 transport plane accompanied by his widow and several other relatives and friends, as well as Portugal’s culture minister and the novelist’s biographer.

Saramago, 87, who won the 1998 Nobel literature prize and whose work is internationally admired for the clarity of its ideas despite a complex prose style, died Friday at his Lanzarote home after a long illness.

The Portuguese government has declared two days of national mourning and Saramago’s coffin will be placed in the state rooms of Lisbon’s city hall, the Jose Saramago Foundation said.

A Spanish delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega was also due to arrive to pay last respects on Sunday, state news agency Lusa said.

The foundation said the novelist’s body will be cremated at Lisbon’s Alto de Sao Joao cemetery at noon on Sunday, after which his ashes will be divided.

Half will be taken to his native village of Azinhaga and the rest will be placed at the foot of an olive tree in the garden of his Lanzarote home, where he spent the last 17 years of his life.

Tributes to Saramago and condolences to his wife poured in from across the world and were led by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who said the author’s words had crisscrossed the world.

“We Spaniards mourn Saramago today as we would one of ours because we have always felt him at our side, enriching us with his compassionate and lucid gaze,” said Zapatero.

Saramago moved to Spain’s Canary Islands after a public spat in 1992 with the Portuguese government, which he accused of censorship.

His 1998 Nobel accolade was nonetheless widely cheered in his homeland after decades during which the award eluded writers in Portuguese, a language used by some 170 million people around the world.

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