By Thom Geier
June 18, 2010 at 03:36 PM EDT

Image Credit: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty ImagesPortugese novelist José Saramago, a man raised by illiterate peasant grandparents who went on to win the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, died at his home in the Canary Islands, his publisher reported Friday. He was 87. Saramago was perhaps best known for the 1998 novel Blindness, a fable about a city so in the throes of a blindness epidemic that its citizens become increasingly barbaric and uncivilized. The book ranked No. 12 on EW’s 2008 list of the best books of the previous 25 years, and was adapted in 2008 into a middling English-language feature film starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles.

Saramago’s works, which also include the novels The Cave (2002), The Double (2004), and Seeing (2006), reflected some pretty deep contradictions. His writing featured accessible, colloquial language written in a potentially off-putting, postmodernist style, without quotation marks or paragraph breaks. He was a also long-standing Communist and atheist who nonetheless seemed preoccupied with the subject of God and religion (his 1992 novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ was deemed blasphemous by many European Catholics, which led to his self-imposed exile to the Canary Islands).