The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby does the work that shouldn't, at this late date, need to be done:
If José Saramago, the Portuguese writer who died on Friday at 87, had been an unrepentant Nazi for the last four decades, he would never have won international acclaim or received the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature. Leading publishers would never have brought out his books, his works would not have been translated into more than 20 languages, and the head of Portugal's government would never have said on his death — as Prime Minister José Sócrates did say last week — that he was "one of our great cultural figures and his disappearance has left our culture poorer."
But Saramago wasn't a Nazi, he was a communist. And not just a nominal communist, as his obituaries pointed out, but an "unabashed" (Washington Post), "unflinching" (AP), "unfaltering" (New York Times) true believer. A member since 1969 of Portugal's hardline Communist Party, Saramago called himself a "hormonal communist" who in all the years since had "found nothing better." Yet far from rendering him a pariah, Saramago's communist loyalties have been treated as little more than a roguish idiosyncrasy. Without a hint of irony, AP's obituary quoted a comment Saramago made in 1998: "People used to say about me, 'He's good but he's a communist.' Now they say, 'He's a communist but he's good.'"
But the idea that good people can be devoted communists is grotesque. The two categories are mutually exclusive.