49. Blindness 1/2 | José Saramago | PodNu Podcasts & Book Insights

Welcome to PodNu Books Episode!

When the PodNu project started last year, I wanted to introduce the book - Blindness.

The author of this book is José Saramago, a Portuguese national treasure master who passed away in 2010. He’s Portugal’s Nobel Prize winner for literature, and José Saramago is one of my favorite contemporary fiction authors of the last 20 years. The most famous literary critic in the English-speaking world Harold Bloom described José Saramago as “the most gifted novelist alive in the world today” and in 2010 said he considers Saramago to be “a permanent part of the Western canon.”

In the late 1990s, when the first English version of the book was just released, I bought it and read it. At the time, just after this book was translated into English, the comments from the English-language media all over the world were full of praise. So I was very interested and immediately went to the bookstore to find it. I couldn’t put it down after flipping through a few pages in the bookstore. It was so wonderful, so amazing!

José Saramago’s background is somewhat special. He has always had a very special political identity. That is, he is a communist, a member of the Portuguese Communist Party. But his communism is a very different version of communism, a kind of anarcho-communism. Strictly speaking, he is not the communism we usually define today. His idea was that people don’t need to be ruled at all in this world. We don’t need to have rulers. We, humans, are fully autonomous. So one of his great aspirations was to live an excellent communist life under self-governance.

Then another thing that makes him often controversial is that his writing usually has a very stimulating religious effect in a Catholic country like Portugal. He is a very unpopular author in the Catholic Church.

Let me give a simple example. The European Union once had a literary award called the Aristeion Prize in the past. This award was held from 1990 to 1999 and then stopped. Then, after 2009, European Union had it again, but the name is now called the European Union Prize for Literature. The prize is for all member states of the European Union, and each country nominates a book representing their national literature and submits them to a specially established jury. The jury will select from these nominations the best author for what they consider to be the best book of the year or the best book of those years...

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