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Blindness Hardcover – September 1, 1998
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In this community of blind people there is still one set of functioning eyes: the doctor's wife has affected blindness in order to accompany her husband to the asylum. As the number of victims grows and the asylum becomes overcrowded, systems begin to break down: toilets back up, food deliveries become sporadic; there is no medical treatment for the sick and no proper way to bury the dead. Inevitably, social conventions begin to crumble as well, with one group of blind inmates taking control of the dwindling food supply and using it to exploit the others. Through it all, the doctor's wife does her best to protect her little band of blind charges, eventually leading them out of the hospital and back into the horribly changed landscape of the city.
Blindness is in many ways a horrific novel, detailing as it does the total breakdown in society that follows upon this most unnatural disaster. Saramago takes his characters to the very edge of humanity and then pushes them over the precipice. His people learn to live in inexpressible filth, they commit acts of both unspeakable violence and amazing generosity that would have been unimaginable to them before the tragedy. The very structure of society itself alters to suit the circumstances as once-civilized, urban dwellers become ragged nomads traveling by touch from building to building in search of food. The devil is in the details, and Saramago has imagined for us in all its devastation a hell where those who went blind in the streets can never find their homes again, where people are reduced to eating chickens raw and packs of dogs roam the excrement-covered sidewalks scavenging from corpses.
And yet in the midst of all this horror Saramago has written passages of unsurpassed beauty. Upon being told she is beautiful by three of her charges, women who have never seen her, "the doctor's wife is reduced to tears because of a personal pronoun, an adverb, a verb, an adjective, mere grammatical categories, mere labels, just like the two women, the others, indefinite pronouns, they too are crying, they embrace the woman of the whole sentence, three graces beneath the falling rain." In this one woman Saramago has created an enduring, fully developed character who serves both as the eyes and ears of the reader and as the conscience of the race. And in Blindness he has written a profound, ultimately transcendent meditation on what it means to be human. --Alix Wilber
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
More than a novel, I see 'Blindness' as a disquisition on human values. Its title in Portuguese, 'Esaio sobre a cegueira' (literally, 'Essay on blindness'), gives us a clue as to what Saramago is up to in the novel. There are terrible acts of violence and beautiful acts of solidarity; there are jokes on the way we use our language, so centered in our sense of sight; there are asides among characters, revealing, in many instances, the need for companionship and, at the same time, the ultimatately unknowable nature of everyone next to us. In many ways, 'Blindness' is reminiscent of Sartre's play 'Huis clos'. In Sartre's play, our eyes represent the hell everybody has to live with because it is through them that we base our opinions of others, particularly those next to us; in Saramago's novel, our eyes interfere with our attempts to know things and each other better because we become so easily prejudiced by the looks of things and people. One dialogue between two of the characters close to the end of the novel--the old man with a band on one of his eyes and the girl with the dark glasses--exemplify this last point beautifully.Read more ›
What strikes me most stongly about this book is the author's challenges he sets up for himself early on. As more and more characters are introduced, the challenge of keeping track of who is speaking and who is where mounts exponentially. I kept saying to myself "How's he going to do it when the wards fill up?" As noted throughout the reviews, Saramago does not provide us with the usual authorial roadmap.
What surprises me is that only one other reviewer (Michael Lima) mentioned that this stylistic maneuvering is a great metaphor for the subject matter. As readers, we are disoriented by the lack of accustomed punctuation, among other things. We have to pause sometimes to get our bearings. "Who said that?" we ask ourselves. It's exactly appropos to the way the blind characters react in the novel. Saramago wants the reader disoriented so that the empathy we feel for his characters becomes more pronounced. We share an awareness of what they are experiencing first-hand. We too have to grope our way in the dark, without the usual guideposts. The characters go unnamed. As one of the chracters thinks to himself,"names are of no importance here." We know them only as "the first blind man" or the "girl with dark glasses" or "the doctor's wife." One reviewer objected to this device, citing "the dog of tears" as an example of Saramago's ineptitude.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book, gorgeously translated, is a story as deeply sad as it is uplifting. The writing is beautiful; superb. .Published 1 day ago by N8RMama
Puts you into the uncomfortable situation of imagining a world where life is a little challenging. Well written story flows nicelyPublished 3 days ago by Tomasz Hasinski
This book is unique. Not really my genre of reading but the description captured my attention and I didn't hesitate to get it. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Victoria
One of the most compelling books I have read in a long time. Lends itself to a multifaceted discussion in a book club. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Readinggal
I'm tired of Saramago's gimmicky punctuation, especially when it comes to delineating characters in a dialog. It makes for needless work for the reader. Read morePublished 5 days ago by richard
I'm having a really hard time getting through this book. There's no punctuation for speech back and forth between the characters, so it can get really confusing pretty easily..Published 12 days ago by Maddie
The book was intriguing. But never gave any answer's to why or what happened next. Very wordy but wanted morePublished 1 month ago by Nadine132
A book full of characters in which no one has a name (because "the blind don't need names" - um, funny, every person I know who is blind has one), no attention to standard... Read morePublished 1 month ago by HRW