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Blindness (Harvest Book) Paperback – Bargain Price, October 4, 1999
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"This is an important book, one that is unafraid to face all of the horrors of the century."—The Washington Post
"Symphonic . . . [There is] a clear-eyed and compassionate acknowledgment of things as they are, a quality that can only honestly be termed wisdom. We should be grateful when it is handed to us in such generous measure."—The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Jos Saramago was born in Portugal in 1922. His novels have been published in dozens of languages around the world. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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The government takes steps to quarantine the blind and the potentially infected to ensure the contagion doesn't spread. Much of the first half of the book revolves around the horrors the blind suffer while they're in quarantine.
Amongst the blind is a sighted woman who, with the best of intentions snuck in with her husband feigning blindness herself. While letting nobody know she's sighted she assists to the best of her ability while the Army attempts to keep the blind caught inside the once abandoned asylum.
This is essentially a detailing of the moral vicissitudes of humanity. Here we witness thievery, rape, moral depravity, fear, lust, joy.
Once on the outside the escapees find the world in a similar state only upon a larger magnitude.
A very interesting story, and justifiably a Nobel winner.
Some aspects that are quite potent are the apocalyptic theorem: "What if" the world went blind and you were the only sighted person left?
There are a multitude of philosophical tenants however it seems predominantly existential in that it's a survival story where people make the most of their disability or cease to be.
The absurdist quality of what occurs strikes only on the surface but the moral depth revealed, which not one of the characters seems ultimately concerned about, shows how existentially based the story truly is.
The writing style itself is unique. No proper names, very little punctuation and only capital letters to indicate where another person begins speaking. I swear the comma and quotation don't really exist in this work.
BLINDNESS, my third epidemic book, also features moments of heroic decency and personal guilt. But its primary subject is survival in the face of a non-lethal epidemic and its byproducts--no sanitation, no food, and barbarous behavior. Since its characters are deliberately two-dimensional, I'd call BLINDNESS more allegory than novel and a vehicle Saramago uses to explore the nature and miracle of survival after civilization has collapsed.
BLINDESS follows the experiences of seven people--one of them inexplicably immune to the epidemic. Initially, these people are quarantined in a mental hospital that gradually becomes a fetid, unmanageable, and brutish. Then, these characters break the quarantine and enter a world transformed by the epidemic. Their experiences are not unlike those to be imagined for survivors of nuclear war, minus its radiation and blasted landscapes. Among remarks these characters make as they survive are:
"...everything we eat has been stolen from the mouths of others and if we rob them of too much we are responsible for their death, one way or another we all are murders."
"...we went down all the steps of indignity, all of them, until we reached total degradation."
"...I'm not entirely convinced that there are limits to misfortune and evil."
In BLINDNESS, the degradation experienced by Saramago's seven "pilgrims" is relentless; but it is also a demonstration of the author's total mastery of his grotesque and dark material. Undeniably, Saramago has a genius for developing narrative so that unimaginably horrible situations actually worsen. Ultimately, this makes BLINDNESS a filthy and dystopian tour de force and a perverse slog of humiliation, where salvation is not in human hands.
This book is not for the squeamish. But hold on for the scene in the final chapter, when will-o'-the-wisps appear in a gruesome basement. Recommended.
I love Jose Saramago’s writing technique! This is the second of his books I’ve read, and I already have a digital stack of several more on my Kindle. Highly recommended.
The book excels in its bleakness, its stark depiction of man's essential character, its detached tone as it describes the most brutal of circumstances, and in its ultimate salvation. There is a light (no pun intended) at the end of this tunnel, but in order to get there the reader has to face countless times Saramago's view that modern man's id is inherently primitive, which isn't necessarily innovative but comprehensible here due to the book's beautiful sense of nuance and in the myriad of moments of grace that suspend its funereal tone. Ultimately it is one long, phantasmagorical allegory on man's vices and inabilities, and for the skill in which Saramago translates that to the reader the book alone is a triumph. I don't think I'm going to hurry to re-read it anytime soon, though.