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Blindness (Movie Tie-In) Paperback – September 2, 2008
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
- Publisher : Harvest Books; 1st edition (September 2, 2008)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0156035588
- ISBN-13 : 978-0156035583
- Item Weight : 12.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,088,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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When I read a book like Blindness, I'm reminded of those and other events in my own life that have caused me to qualify my beliefs. I still think humanity has a near-limitless capacity for altruism, but mostly when we're comfortable. When the stakes are high, compassion is the first thing to go.
Saramago isn't the first author to write about societal collapse, either real or fictional, but he's among the best to do so. That's because he offers not just realistic details of how things go from bad to worse to worst, but also because he does so with a unique writing style that's just as chaotic as the situations he describes. Characters aren't given names, just descriptors. Dialogue isn't punctuated with quotation marks and paragraphs, it runs together, sometimes for pages at a time. It's exactly the kind of sensory overload that someone who's just lost one of her five senses would experience: an onslaught of information with a diminished capacity to process it.
As a reader, though, I found I quickly adapted to his writing style. The plot moves briskly and kept me engrossed. And the images that Saramago paints for those of us who can see are breathtaking. Long after I've forgotten the plot, that's what I'll remember about the novel.
I could quibble with the ending, I could complain that Saramago pulled a punch (kind of like McCarthy does at the end of The Road). Then again, the entire book is an extended metaphor, so I'm not sure it could've concluded in any other way.
The PLOT is simple: One by one, people become blind. Only the doctor's wife is spared. At first, the afflicted are quarantined in a former mental asylum, very apt as they quickly descend into Lord of the Flies territory. But as the rest of the country also becomes blind, the doctor's wife and her little group reemerge into an unrecognizable world, where homeless blind people scrounge everywhere for food. While altruism is the norm within their little group, selfishly keeping their resources and potential resources for themselves is also evident; one particularly telling interlude involves the doctor's wife finding and then keeping hidden a massive food store.
CHARACTERS have no names, but are referred to as the doctor's wife, the boy with the squint, and so on.
The LANGUAGE of the book is unusual. At first I thought perhaps it constituted a failing on the part of the interpreter. But I very rapidly realized that the unusual writing was meant to disorient the reader to reflect the experience of the blind people we are reading about. It worked! I frequently had to double back and reread a very long sentence while picturing who was speaking all the while, back and forth, within one sentence. These sentences get longer as the book progresses.
EXCERPT (random sentence): "They are all awake at last, their hands are shaking, their faces anxious, it is then that the doctor, as had happened before to the dog of tears, remembers who he is, Careful, it's not a good idea to eat too much, it could be harmful, What's doing us harm is hunger, said the first blind man, Take heed of what the doctor is saying, his wife rebuked him, and her husband fell silent, thinking with faint resentment, He doesn't even know anything about eyes, unjust words these, especially if we take into account that the doctor is no less blind than the others, the proof being that he was unaware that his wife was naked from the waist up, it was she who asked him for his jacket to cover herself, the other blind inmates looked in her direction, but it was much too late, if only they had looked before."
BOTTOM LINE: This author won the Nobel Price for Literature and justifiably so. This book is definitely worth your time.
On to the sequel, Seeing!
Top reviews from other countries
I needn't have worried. Yes, it's a thought-provoking allegory, but it's also a page-turner. The style plunges you into the heads - and the terrifying predicament - of the protagonists. The lack of familiar punctuation to give shape to the sentences and the dialogue, like the lack of names for the characters, is all part of an immersive experience that leaves you, like them, groping around the story, trying to get your bearings, fearful of what you're not seeing and what you're about to stumble onto. And it works. It's like having an intelligent conversation while binge-watching The Walking Dead.
I like the fact that the white blindness is not easily or simplistically pinned down - at various times, it shifts between being a kind of existential hopelessness, at others a deliberate turning away from looking, yet again it can be turned inward, or even reversed so that loss of self is caused by and equated with other people's lack of seeing.
Saramago's life-long communism briefly appears in the centralised distribution of the food which is more effective and equitable than the free-for-all struggles of individuals but this isn't mere political allegory, and deals with more fundamental issues.
The not-blind doctor's wife is the closest thing to a main character, selflessly confining herself in the hospital in order not to be separated from her husband, and her quiet heroism is subsumed beneath his more overt authority. She is the one who makes some of the hardest decisions which take an emotional toll on her, and it's she who bonds with the dog of tears, an image of compassion and empathy that is, significantly?, not human.
The prose is compulsive, dispensing with punctuation which might slow it down, and also eroding grammatical barriers between voices, allowing individuals to be submerged within a single cacophonous utterance of humanity in all its terror, division, violence and love.
There is cruelty here, exploitation and the abuse of power; we see hierarchies form and be toppled; but there are also images of connection, of charity, and of strength coming from community. And, ultimately, the dog (god?) of tears.