Thursday, December 08, 2005

BLINDNESS by Jose Saramago

Imagine if the entire world went blind at one time. What would happen to us all? Imagine the chaos, the horrors of not being able to see . . .of not knowing where you are . . .not able to find your way home. Not being able to find food, or even a place to go to the toilet. Jose Saramago brings these terrifying consequences to life in his disturbing novel,

An epidemic of "white blindness" takes over and spares all but one person. The first victims of this unexplainable nightmare are forcibly taken away to an abandoned mental hospital where they are quarantined from the rest of the population to prevent the spreading of the "illness," however, nothing seems to prevent the blindness from spreading and soon everyone is stricken and forced to try and survive the best way they can. Humans find themselves reverting to primitive and animalistic behaviors in order to live. Modern technology and medicine are useless. The entire world comes to a standstill except for the accumulating garbage and human excrement in the streets and even inide places where people take shelter.

Despite horrific scenes of carnage and unthinkable violence, I HAD to keep reading. I had to find out what would happen to the main characters. Would this group of seven survive? Would they get their sight back? What was going to happen to their world?

Saramago's writing style fits perfectly with this novel. He uses few paragraphs, very little punctuation, and no quotation marks to indicate dialogue, however, I had no problem with knowing who was talking and to who. As one critic pointed out, the chaotic way in which the story is written fits well with the chaos that is happening in the story itself.

Saramago portrays human's at their very worst, as well as our will to survive the worst imaginable things that may happen to us in life. If I say more, it will ruin the story for you. It must be experienced totally for yourself.
On a 1-5 scale, I give this novel a 5+ and thinking I should raise the numbers on the scale so I can give it a much higher rating than that. I can understand why Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.


Stardust said...

After reading more about Saramago I find that he is extremely
political and takes a strong stand against American agression which
ties in strongly tohis novel, Blindness. Here is a quote from an
interview from published Mass Humanities - Spring 2002.

"The world had already changed before September 11. The world has been
going through a process of change over the last twenty or thirty
years. A civilization ends, another one begins. It is not the first
time that such a transformation has occurred, but in this case we
happen to be its witnesses. Since September 11, however, something has
indeed changed in the collective mentality of North Americans, who
have lost the conviction that the United States are protected from any
cala-mity save of the natural kind. They have discovered the fragility
of life, that ominous fragility that the rest of the world either
already experienced in the past or is experiencing now with terrible
intensity. The have realized (at least I hope they have) their own
fundamentalism, the kind that made them indifferent toward what
happens in the outside world, that has produced the attitude of
insolent haughtiness characteristic of the relationships Americans
form with what is alien to them, with others. They have discovered
fear. My own fear is that the only result of the material and
psychological aggression they have suffered will be a compensatory
reinforcement of their familiar insolence and arrogance."

Also in an article in BOMB Magazine, it is written, "Recent works such
as Blindness, All the Names, and La Caverna delineate worlds that are
bureaucratic or drained of compassion."

After reading this interview and this article, it seems to me Saramago
is making a larger and serious political statement though his fiction.

Susan said...

I agree. This is an incredibly powerful novel.

Jason H. Bowden said...

Saramago is one of those guys who thinks that Muslim violence is the measure of Western guilt. I don't remember Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. ever making excuses for murder.

Stardust said...

Jason ~ Have you read the book Blindness, or any other of Saramago's works...or his biography in it's entirety?