Posts Tagged With: jose saramago

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Translated from the Portugese by Giovanni Pontiero

Blindness is the most powerful book I have ever read. From the beginning, to the end my adrenaline levels were high, and my heart was beating so fast you’d have thought I’d been out running!

Blindness is a terrifying account of what could happen to us, if we were all to lose our sight. The book begins with one man suddenly losing his vision while waiting at traffic lights in his car. Someone offers to help the blind man back home, and it isn’t long before he becomes blind too. It quickly becomes obvious that the blindness is highly contagious, and so all the blind people, and those who have been in close contact with them, are rounded up and sent to an old mental hospital. Trapped in this old building, with an increasing number of people, conditions quickly deteriorate. Fights break out over the small amount of food, sanitation becomes almost non-existent, and it isn’t long before people are dying.

There is one woman who has not gone blind; she lied in order to stay with her husband. At first it seems as though she is the lucky one, but as time goes on this is not necessarily true. Would it be better to be blind than to see the horrors that are all around her?

This book is worryingly realistic. What would our governments do if there was an epidemic of blindness? How quickly would society break down? I thought I’d be able to cope without electricity, but when you stop to think about the infrastructure, you realise how soon you’d run out of food, and water. It’s enough to make me want to move to the country and become self sufficient as soon as possible!

This book took a little bit of time to get used to. The characters are all nameless, and there is little punctuation to break up the paragraphs, so the text is unusually dense. This led to a feeling of being a bit blind yourself, and added to the experience of reading the book. 

It was completely gripping from beginning to end, but I’m not sure I can say that I enjoyed reading it  – this is a book you should try to read in the day time, not when you’re alone on a dark night!  The horrific images will stay with me for a long time, and are a powerful statement about the fragility of our society.

Highly recommended, as long as you can cope with the stress!

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Blindness by Jose Saramago

This is definitely a hard book to pick up (even if you can get hold of it from the bookshop), I had difficulties gaining the energy to read it as it’s not a particularly appealing subject matter; in fact, after hearing the synopsis I really didn’t want to read it at all. However I pushed through that feeling as I wanted to join in with a reading circle, and have been blown away!

The book is a contemporary tale of a plague of blindness that affects the population, and the chaos that ensues. The story predominantly follows an eye doctor and his wife as they are affected and put into quarantine by a panicking Government trying to control the outbreak. The novel is not for the faint of heart, it is a difficult book to read as there are many quite horrific scenes, however, it is incredibly unusual and ultimately rewarding.

It is such an interesting and very different book to anything I have ever read. The whole way in which it is constructed, the writing style, the lack of real visual descriptives (on the most part) and the lack of grammar really do leave you feeling a bit sensory deprived yourself. Which is a really unusual thing to feel whilst reading, and I imagine it must have been very difficult to write (or else Saramago is a very clever man!). I did find myself looking up from the book, testing my vision from time to time, which is just bizarre! Even when I think about the book now, I don’t have any real sense of visuals (I normally can picture scenes and characters after reading) but not with this one, it’s all a bit fuzzy around the edges! The unusual writing style does make the book somehow even more compelling; a lack of grammar makes you concentrate more on who is speaking (which you would if you could not see). Also, the neglect of character names and lack of visual descriptions all add to the feeling disorientation and deprivation that the characters feel.

It is not a traditionally scary book; the writer’s style seems to be quite matter of fact, purely just explaining what’s going on, so the reader is spared of the tense build up leading to horrible events, however the subject matter is scary enough in itself!

I did feel very much close to the action, like I was peering in through windows or listening in to conversations. I guess that’s the magic of Saramago’s writing, subtly bringing me in without me even noticing. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read (sometimes hard going because of the harshness of the realities of life), but well worth it as it is such an interesting and unusual book. It really was something like I’ve never read before; I think that’s really what made it so good! Blindness is very grim indeed, but at the end, I found it quite uplifting somehow, that the people had to go on this journey in order to gain understanding and greater appreciate what they have. It was a true test of survival, strength and survival instinct. It showed how people can adapt and that everything that was once important (cars, homes, family, material possessions) were taken out of the equation and replaced with new values; it shows the real strength of the human spirit.

This is a difficult but ultimately rewarding and thought provoking read – highly recommended.

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