Sunday, August 12, 2007

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Vasilly selected Blindness by Jose Saramago, calling it one of her favorite books in the world. She didn't elaborate why, but it must be true because she lists this book as her favorite on her blog, other blogs and her PaperBackSwap profile.

I found Blindness to be intriguing and gripping. I can see why Vasilly was so moved by this novel, and I am glad to have read it for this challenge. My review is below and also posted on my blog.

Thanks, V, for sharing this book with me!


Imagine if you suddenly became blind - your eyes glaze over with a white light, and one by one, your loved ones, neighbors and enemies all become infected by this same white blindness. How would the government respond? How would the medical community deal with this epidemic? And more importantly, how would you survive when you cannot see?

This sense of despair is the central theme to Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago's novel, Blindness.

A group of blind people become allies during quarantine at a government facility guarded by soldiers. Within the facility, lawlessness rules over organization, and this band of blinded victims, led by a woman who fakes her blindness so she could stay with her husband, must steal, murder and endure sexual assault to survive these horrible conditions.

Blindness will leave you breathless in parts and exacerbated in others. Translated from Portuguese, the novel is written with run-on dialogues (with no quotation marks or attributions), extremely long paragraphs (some of which take up the entire page) and stream of consciousness writing. Once you get used to the writing style, the novel will leave you wondering: "What would I do if I suddenly became blind?"

I believe Blindness is a social commentary of how "blind" people are even when they can see. Blinded, no one could distinguish between different races, economic classes or intellect. A chamber maid and a doctor are now on the same playing field. With the absence of "normal" distinctions, new ones emerge. Those with food, with weapons, with a place to stay. And those who have nothing - not even hope that they will recover from their sudden blindness.

Readers who enjoyed The Road or other dystopian tales will find Blindness to be enjoyable, exhilarating and gripping. Overall, I am glad to have been introduced to this imaginative piece of Portuguese literature.

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