I sat down yesterday, thinking to myself, I am going to read this book. So I did, and I was unable to stop until I was finished later that night. The...moreI sat down yesterday, thinking to myself, I am going to read this book. So I did, and I was unable to stop until I was finished later that night. The images and language of this book colonized my imagination and left me with a feeling that I had just read a masterful allegory of humanity.
"Blindness" takes place in an unnamed city in an unnamed country inhabited by unnamed people who are referred to either by their profession or a distinguishing characteristic. A man goes blind one day. There is no overtly physiological or psychological reason; his eyes are perfectly healthy, and his mind is fairly sound. The blindness spreads from him as an epidemic, and the government is quick to react. The newly blind are placed in an abandon mental hospital on the outskirts of the city. City officials try to keep the populace calm, but as time goes on, escalating numbers of people go blind.
Early on, an ophthalmologist who examined the first man hit by the blindness goes blind. His wife, called "the doctor's wife" throughout the entire book, declares that she has gone blind as well in order to stay with her husband as he is quarantined in asylum. This act of selfless devotion defines her character, and is perhaps the thing that spares her from the blindness. As more people are delivered to the asylum, conditions rapidly deteriorate. Food is scarce and the soldiers who guard the blind people are terrified of being infected and are quick to react to any perceived threat with violence. The blindness spreads, and with it comes filth and brutality as people are no longer confined by the ethics of everyday civility. The book comes to a horrible climax as a group of thieves takes over the supply line of provisions and demands first valuables, then women, in exchange for food.
When I described the plot of this book to my fiancee, he remarked that it sounded very depressing. To leave it at that is simplistic. Saramago's understanding of mass psychology is devastating. The immediate selfishness shown by the blind is counterbalanced with the underlying fact that only community allows for their survival, and within that truth there are implications for any number of situations that people have found themselves in throughout history. It is easy to see why this book earned Saramago a Nobel prize for literature. I highly recommend this book. (less)
Since reading a review of the movie that has come out based on this book, I keep thinking back to scenes from "Nev...moreWell-written and hauntingly creepy.
Since reading a review of the movie that has come out based on this book, I keep thinking back to scenes from "Never Let Me Go" that continue to leave me with a feeling of not-quite-rightness. I'm curious if the movie version managed to capture what Ishiguro manages so brilliantly in this novel as well as "When We Were Orphans", which is a feeling of purposeful lack of depth. Between the two narrators of those books and their inner selves is an opaque sheet of glass which is accepted by the two as simply the way life is. This paradox of vivid dullness is heightened in "Never Let Me Go" due to the nature of the character's origins. The feeling one of the teachers in the book has of repulsed sympathy for the children under her care echos throughout the book as you try to find a place to attach yourself to the protagonists, but fail to reach that point. How can that complex and subtle vapidity that comes across so profoundly in the book be duplicated in a medium that is notorious for its lack of depth? I don't know, but I am glad that I was reminded of this book so I can remember Ishiguro's vision of inhuman humanity and a personless person and enjoy the feeling of disquiet that that conjures in me. (less)
'The True Deciever' is a quietly disturbing book set in a remote Finnish village. In the same simple and elegant language as 'The Summer Book', Jansso...more'The True Deciever' is a quietly disturbing book set in a remote Finnish village. In the same simple and elegant language as 'The Summer Book', Jansson depicts two women coming head to head as they pit their respective illusions about the world against each other. Katri Kling is a brutally honest and unsparing young woman who makes a name for herself by giving advice to the villagers, who at once fear and respect her. Her unpleasant nature is contrasted with the aging Anna Aemelin, a timid and absent-minded woman who has made a name for herself by painting the forest floor with beautiful accuracy, then adding flowery rabbits to make the paintings into children's books. Aemelin lives in rich, otherworldly solitude, writing pleasing letters in response to her fan-mail, reading adventure novels, reminiscing over her dead parents, and waiting until spring to start painting. Watching Aemelin from a distance, Katri Kling formulates a plan to take up residence in Aemelin's mansion, nicknamed 'the rabbit house' by the villagers. Katri's motives are pure--to find money and a home for her sweet but slow brother, Mats, but the ways in which she goes about this are full of deception.
The characters' complexity are the meat of this story. Katri's strength and honesty are her two virtues. These virtues are what endear her to Anna Aemelin, who often finds herself entangled in avoidance and politeness. Katri has a strict and spartan code of ethics that she prides herself on, but as the book unfolds, one finds oneself asking what parts of Katri are real and which are the carefully-crafted illusions of someone who takes herself too seriously. Katri is symbolized by a wolf-dog, who she has trained into obedience but does not love or show compassion, just as Aemelin is symbolized by her flowery rabbits that she draws but doesn't really care for. However, rabbits may have a sly and secretive cunning, and dogs may go wild when their carefully cultivated habits are corrupted. By the end of this book, only Mats, Katri's brother and Anna's friend, is the only one left who has suffered no loss of self-comforting illusions.
There is more in this book than one can get in one reading, and I look forward to one day reading it again. (less)
Where would we be if we didn't secretly hope that the surreal could potentially walk in our door at any minute and throw our universe into chaos? Or,...moreWhere would we be if we didn't secretly hope that the surreal could potentially walk in our door at any minute and throw our universe into chaos? Or, to put it more accurately, where would literature be?
No Murakami main character I have met yet has had a strong ego or personality. Mild, mundane, and accepting, the Murakami protagonist is one who passively lets life happen to him, and because of this, draws the most outrageous characters to him and winds up plunging into a mysterious and convoluted plot. This book is no different in that regard, but it touched me more than previous books by this author that I have read. Take out the twists and turns, leave the psychics behind, even disregard the main character to some extent, this is a story of those who lives have been effected by brutality. However, since this is a Murakami, put all those previous elements back in, and you have a funny and absurd coating on a story of good and evil. (less)
I read these stories for the first time when I was in high school. I remember reading at a bus stop, totally absorbed in the tragic loss of a mother a...moreI read these stories for the first time when I was in high school. I remember reading at a bus stop, totally absorbed in the tragic loss of a mother and father of their child while a mad cake-maker harasses them, and being shocked back into reality by the bus arriving. (less)
Being a Murakami fan and after reading some of the many five star reviews, I feel like a bit of a spoilsport. While I loved the beginning (lets say, t...moreBeing a Murakami fan and after reading some of the many five star reviews, I feel like a bit of a spoilsport. While I loved the beginning (lets say, the first 300 pages) and would give the story the full amount of stars if it went on like that, there was a point where the story feels less like it unfolded and more like it was written. When I'm reading a good work of fiction, I want to be carried along by the story and characters, without being reminded that this is an author laboring to bring these events to fruition. At a certain point in this novel, 1Q84 seemed more like Murakami was forcing events to happen for the sake of a pre-determined conclusion than because the arc of the story lead naturally to those happenings.
Somehow, despite being 925 pages long, 1Q84 doesn't seem complete. What, for example, exactly are the Little People after? While I never have felt the need for an explanation for weird and magical happenings in Murakami before, I feel that too much effort was spent bringing the heroine and hero together (or deliberately keeping them apart) at the expense of what was happening to make this strange alternate universe of 1Q84 be. It is still an engaging and absorbing read, but as the book went on and Aomame herself lost her angry edge, I feel the book lost some of its edge and purpose as well.
Still, I wish the star ratings were relative. For example, Murakami as a writer gets 4.4 stars consistently, but within that, each book can be graded against each other. No one is as good at twisting ordinary reality into the magically absurd. And for once, I feel more depth to the main protagonists, male and female. All in all it was time well spent, but I couldn't help feeling a little dissatisfied with the last half. (less)