Nataliya's Reviews > Blindness

Blindness by José Saramago
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Mar 24, 12

bookshelves: 2012-reads, excellent-reads, awesome-kickass-heroines, favorites, dystopia-postapocalyptic
Recommended for: Anyone with a conscience.
Read from March 14 to 17, 2012, read count: 1

This book left me speechless (which is a rare occurrence). Please enjoy the pictures to illustrate the plot while I recover my gift of rambling.



An unexplained plague of "white blindness" sweeps the unnamed country. Initial attempts to hastily quarantine the blind in an abandoned mental hospital fail to contain the spread. What they succeed at is immediately creating the easy "us versus them" divide between the helpless newly blind and the terrified seeing. Before we know, we are immersed in the horrifying surreal world of hopelessness, filth, violence, and hate, where the true enemy is not their affliction but people themselves, which we can see through the eyes of the only person who appears immune to blindness.
“Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.”
As the blindness epidemic spreads, we see the disintegration of society just like we witnessed the destruction of humanity in the quarantine area. Excrement covers sidewalks, dogs munch on human corpses, the blind rot in the stores after futile attempts to find food. Even the saints in the churches are blinded. The world is a bleak picture of desolation and destruction.

... Lovely, no? ....

We don't know why it happened - whether it's a test, a warning, or a punishment. Instead, we get a nagging haunting feeling that the real blindness was there all along - the blindness towards the others, the blindness towards our real selves, and the physical blindness served as a way to unveil it. What was always there but went unseen before because it used to be easy to shrug off. Fear. "Us against them" attitude. Greed. Contempt. Hatred. Selfishness. Love of power. Cowardice. Apathy. Isolation. Filth. Rape. Murder. Theft. Ignorance. Indifference. Blaming the victim. It was all already there, and blindness amplified it. And, as society decays and falls apart, the question of what is means to be human comes up.
“I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”
Things that made us human are gone. Faces don't matter. Names don't matter. Homes don't matter. Possessions don't matter. Shame and modesty are gone. Medicine is useless. Government is useless. Morals seem obsolete. Empathy is gone. Is anything left? Anything inside us?
“The difficult thing isn't living with other people, it's understanding them.”
The vestiges of humanity are the only rays of hope in this bleak world. The girl with the dark glasses taking care of the boy with the squint. The man with the eye patch and his love. And the doctor's wife, the only one who retained her sight. Why? Was it because she was the most human? Or maybe she remained human because she retained her sight? Who knows? She is quiet and caring, leading the blind, washing the raped women, weeping over the dead but killing if she must. She sticks by her morals even if she is forced to violate them. She is the guiding light and the quiet hero in this world of darkness whiteness, keeping her charges from degradation without expecting anything in return.
“If we cannot live entirely like human beings, at least let us do everything in our power not to live entirely like animals.”
The style of this book may not be for everyone (disclaimer: I loved it!). The pages are filled margin to margin with solid wall of text. There are no dialogue marks, and the seemingly mundane bits of everyday speech are separated only by capital letters. Sometimes you need to almost read the sentences out loud to get a feel for who is speaking (it's very fitting that the book about the blind is better perceived in a non-visual medium). The sentences are long (in a European fashion), run-on, and beautifully punctuated. It is not a book to skim, it requires concentration, and definitely is not a light read. If all of the above does not scare you, you should give this one a try.

I will finish this review with the plea in the epigraph for this thought-provoking eye-opening (no pun intended) book: "If you can see, look. If you can look, observe." Please, do. Let's try to look past our own blindness and actually SEE.
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Quotes Nataliya Liked

José Saramago
“If we cannot live entirely like human beings, at least let us do everything in our power not to live entirely like animals.”
José Saramago, Blindness

José Saramago
“Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.”
José Saramago, Blindness

José Saramago
“Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.”
José Saramago, Blindness

José Saramago
“The difficult thing isn't living with other people, it's understanding them.”
José Saramago, Blindness

José Saramago
“I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”
José Saramago, Blindness

José Saramago
“If I'm sincere today, what does it matter if I regret it tomorrow?”
José Saramago, Blindness


Reading Progress

03/14/2012 page 56
17.0%
03/15/2012 page 185
57.0% "This is one of the most disturbing and mind-provoking books I've read in a long time." 4 comments
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Comments (showing 1-32 of 32) (32 new)

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Becky Very interested to see what you think of this one. :)


message 2: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard This was on TV just the other night!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0861689/


Nataliya I had no idea there also was a movie. Is it any good? I have a hard time imagining this book translated to the screen. The violence - sure, that's prime Hollywood material, the background that is easy to capture. But the inner voices, the sadness, the humanity, the very distinct narrative voice of Saramago... I can't imagine it can be done well. But I should not judge the movie before seeing it, so I guess I should check it out.


message 4: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard I saw only the beginning of it. Had I known that it was based on an intriguing novel, I might have watched the whole thing. The beginning was quite interesting. I just got distracted partway through by something else.

The storyline (despite differences in setting etc.) did make me think of The Day of the Triffids, which I also liked.


message 5: by Kim (new)

Kim It sounds similar to the classic sci-fi novel The Day of the Triffids


Catie I actually listened to this one and so I never got to experience the interesting formatting. But as an audiobook, it's amazing!


Nataliya Kim and Richard: I just added The Day of the Triffids to my TBR list. And turns out my library has it, so it will be read VERY SOON.

Catie: I would love to listen to this one on audiobook. It's only my second book by Saramago (Death with Interruptions was the first) but so far both of them seemed very audio-adaptable. I shall hunt down the audiobook now.


Tatiana I have seen the movie adaptation of it, if I remember it right, before reading the book. I thought it was great, very disturbing and dark, naturally, but a true adaptation, I felt.


Nataliya Tatiana wrote: "I have seen the movie adaptation of it, if I remember it right, before reading the book. I thought it was great, very disturbing and dark, naturally, but a true adaptation, I felt."

Tatiana, I am glad to hear that the movie was good. I will definitely look for it now. Good adaptations are a rarity.


Tatiana I hope it is indeed good, because sometimes it's hard to judge, when you see and like the movie first. Other way around is easier, 'cause books are almost always better that movies, when you read them first.


s.penkevich Great review, this book was incredible. Glad you liked the style, it seems to turn off many a Saramago reader.

The vestiges of humanity are the only rays of hope in this bleak world.
Well stated!


Nataliya s.penkevich wrote: "Great review, this book was incredible. Glad you liked the style, it seems to turn off many a Saramago reader.

The vestiges of humanity are the only rays of hope in this bleak world.
Well stated!"


Thanks! I think his dialogue use is brilliant. Also, I grew up reading Russian classics, so long run-on beautifully constructed sentences don't scare me.


s.penkevich Good to hear, the Russians are the best


Nataliya s.penkevich wrote: "Good to hear, the Russians are the best"

I agree, but I am biased (my mother teaches Russian literature). After reading some sentences by Leo Tolstoy, there is nothing Saramago can throw my way (grammatically, that is) that will intimidate me.


message 15: by Jim (new)

Jim Wonderful review, and the book sounds great!


Nataliya Jim wrote: "Wonderful review, and the book sounds great!"

Thanks, Jim!


message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim Following up on Richard's comment, the movie will be on IFC on 3/22 at 2:20 a.m. in the east. I don't know if IFC has a different feed in the west, so it might or might not be 3 hours earlier than that for you. That channel does have commercials now, but I think they show the entire movie..


s.penkevich Nataliya wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Good to hear, the Russians are the best"

I agree, but I am biased (my mother teaches Russian literature). After reading some sentences by Leo Tolstoy, there is nothing Saramago..."


That is awesome. I would love to take a course in Russian lit. Saramago's style is really cool I feel, and I like the loving tone he takes towards his characters.


message 19: by Rick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rick Caborn For anyone curious about whether the movie does justice to the book, check YouTube for the video of Saramago sitting with Meirelles (the director of the movie) following Saramago's first viewing of the film, in Lisbon:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XzBkM...


Nataliya Rick wrote: "For anyone curious about whether the movie does justice to the book, check YouTube for the video of Saramago sitting with Meirelles (the director of the movie) following Saramago's first viewing of..."

Thanks for the link, Rick! I'll watch the movie first, and then will check out Saramago's reaction. I'm curious about it!


Trudi Great review Nataliya! This book really knocked me on my ass. It's so rare that a book can be a gripping story AND a profound revelation.


Nataliya Trudi wrote: "Great review Nataliya! This book really knocked me on my ass. It's so rare that a book can be a gripping story AND a profound revelation."

Thanks, Trudi! This book left a huge impact on me.


Nataliya I came across this New York Times review from 1998 when randomly Internet-ing. I quite like it; it makes me want to read the book again (but my scarred-up soul tries to resist this impulse):

http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/10/04...


Joseph Delano amazing review! i think i know what i am reading next.


Nataliya Joseph wrote: "amazing review! i think i know what i am reading next."

Thanks, Joseph!


message 26: by Aurora (new) - added it

Aurora Amazing review! I'll definitely read it now. thanks!


Nataliya Aurora wrote: "Amazing review! I'll definitely read it now. thanks!"

Thanks, Aurora! I hope you'll like this book as much as I did. Saramago's style takes a bit of getting used to, but the quality of his work makes it worth the effort.


Sam~ let all the voices stop~ “I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time. Yeah, Saragamo's writing is weird at first but then you start getting really into the book and... ahh. Aurora you're gonna love it!:)


message 29: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma thanks for your great review. just finished this stunning book, really tough, quite revealing on the human condition, what got me going was the writing style. debating now if i want to see the movie must be actually quite horrible, thank zgod we cannot convey the stench in movies


message 30: by Jalawa03 (new)

Jalawa03 I've owned this book for several months now. That tells you about my library. Overflowing. Addiction. After reading your review I can't wait to read it.


Nataliya Jalawa03 wrote: "I've owned this book for several months now. That tells you about my library. Overflowing. Addiction. After reading your review I can't wait to read it."

I hope you will read it - it's an amazing book.


message 32: by Henry (new)

Henry Avila Strange,Nataliya, lately I've been reading more Russian books and you Portuguese. It should be the other way around.I need to find an Eca de Queiros novel, real soon !


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