Amos's Reviews > Blindness

Blindness by José Saramago
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May 17, 07

Read in May, 2007

Saramago is an incredible writer and I think Blindness is, hands down, his best novel.

There are no names in the book (the narrator identifies everybody by their traits) which makes the characters universal. In typical Saramago style, there are very few paragraph indents and very few periods, but a great number of commas. Also, as Saramago readers have come to expect, the language is deceptively simple yet loaded with meaning. Saramago conveys in half a dozen words what another writer would take half a chapter to convey. Please note that when I say this I am not exaggerating. It is the absolute fucking truth.

The premise is this: over the course of a few weeks, everyone in the country is suddenly and inexplicably struck with a case of white blindness. Only one individual in the whole country -- the wife of the opthalmologist who examined the first man to go blind and who was subsequently one of the earliest people to go blind himself -- is spared. She and her husband are quarantined in an abandoned mental asylum along with the others who are first struck by the white blindness. The rest of the book follows the story of her, her husband, and the other individuals who settle in their ward.

Weirdly, even though the premise is so fantastical, the events that follow and the responses of the characters are written in such a way -- so close and personal and yet at the same time so universal -- that it's almost like you're reading a memoir of something that actually happened. There is something alarming about Saramago's ability to write like this. The universality of his language and his characters shouldn't create for such intensely personal dramas. But they do. Of all the authors that I've read in my life, it's something I've found only him capable of doing. And it shakes me every time.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I love your review of this book. I have just finished reading this book and can't stop thinking about it.


Kyle Blalock I like what you said about the universal aspects of his writing, that's something I thought about but couldn't pin point the way you did in this review.

Here is my review, I need some questions answered as you will see. This is my first Saramago book and some outside thought would help.

I was recommended Blindness for a topic of critical writing for a philosophy class. After I finished reading, I was expecting some sort of existential epiphany. I can’t say that I am disappointed with what I got from it, but I can’t say that I am satisfied with how I perceived the book.

The book definitely depicts our dependence on vision in order to live in a cohesive society. Obvious statement I am sure. I am trying to pick out exactly what the author is trying to say about “vision” and I don’t think that I am getting what he is trying to say about that. Maybe nothing. Maybe the deprivation of sight is a device he uses to segue into the potential of human nature.

We are given an array of human specimens to focus on, each reacting differently to their circumstances and conflicting interest. Their potential good and potential bad elements are exploited in a way that shows man’s capacity for an animal pursuit. Their waddling in shit, need for sex, and hostility over food rations, combined with the loss of clothing, superficial belongings, and ego, seems to be symbolic gestures of our condition.

A major point that I am hung up on is the fact that the doctor’s wife didn’t lose her vision. I don’t know why. I think maybe her faith and compassion for humanity give her the right to see. Like she understands…so she has the ability, right, or privilege to see??? I’m discombobulated. I don’t know Jose Saramago’s philosophical outlook in regards to religion, but I think that maybe this woman can see because God wants her to. Maybe she can see because of her dedication to humanity. If so, why is the boy blind, or the old man? I think I am off.

Maybe this is more of a political work, dealing with portraying the interconnectivity and cooperation among men in society as I have said.

Though I can’t help to feel that this work is trying to represent a spiritually philosophical ideal. I felt an emotional sense of compassion throughout, yet I also felt cynically misanthropic about our species at the same time.

We’re only human. I guess that is what I am getting. Maybe some other opinions could help sharpen mine.


message 3: by Rui (new) - rated it 2 stars

Rui Martins Hello Amos, try "Baltasar and Blimunda". Maybe you will find Blindness the better book but the other the better novel


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