Laura's Reviews > Blindness

Blindness by José Saramago
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Nov 04, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: modern-fiction, favorites
Read in December, 2007

The longer I think about this book, the more astonished and amazed I become. While it is fantastic in a purely aesthetic sense, it will likely require multiple readings to fully appreciate the incredible depth and significance of this novel.

Blindness depicts the appalling and inexorable collapse of an entire city as it falls into chaos when its citizens, one by one, find themselves inexplicably and instantaneously stricken with blindness. This white blindness, unlike its more familiar dark counterpart, renders individuals unable to see due to an inescapable brightness that obliterates all visual faculty. As more and more people find themselves incapacitated by sudden disability and disorientation, Saramago describes the subsequent denigration, exploitation, and savagery that occur as individuals confront previously overlooked burdens of survival, power, and sacrifice.

Saramago has an unusual and unparalleled style of writing, exchanging periods for commas, a technique that oftentimes results in sentences extending well beyond half a page. Within these intricate and complex sentence patterns, Saramago weaves description and narrative with convoluted conversations between multiple characters, only intermittently identifying the speaker. Instead of direct or definitive construction of character identity, he distinguishes individuals according to superficial relational or physical characteristics. However, Saramago establishes and develops their identities through his piercing exploration of their personal perceptions, revealing their innermost thoughts as he mischievously flits between unsuspecting and nebulous individuals.

Ultimately, through a narrative that follows the horrifying turn of events from the eyes of each character, a perspicacious writing style that mirrors the perplexing nature of humanity, and an equitable and insightful portrayal of the novel's nameless characters, Saramago masterfully illustrates the bewildering complexity, fallibility, and duality of human nature, offering little explanation or judgment and no excuses, even during heartbreaking moments of unbridled cruelty and extraordinary selflessness. Although many readers might interpret such a novel as irrefutable evidence of the wickedness of modern society, I believe Saramago instead seeks to capture the qualities of infinite goodness and momentary brilliance that persevere despite the intrinsic inconsistencies of human nature.
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