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Blindness by José Saramago
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, horror, nobel-laureates, portugal, psychology, translated, drama, for_legacy, sharp_sword, thriller, favorites

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

What an irony that a book which holds, loss, filth, loot, stomp, cruelty, disorientation, putrefaction, injustice, helplessness, murder, rape, misery, nakedness, abandonment, death and unimaginable suffering in its bosom, left me with a climactic emotion of beauty, overwhelming beauty. Beauty of what you ask? That of resilience, that of courage, that of insurmountable human spirit which perhaps hits its zenith when it is brutally pinned to the bottommost pit.

Blindness has a chilling plot – a city where people start going blind, without a warning or faintest history. A man behind a car, a robber escaping from the back door, an ophthalmologist reading reference book, a call girl in the midst of making love – this moment, they are going about their business and the next, they are blind. As this terrifying infliction gains the proportion of an epidemic in shuddering no time, the state machinery jumps into action by hoarding the blind and the contaminated and dispatching them to a quarantine. The events that unfold thenceforth grow into a numbing testimonial of limits that humankind pushes with the weakest of hands but the strongest of beliefs.

Saramago slits his heart and lets the blood do the talking, for how else does one explain the impeccable conjuring of a land that is crumbling under the consistent attacks of physical needs and rising from the tireless crenellating of mental walls, at the very same instance?
With the passing of time, as well as the social evolution and genetic exchange, we ended up putting our conscience in the colour of blood and in the salt of tears, and, as if that were not enough, we made our eyes into a kind of mirror turned inwards, with the result that they often show without reserve what we are verbally trying to deny.”
The blind stay close and maintain proximity akin to a herd of helpless antelopes; always alert but not without a sinking feeling of falling prey, eventually. In the midst of this nebulous blindness, food makes a demand and water makes a cry, shit gets spilled and showers run dry. Bullies emerge from within them, like ugly exhalations of a poisonous body, often unaware of its obvious power of self-destruction.
Arriving at this point, the blind accountant, tired of describing so much misery and sorrow, would let his metal punch fall to the table, he would search with a trembling hand for the piece of stale bread he had put to one side while he fulfilled his obligations as chronicler of the end of time, but he would not find it, because another blind man, whose sense of smell had become very keen out of dire necessity, had filched it.
What do we know what we are capable of? Of the high we can inspire ourselves to? Of the lows we can shovel ourselves to? Do we even know that if thrown into the arms of gut-wrenching starvation and mutilation, our lofty ideals can turn evanescent and the feral desire to survive at any cost can reign supreme?
she knew that if it were necessary, she would kill again,
And when is it necessary to kill, she asked herself as she headed in the direction of the hallway, and she herself answered the question,
When what is still alive is already dead.
But it is from these repugnant ashes of human extremities that the human spirit arises. Like a new-born phoenix, it breathes in short puffs but never stops breathing. A fledgling resilience, no matter how threatened, pervades the blind group, who hobble painfully towards a future that is white in their blindness but imaginable in their collectiveness. When a lonely hand is clasped and a crying baby is cuddled, when a single soul performs vigil and the wasted sacrifices, when the timid find voice and the brave, their clan, the world remains no longer white; it regains its colour.

While reading this book, I felt its power in every page, its vulnerability at every turn. In many ways, it was an allegory of life. For every burden placed on our soul, there is a corresponding lever to dispel it. (view spoiler) And a consistent persuasion is all it takes to become free. Should that come easy, blessed we are. Should that come with unexpected caveats, memories we will have (or be).
We are already half dead, said the doctor,
We are still half alive too, answered his wife.
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Quotes Seemita Liked

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

José Saramago
“...the habit of falling hardens the body, reaching the ground, to in itself, is a relief.”
José Saramago, Blindness

José Saramago
“When all is said and done, what is clear is that all lives end before their time.”
Jose Saramago, Blindness

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

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


Reading Progress

March 30, 2015 – Shelved
April 27, 2016 – Started Reading
April 27, 2016 –
page 25
8.22% "'He had even reached the thinking that darkness in which the blind live was nothing other than absence of light, that blindness simply covered the appearance of beings and things, leaving them intact behind their black veil. Now, here he was, plunged into a whiteness so luminous that it swallowed up rather than absorbed, not just the colours but the very things and beings, thus making them twice as invisible.'"
April 28, 2016 –
page 40
13.16% "'..the doctor took him by the arm and installed him behind a scanner which anyone with imagination might see as a new version of the confessional, eyes replacing words, and the confessor looking directly into the sinner's soul.'"
April 30, 2016 –
page 65
21.38% "'With the passing of time, as well as the social evolution and genetic exchange, we ended up putting our conscience in the colour of blood and in the salt of tears, and, as if that were not enough, we made our eyes into a kind of mirror turned inwards, with the result that they often show without reserve what we are verbally trying to deny.'"
May 16, 2016 –
page 120
39.47% "'We all have our moments of weakness, just as well that we are still capable of weeping. Tears are often our salvation; there are times when we would die if we did not weep.'"
May 19, 2016 –
page 140
46.05% "'Blindness was spreading, not like a sudden tide flooding everything and carrying all before it, but like an insidious infiltration of a thousand and one turbulent rivulets which, having slowly drenched the earth, suddenly submerge it completely.'"
May 25, 2016 –
page 170
55.92% "'...the human being, to lack that second skin we call egoism, has not yet been born; it lasts much longer than the other one, that bleeds so readily.'"
May 30, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-47 of 47 (47 new)

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Deea yey:) This book is amazingly powerful, isn't it?


Seemita Deea wrote: "yey:) This book is amazingly powerful, isn't it?"

It left me paralyzed many times. Supremely hard-hitting. Raw power. Glad to see you loved it too, Deea!


message 3: by Cristina (last edited May 30, 2016 05:09AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cristina Happy to see these 5 stars on this one, Seemita!!


message 4: by Dolors (new)

Dolors Most powerful line ever, Simi.
Also timely for me, as I bumped into this sentence in Orlando:

"One can only believe entirely, perhaps, in what one cannot see. "


Renato Magalhães Rocha Very happy to see you loved this! Very powerful book


Seemita Cristina wrote: "Happy to see these 5 stars on this one, Seemita!!"

If I had my way, I would have given it more than 5! Happy to share the experience, Cristina :)


Seemita Dolors wrote: "Most powerful line ever, Simi.
Also timely for me, as I bumped into this sentence in Orlando:

"One can only believe entirely, perhaps, in what one cannot see. ""


Wow, D! That's almost a parallel, right? Such a gritty tale, this one; full of heart-swamping psychological undercurrents. I am still a bit dazed.


Seemita Renato wrote: "Very happy to see you loved this! Very powerful book"

Very powerful indeed, Renato! It takes, god knows what, to imagine and write a story so real, horrid and yet, going.


message 9: by Laysee (new)

Laysee This one line says it all. I'm intrigued, Seemita. A must read, I see.


message 10: by Fabian {Councillor} (last edited May 31, 2016 10:19AM) (new) - added it

Fabian {Councillor} Sometimes it needs only one line to create a perfect review. I am excited by your high rating for this book and added it now. It sounds interesting, especially as I haven't been fond of dystopian novels in the past (Divergent and Wayward have kind of destroyed my interest for that genre) and feel like this might be a good book to return to the genre. Thank you, Seemita :)


Anuradha Perfect, Seemita! I'm literally reading this as we speak.


Helle Ah, yes, that novel haunted me for a long time afterwards. Never read anything like it. A telling one-line review if ever I saw one, Seemita!


message 13: by Abubakar (new)

Abubakar Mehdi A compelling review Seemita ! I will have to read it now.


Seemita Laysee wrote: "This one line says it all. I'm intrigued, Seemita. A must read, I see."

I am still grappling for words, Laysee. But such potent story-telling needed an immediate ode. I would be keen to know what you make of Saramago's world. Thanks for dropping by :)


Seemita Councillor wrote: "Sometimes it needs only one line to create a perfect review. I am excited by your high rating for this book and added it now. It sounds interesting, especially as I haven't been fond of dystopian n..."

Thank you, Fabian! Glad this one line, which was more like a sigh of relief, finally expelled after being repressed for over a month, elicited an intrigued brow from you. Despite the temptation to mark it dystopia, I would refrain from doing so; this book is much wider in scope and covers aspects that impart a substantial verisimilitude to its being. I hope you read it someday; just brace up twice as tight before embarking on this journey! :)


Seemita Anuradha wrote: "Perfect, Seemita! I'm literally reading this as we speak."

Brava, Anu! May the world come gushing and open your eyes to things hitherto invisible.


Seemita Helle wrote: "Ah, yes, that novel haunted me for a long time afterwards. Never read anything like it. A telling one-line review if ever I saw one, Seemita!"

Thanks, dear Helle! Yes...haunted, paralyzed, dazed, immobilized; I experienced all that and more while reading this mind-boggling account of events. I wish to elaborate on this review the day I regain the ability to think clearly.

P.S. So good to see hear from you :)


message 18: by Seemita (last edited May 31, 2016 11:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Seemita Abubakar wrote: "A compelling review Seemita ! I will have to read it now."

Thank you, Abubakar! You must read it; in fact, every reader must see what lies beneath the vision he/ she takes for granted.


Seemita Marita wrote: "Pithy review, Seemita! :-)"

Ah, Thanks Marita! Too constricted to write more at this instant :( But your generosity is a welcome breeze :)


message 20: by Gautam (new) - added it

Gautam stunning line ;)


Seemita Gautam wrote: "stunning line ;)"

Ha! When even that one line betrays grasp and sight...


message 22: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King What an incredible line Seemita and that actually relates to everyday life. Quite philosophical on reflection.

I actually have this book somewhere. I'll have to dig it out!


Seemita Lynne wrote: "What an incredible line Seemita and that actually relates to everyday life. Quite philosophical on reflection.

I actually have this book somewhere. I'll have to dig it out!"


Thanks, Lynne! Philosophical, yes. Introspective, yes. All-encompassing, yes. I wish I could steal some quality time off my current wretched schedule to do Saramago's incredible tale, justice by writing a proper review. But alas! Time is at loggerheads with me :( But I will overcome it, eventually :) Thanks for stopping by!


message 24: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King Seemita, You make me sound as if I've jumped off a bus with that final comment!


Seemita Lynne wrote: "Seemita, You make me sound as if I've jumped off a bus with that final comment!"

Hehe... That's the philosophical ME babbling ;)


Tsung Another superb review Seemita! Intriguing plot yet it sounds like the plot is secondary. I have to read this "allegory of life"!


message 27: by Dolors (last edited Jun 14, 2016 06:30AM) (new)

Dolors ”But it is from these repugnant ashes of human extremities that the human spirit arises. Like a new-born phoenix, it breathes in short puffs but never stops breathing.”

Seemita, your power of expression leaves one utterly speechless. There is such joy in this ode to the architecture of the human spirit, with all its weaknesses, cruelties and self-doubts, that I can see the beauty you speak about imprinted on every single word that gives shape to this magnificent review. (view spoiler). A choice is all it takes. A choice to acknowledge the goodness, a choice to accept the uglinesses we all harbor without growing spiteful or cynical. Your review makes a difference and reading your flowing sentences restores my faith in humanity, Simi. Like Saramago’s cautionary tale managed to do for you. Excellent, inspiring write-up, my friend…


message 28: by Deea (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deea Seemita, this review is wonderful. Thank you for reminding me how powerful that book was.
I first saw the movie and then read the book and I had the feeling throughout the movie that there had to be a secret behind the fact that the Doctor's Wife kept her sight. Why was she different than the others? But then, I read the book and I realized that the book was not about that, but about what you so well pointed above. Plus, I still remember that scene with the supermarket. Haunting book. Haunting review.


message 29: by Pearl (new)

Pearl Angeli Fab review, Seemita :)


message 30: by Seemita (last edited Jun 14, 2016 09:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Seemita Tsung Wei wrote: "Another superb review Seemita! Intriguing plot yet it sounds like the plot is secondary. I have to read this "allegory of life"!"

Thank you, Tsung! :) Please do read this book; I can't recommend it enough. And you got it right; plot is only one of the scintillating elements of this precious book.


message 31: by Seemita (last edited Jun 14, 2016 09:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Seemita Dolors wrote: "”But it is from these repugnant ashes of human extremities that the human spirit arises. Like a new-born phoenix, it breathes in short puffs but never stops breathing.”

Seemita, your power of expr..."


Your words bring a surge of relief to me, Dolors. Let me admit that I struggled to write this review. I was aware despite my best intentions, no amount of words would commensurate with the gravity of this book; no lexical armoury of mine would contain the explosive impact of its narrative. But yet, my response had to be recorded because what Saramago writes is exactly what I read for (and I can safely vouch, many do). Through fiction, he brings to fore the most significant threads binding this whole wide world and effectively exhibits the various tensions they are subjected to. Without being preachy, sans any tall decor, he, as you beautifully put, highlights the goodness that each of us can exercise if we so choose to. (view spoiler) Ah! Thank you for your teeming validation, my dear; some experiences grow manifold when shared with besties :)


Cristina Seemita wrote: "Dolors wrote: "”But it is from these repugnant ashes of human extremities that the human spirit arises. Like a new-born phoenix, it breathes in short puffs but never stops breathing.”

Seemita, you..."


Goodreads!! I would like to like comments!!! Dolors and Seemita, love you both <3


Seemita Deea wrote: "Seemita, this review is wonderful. Thank you for reminding me how powerful that book was.
I first saw the movie and then read the book and I had the feeling throughout the movie that there had to ..."


And it is equally wonderful to hear from a friend who has loved this book in equal measure! Thank you, Deea; you have almost fixed my weekend movie binge :) The doctor's wife was an extraordinary character, a masterstroke between a messiah and a human, in all their sense and splendour. I have lost track of the haunting, squirming, almost nauseating scenes in this book that left me immobile and thinking for a long, long time: the supermarket, the fellatio, the open laundry... Oh, what a magnificent writer!


Seemita Pearl wrote: "Fab review, Seemita :)"

Many thanks, Pearl! :)


Seemita Cristina wrote: "Goodreads!! I would like to like comments!!! Dolors and Seemita, love you both <3"

Awww... Bear hugs back to you and Dolors! :))


message 36: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Gorgeous review Seemita :)

I love your review but could not say the same for this book.

I really struggled with this book and I wish I had a similar experience to you. If I were to rate it I could not give it more than 2.5 stars.

I really loved his book All the Names by José Saramago Do you know this one? I would rate that one 4.5 stars.


Seemita Jaidee wrote: "Gorgeous review Seemita :)

I love your review but could not say the same for this book.

I really struggled with this book and I wish I had a similar experience to you. If I were to rate it I cou..."


I understand your reaction, Jaidee. This book can, as easily, turn into an immensely bleak saga, something that can sap the nuanced need to keep going, in the hope of something defining. For me though, it sprung like a reflection of life; a blindness that we all harbour, unaware of its many tentacles permanently wiping our ability to really see. But thank you so much for reading and leaving your ever encouraging pat, my friend; it means even more since the book didn't exactly resonate with you. You are a sweetheart :)

And I am yet to read the book you have mentioned. I have his 'Cain' and 'Skylight' with me but with your reco, I will give it a preference without thinking twice!


message 38: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala I love to see Saramago getting attention, Seemita, and you've given him lots of respectful attention in this review, focusing not only on his salutary message but also on how he delivers it - which is what makes him different to other writers who treat similar themes. Such a unique style he has!


Seemita Fionnuala wrote: "I love to see Saramago getting attention, Seemita, and you've given him lots of respectful attention in this review, focusing not only on his salutary message but also on how he delivers it - which..."

Saramago was enthralling, Fio! Without being didactic, sympathetic, preachy or even direct, he ended up driving home his point with ruthless precision. I wondered at the start, if his peculiar narrative style, those without inverted commas and change in voices, would muddle or mar the appeal of the story. Both it is his outright prowess that didn't deflect a neophyte like me, a wee bit, from the central message. I want to read him more now. Do you suggest I continue the series? Or move to something else? I remember your 'Cain' review vividly.


message 40: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda Exquisite review, Seemita! What an amazing feat that an author can convey such a beautiful sense of hope out of the vileness in the world. I have a physical copy on my shelf and look forward to reading it after your passionate review :)


Seemita Amanda wrote: "Exquisite review, Seemita! What an amazing feat that an author can convey such a beautiful sense of hope out of the vileness in the world. I have a physical copy on my shelf and look forward to rea..."

You sum it up just right, Amanda! It is an amazing feat; something not many authors can do, page after page after page. I was rather shocked that I could read the entire book without being deflected by the defilement and gross, graphic suffering but then again, upon retrospection, I realized a thin film of hope always hovered around which kept me going. I am excited to know that the hard copy is little closer to your reading horizon than it was earlier. I look forward to your thoughts.


Himanshu Glad that I didn't miss this review, Seemita. Kind of a necessary one. For now whoever opens up the community page of this book, will find yours among the top ones and would relish on the ode to humanity that your words sing. So glad that Saramago spoke to you so fervently and nothing got lost on you. Excellent review!


Seemita Himanshu wrote: "Glad that I didn't miss this review, Seemita. Kind of a necessary one. For now whoever opens up the community page of this book, will find yours among the top ones and would relish on the ode to hu..."

Thank you, Himanshu. I have been recommending this book to almost everyone since the time its incredibly potent message had dawned upon me. You know its strengths too well; its questions, too close. So, it fills me with a sense of comfort to secure your endorsement; that my review could qualify to be a little vehicle of driving people to a place where they may meet Saramago in all their blindness and yet return, with their eyes, wide open.


message 44: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Stunning review, Seemita :) Saramago was an artist and activist, I would say, be because he made people pay attention to the things happening in his part of the world, and he did so artistically. Love how you captured the questions posed around life and survival: "What do we know what we are capable of? Of the high we can inspire ourselves to? Of the lows we can shovel ourselves to? Do we even know that if thrown into the arms of gut-wrenching starvation and mutilation, our lofty ideals can turn evanescent and the feral desire to survive at any cost can reign supreme?"


Seemita Cheryl wrote: "Stunning review, Seemita :) Saramago was an artist and activist, I would say, be because he made people pay attention to the things happening in his part of the world, and he did so artistically. L..."

Thank you, dear Cheryl! Saramago is indeed an artist; after all, when words can draw such startlingly real and haunting images in front of our eyes and leave us with no refuge but to comprehend the meanings embedded in them, it has to be credited to the pen of a fantastic artist. I am glad we are on the same alley in the Saramago-world :)


message 46: by Junta (new) - added it

Junta Powerful review, Seemita - what struck me the most was that you barely touched on Saramago's prose or style, focusing on the plot, but your devotion to the work is plain to see, and since I was attracted by the quotes you included, I am looking forward even more to becoming acquainted with him through The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis this year, though it is even tempting to start with this work since I've seen a lot of praise for it. To paraphrase a line in your review,
"Seemita bares her heart and lets the review do the talking." :)


Seemita Junta wrote: "Powerful review, Seemita - what struck me the most was that you barely touched on Saramago's prose or style, focusing on the plot, but your devotion to the work is plain to see, and since I was att..."

So glad to receive your initial reactions, Junta! The quiet power in Saramago's pen has a searing quality; like how a humble needle begins by painless pricking and slowly, sinks into the skin to a point where the entire body goes numb under its impact. I, too, was apprehensive of picking this up as my 1st Saramago for the inherent risks it contained as a plot too graphic, tending towards gross but thankfully, I was left in a prolonged hymn. I will watch out for your tryst with him and in the meanwhile, thanks a whole bunch, my friend!! :)


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