Rebecca's Reviews > Blindness

Blindness by José Saramago
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Jan 28, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction
Recommended for: deep, contemplative readers who aren't bothered by depressing topics

** spoiler alert ** This book was a major challenge for me to finish. For that reason, I cannot give it more than two stars, maybe 2 1/2. I admire this author's cautionary tale, but there are so many parts that I did not like. The first half of the book drove me crazy with frustration. It took me quite a while to get used to the author's lack of grammar. I had a difficult time getting into the story. I still do not understand why names for the characters are unnecessary. I think that people can be called a name even if they are blind. It was very confusing.

Basically, a contagious disease of white blindness eventually overtakes a nation. No one can see anything but whiteness, except the eye doctor's wife. She can only help those in direct contact with her. She and her husband, along with other characters are quarantined at a mental asylum. Because no one can see, chaos ensues. While trapped in the asylum, under guard by the military, a group of blind thugs with a gun hijack the food supply and require the rest of the blind people to pay for the food with valuables. After there were no more valuables to pay with, then the thugs require that the women pay for everyone's food by servicing them sexually. I thought this part of the book to be uncomfortable and explicit. I can imagine and I don't need to know exactly how someone is forced into sexual relations with a bunch of animalistic men. Too much information! Another annoying and unnecessary plot point was when the eye doctor sleeps with the "girl with the dark glasses," whom I refer to as hooker girl. The wife who can see watches the whole thing and then cries with them about the entire situation. She never gets upset and they bond together afterward. I have a hard time believing this would even happen. Blindness does not equate to a complete loss of morals. The author just says that the one night stand between them happened and never explains why. It was lame. Then the hooker girl is in love with the old man with the eyepatch by the end of the book. Who did this author want this girl to be really?

Thank goodness for the last quarter of the book. By then, it was easier to read and more interesting. After the asylum burns to the ground, the story is much better with the final seven characters out in the city. I would've liked more of the story outside of the asylum. I am not doubting that quarantines would be used like crazy if large amounts of people started to go blind.

This book did make me think. Like I said, I can appreciate what Mr. Saramago was doing. He is a good writer for the right "reader." I am just not into his style of writing. I prefer a different type of doomsday novel. The ending was solid and happy after a whole bunch of depression and poop on the streets. Thank goodness!
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Reading Progress

January 28, 2008 – Shelved
January 28, 2008 – Shelved as: fiction
Started Reading
February 8, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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크리스티 (Kristy) I'm about almost half way through the book and I'm having the same trouble with the book. It is just frustrating but I'm glad for you review otherwise I probably wouldn't have ever finished it. Thanks for the honest review!

Rebecca You're welcome. I will be curious to know your opinion when you are finished.

크리스티 (Kristy) I will let you know! I just have to get around to picking it up again! ha ha

Josh Feinzimer I agreed with your evaluation of this book. I think the disturbing parts (the rapes) were too explicit and uncomfortable. I also didn't understand actions of the prostitute. I identified with the close relationship between the doctor and his wife and didn't understand why the author ended up tarnishing the doctor's image by portraying him as an unfaithful husband. Good review!

Rebecca Josh,

Thanks for your positive comment. I agree with your thoughts as well!

message 6: by K (new) - rated it 5 stars

K Although I overall felt much more positively about the book than you did, the points you make in your review resonated with me as I had a lot of the same issues with the book. I still thought the book was great, but I liked your review as well.

message 7: by Patrícia (new)

Patrícia *chuckles* Saramago's books are all like that (very little punctuation). Even in Portuguese, their original language. I hear it can become tiresome (I've still not read any novel by the author, although I did start one). It's actually done on purpose, which is even more weird. It's not that he can't use proper grammar... he just doesn't, lol.

Selena Rebecca, great review. I've just finished reading the book myself and had a really hard time getting through some of it. Much like you, I felt like the rapes in the book were... excessive (and more descriptive than anything else contained within the pages).

Thank you for being honest.

message 9: by Charmless (new)

Charmless Thanks for this thorough review!

I actually skimmed through the first fifty pages of this book the last time I was at a bookstore, and I have to agree with you, the author's writing style probably only caters to a select few.

And the only reason why I picked it up from the shelf was the "Nobel Prize" stamp that was on the cover. I'm usually pretty open-minded about critically-acclaimed pieces of literature but this one just didn't appeal to me in spite of its interesting general outline.

Thanks to your candid review, I now feel better about not buying a copy of this highly-praised book. (I may still try and read it in the future just to see for myself, but I'd probably just go the public library route with this one.)

message 10: by Andrez (new)

Andrez I have to tell you.lack of grammar in english.not portuguese.

message 11: by Dokz (new) - rated it 4 stars


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I have tried this book and also The Double and I am with you, not my type of writing style.

Julián C I think you didn't get the point of the book. Its aim is to shock and disturb with the raw descriptions of human brutality, a result of the extreme need to survive, and the lack of names is to sustain the idea that we are all defined by our extern lives (what we do for a living) and physical characteristics. The grammar is like that in order to play with the extensive flow of voices and counter-voices, and it can be as confusing and ambigous as a world of blind people would be. Sound isn't as structered and safe as sight: it has deep and various layers and it isn't as straight-forward.

Rebecca Julian, while I'm not blind, I still believe it would be easier to identify someone by a single name rather than a description of that person, for it simplifies and personalizes the interactions amongst a group in such a chaotic circumstance. No two voices are alike and I believe one would be very perceptive to every unique sound when the sense of vision has been removed. I wrote this review years ago. It could use some editing. I am personally sensitive to descriptions of sexual assault and therefore it is difficult to read even though it is assuredly realistic. It's not my wish to censor the author, only to offer my personal opinion that I found the description of assault to be a bit too detailed. I would've still felt disturbed with less! I appreciate your opinion however regarding the intentional use of poor grammar in order to convey the confusion in which a world of blind people may exist. I respect your opinion, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I didn't get the point. It's a memorable book. It just wasn't my favorite. Maybe if I read it again I'd feel differently.

message 15: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna Anjos I think the lack of names helps to keep the plot geographically free, names would potentially create cultural reference. Also, "doctor" and "doctor's wife" etc (not sure if these are the exact ones in English, I read the translated version)could be considered names, similar to tribal names in some cultures.
Regarding grammar, I find it difficult and tiring to read Saramago in any language except my mother tongue, in which case reading goes even faster than usual.

message 16: by Veronica (new)

Veronica Kascle So I'm not the only one bothered by the horrible grammar in this book? Thank goodness. The translator must have dropped the ball on this one. How hard is it to use quotation marks?

It really seems like such an interesting story, but I'm finding it a difficult read.

Cosmin I suppose the lack of names was because thats how the people met, the circumstances that they were in happen not to require a name. The boy with a squint, the old man with the eye patch, the doctor, and so one...names are not important in a situation that doesn't require such things like names, or times. I don't know...can't think of anything else, it was very hard for me to read the book as well. I put it down many times.

Jarkko Firstly, to everyone who's talking about the lack of grammar (read: punctuation): that's Saramago's style. He doesn't use quotation marks. The odd time there are capital letters they are there to tell you when a new person says something. That's not the translator's fault, it's like that in the original version as well. Like someone said, "you have to first know the rules of grammar before you can break them." And I think Jose Saramago if anyone knows their grammar. :)

Secondly, I think the key to Saramago is: if it's difficult to read, you might be reading it too fast. Read it as though you were reading it to someone. that's when you get the right pace. Once you get the gist of it you can accelerate. Please try it.

If you're not convinced by the Blindness, I recommend you his book Elephant's Journey. It also - as is to be expected from Saramago - lacks punctuation, but if you get over that, it's really good. And extremely funny. Besides, it's based on a true story.

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