Lori's Reviews > Blindness

Blindness by José Saramago
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fricken-awesome, apocalyptic-fiction

Revised Review:

In September of 2007, I was wandering the Literature Shelves in Borders, not quite sure what I was in the mood for, but determined not to leave until I had found a new book to bring home with me. I rarely enter the bookstore with a list, although I have over 200 books that I desperately want to purchase... I prefer browsing and letting the books call to me while there. Where is the fun in bringing a list, hitting the shelf it sits on, and walking out???

As I was wandering, having made it all the way to the letter "S" without finding "the one", I stumbled across Jose Saramago. The cover for Blindness was on display in the shelf, facing outward at me, almost daring me to pick it up with it blinding white cover. Little did I know how fitting that cover was to it's subject matter.

Jose Saramago is not for everyone. For starters, he writes in his original language of Porteguese, and it sometimes takes years for his work to become translated for American consumption. His writing style is unique and can be off-putting for readers who prefer the strict rules of syntax and grammar. Saramago does not use quotation marks to identify when his characters are speaking, nor does he note which character is speaking, causing the confused reader to backtrack and reread pages at a time to track conversations or determine if the words were even spoken aloud. His paragraphs can run for many pages, and include insane amounts of run-on sentences, which at times can flow for up to 10 lines at a time. There have been whispers that it is Saramago's translators who are recklessly tampering with his sentence structures, but I strongly disagree. There have been others who call his style a "gimmick", which could not be further from the truth.

Dear readers, please do not let this put you off. I mention this as a warning, however, I am also recommending that you do not miss the beauty and passion that is found within any of his pages. I want you to experience his stories and writing for yourselves, and I believe Blindness is the perfect introduction.

Perhaps many of you are already familiar with the film? Do not let that stop you from reading the novel. While the film does a wonderful job capturing the chaos and breakdown of human society when facing an uncontrollable, unstoppable, incapaciting plague such as "the blindness", it simply cannot match the confusion and panic found within the book.

For those of you who are unaware of Saramago's Blindness or the film, here is Goodreads synopsis:

"In an unnamed city in an unnamed country, a man sitting in his car waiting for a traffic light to change is suddenly struck blind. But instead of being plunged into darkness, this man sees everything white, as if he "were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea." A Good Samaritan offers to drive him home (and later steals his car); his wife takes him by taxi to a nearby eye clinic where they are ushered past other patients into the doctor's office. Within a day the man's wife, the taxi driver, the doctor and his patients, and the car thief have all succumbed to blindness.

As the epidemic spreads, the government panics and begins quarantining victims in an abandoned mental asylum--guarded by soldiers with orders to shoot anyone who tries to escape. So begins Portuguese author José Saramago's gripping story of humanity under siege, written with a dearth of paragraphs, limited punctuation, and embedded dialogue minus either quotation marks or attribution. At first this may seem challenging, but the style actually contributes to the narrative's building tension, and to the reader's involvement.

In this community of blind people there is still one set of functioning eyes: the doctor's wife has affected blindness in order to accompany her husband to the asylum. As the number of victims grows and the asylum becomes overcrowded, systems begin to break down: toilets back up, food deliveries become sporadic; there is no medical treatment for the sick and no proper way to bury the dead. Inevitably, social conventions begin to crumble as well, with one group of blind inmates taking control of the dwindling food supply and using it to exploit the others. Through it all, the doctor's wife does her best to protect her little band of blind charges, eventually leading them out of the hospital and back into the horribly changed landscape of the city."

Go and get it. Now.
And then follow it up with Seeing, the somewhat sequel, that picks up 4 years after Blindness, in the same town.
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Quotes Lori Liked

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

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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Dylan Lori, I just started this book and, after reading the first 2 paragraphs, I'm hooked. I was debating on whether to read this or not, because I skimmed through it and noticed there wasn't any dialogue; but now I love this author. I think I missed the movie, has it come out yet? I am looking forward to seeing how this book turns out. I want to thank you for this review, without it I wouldn't have started this book.

Lori Dylan, I am glad you started this book. And very happy to hear you like it already. Saramago is an amazing author. This is one of my favorite books of all time!!

Jessica I love the first paragraph of where you said you let the books call out to you. I totally agree with you, why go to the bookstore with a list? It isn't a fun trip unless you waste a whole bunch of time looking for the perfect book!

Lori Thanks. I was blogging this morning and as I was writing about this book, I realised that I had totally rewritten the review, and liked it better than the original :)

message 5: by Nanner (new)

Nanner you make this sound so compelling ! I love it

Lori Thanks Nanner.... it really is a great novel (if you consider going blind and being mistreated by the government great!), Saramago is an amazing writer.

message 7: by Dacoroman (new)

Dacoroman Hello Lori,

I've discovered the website yesterday by chance and I joined your group. Lately I was entering various book-stores and going out empty-handed. I didnt know what to buy and I didnt trust the advise of the shop assistants. Anyway, I found this and yesterday I've purchased 7 books online with goodreads's help. Now... I was just browsing your book list to find out what else is interesting. I come across your review for Saramago where you make a point about the writing style. To tell you the truth I'm not American, not even English. I've studied though in Seattle for one year. The first mark at my English class was a C-. Not because of my spelling or grammar mistakes but because of the style. The American writing style is too rigid. I felt at one moment that it was like mathematics. Three supporting points for the thesis, three supporting points for the body of the essay and three for the conclusion. My first paper was red from top to bottom. And I was very frustrated. I like literature and the English 101 class was difficult for me with constant arguments with the teacher regarding style and content. We argue about Chopin's "Desiree's baby", about Sylvia Plath and other issues and when she didnt had anymore arguments she was saying: "it is like this because I'm saying so". My point is, as you noticed in Saramago's case, good literature dosent need boundaries or forms or shapes. Good literature just happens. It is too us to drink it to the bottom no matter the shape or form, cause we are drinking the content not the glass. Thank you for posting your opinions regarding various books. It helps. Every time I start a new book my heart sinks: am I going to love it?


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