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10/14 - West Europe > Blindness * discussion

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Ruth | 673 comments What do you think so far?

Ruth | 673 comments While this book certainly interesting, I just don't think that apocalyptic action stories are my bag. I see enough tragedy in my work as a nurse. As I was reading this, in each section it seems a new horror is revealed. It's hardly uplifting. Mr. Saramago is certainly insightful in human behavior and his characters are very real. I would read another of his works, but would choose another genre.

Mr. Saramago has a unique writing style with conversations written in chunks of run on sentences separated by commas. While I found reading this was faster and easier on the eyes, there were times that I got lost as to whom was saying what.

In several passages, I found the author description of the character's thought patterns and behavior to be shockingly insightful. The book has been made into a film with Julianne Moore playing the doctor's wife. When asked why her character did not do more to save everyone, Julianne responded that it was because she was not a hero, but based upon a real woman. With insurmountable odds, Rambo or Superwoman might have managed to save the day for all with a backflip and a special flourish. In Saramago's book he does not create Hollywood magic, but rather explores the question of what real people would do faced with this scenario.

Perhaps this is why he doesn't name his characters. I'll admit that when I think of someone I usually remember them based upon some kind of connection then attach the name to that. My brain would think first - the doctor's wife - and then assign the name. Only after knowing someone well and deeply do they become their name rather than a footnote of my first impression of them. Why do you think that Saramago declined to name his characters? I remember his saying that the blind have no names. Does he associate a name with the visual image of a person?

In the novel, characters are often pushed to desperate actions in order to obtain food. I wonder whether the average well fed reader can relate to this desperation? I hope to never experience hunger, but that lack of experience may impair my ability to empathize with hungry people. I may be shocked by their behavior and think to myself that I would never do the things that they did, but without experiencing their circumstances I believe it would be presumptuous to assume that I have any idea what sort of moral standards I would have the strength to uphold. It reminded me of a tour guide I met while traveling in Africa who mentioned that he sometimes ran out of food. His tone was matter-of-fact he said 'that's life in Africa'. I was shocked and impressed with what a sheltered life I have led.

Another mark of Saramago's realism is the reaction of the blind people when they are freed. I expected them to run away shouting their freedom from hall to hall - but of course that would have overlooked their basic helplessness. Although they were miserable in confinement, it was an environment they had grown accustomed to where they were the recipients of care and the soldiers were in charge. Taking charge of their own lives again was a daunting transition.

Speaking of helplessness, I recognized some age bias in my reading. When the first man went blind in traffic and was being cared for by bystanders, I assumed he was old! I was shocked when they said that he was only 38. That's a reminder to me that helplessness does not have an age. I frequently see people in my work in their 90s who are far more capable of caring for themselves than others in their 30s due to a combination of circumstances including dumb luck and their mental outlook.

In summary, I enjoyed the novel but did grow weary of the constant tragedies. Saramago did have a tendency to lapse into philosophy at times when explaining the character's actions which could be tedious. After getting to know the characters I am quite curious about the sequel, 'Seeing'. I would also like to try another title, perhaps less apocalyptic like 'The Gospel According to Jesus Christ,' the suppression of which caused the author to move to the Canary Islands out of disgust with the Portuguese government.

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