: Blindness (9781860466854) : Jose Saramago : Books
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by Jose Saramago
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Harvill Pr
  • Publishing date: 05/1999
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781860466854
  • ISBN: 1860466850


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.

Blindness is in many ways a horrific novel, detailing as it does the total breakdown in society that follows upon this most unnatural disaster. Saramago takes his characters to the very edge of humanity and then pushes them over the precipice. His people learn to live in inexpressible filth, they commit acts of both unspeakable violence and amazing generosity that would have been unimaginable to them before the tragedy. The very structure of society itself alters to suit the circumstances as once-civilized, urban dwellers become ragged nomads traveling by touch from building to building in search of food. The devil is in the details, and Saramago has imagined for us in all its devastation a hell where those who went blind in the streets can never find their homes again, where people are reduced to eating chickens raw and packs of dogs roam the excrement-covered sidewalks scavenging from corpses.

And yet in the midst of all this horror Saramago has written passages of unsurpassed beauty. Upon being told she is beautiful by three of her charges, women who have never seen her, "the doctor's wife is reduced to tears because of a personal pronoun, an adverb, a verb, an adjective, mere grammatical categories, mere labels, just like the two women, the others, indefinite pronouns, they too are crying, they embrace the woman of the whole sentence, three graces beneath the falling rain." In this one woman Saramago has created an enduring, fully developed character who serves both as the eyes and ears of the reader and as the conscience of the race. And in Blindness he has written a profound, ultimately transcendent meditation on what it means to be human. --Alix Wilber

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  • Blindness
    From Amazon

    The premise of this book was amazingly done. Jose Saramago's blindness is about an unknown city where one day, someone suddenly goes blind. Its not the normal blindness however, he sees only a milky white. And soon it is found that it is contagious. In the beginning days the people going blind are rounded up and put into an old insane asylum in hopes that the contagion will not spread. There they become the nameless, only known by what they once were like a taxi driver, or a girl with dark glasses. While there, only one person, an Opthamalogist's wife, still retains the ability to see. She pretends to be blind to stay with her husband and as the asylum gets fuller she helps those in her area. The biggest fear is the guards outside who prevent anyone from leaving, by force if necessary. Another obstacle is a blind man with a gun and the members of his ward. Holding hostage the food, he demands valuables, and eventually women in exchange for not starving. Even the seeing woman must bow to his wishes so that he does not shoot anyone. The scenes in this area of the book are very graphic. There is no hesitation in describing bodily functions, rape, and violence. Trying to survive the worse extremes and filth, the group in the Doctor's wife's ward stick together until then end. A fire at the asylum allows everyone to leave, but the world they return to is not the world they left. Most everyone around is blind and with no running water or electricity, the streets are filthy and full of excrement. People rove around searching for food and attacking those who might even have a small piece of moldy bread. It is up to the one seeing person to lead her group to safety and try to ensure that they don't all die of disease or starvation. While I loved the idea of this book, I was very turned off by the writing. I've seen it described that reading his writing was very much like being blind and trying to see. That he was trying to bring you in to the blind person's world, and for that he won a Nobel prize. My thought is that his writing is very much like an artist creating a masterpiece, and then covering it with a sheet in the exhibition. While it might be clever to do something like that, what is the world missing by not being able to see the true work of art? I found myself skimming several lines at a time just because of the lack of breaks and paragraphs. I could handle the different people all talking at once with no designators for the most part, but the lack of paragraphs killed this book for me. Overall I'd say that this book was just average for me. I would have enjoyed it a great deal more if it were easier to read. Wonderful idea, not so wonderful execution. Blindness Copyright 1995 293 pages

  • A Very Intense Read
    From Amazon

    Blindness was a much more intense read than I had anticipated. I had diligently avoided reading reviews of the book and the movie so that the plot wouldn't be spoiled for me. All I knew about the story was that it was about a contagious blindness. To be honest, if I had known that there was a lot of violent content in this book (not to mention graphic descriptions of dead people), I probably wouldn't have read it. I will tell you though, that the writing is excellent, although sometimes it is hard to tell who is talking because there aren't any quote markings, and a lot of the paragraphs are run together. Normally I would give a book of this caliber the highest rating, because the writing is excellent. But in this case the graphic scenes of death and sexual violence were a bit much for me. They were too realistic and horrifying - which really is a credit to the author and his skill at writing. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good thriller and doesn't mind realistic violence. Even though I won't be re-reading this book, I liked the author's writing style so much that I will be hunting down some of his other works. I'm willing to risk enduring some content that is out of my comfort zone in order to read more of his writing.

  • Eat the weak
    From Amazon

    More about the author's interpretation of human nature than an actual plot about losing vision. "This is the stuff we're made of, half indifference and half malice." (p. 32) In the plotline, domesticated animals apparently did not lose their sight, although they were quickly forced into a feral lifestyle. But, with the exception of the doctor's wife, the entire ebb and flow of a benign organized society descended into scatological foraging, a chaos in which a few members seized whatever advantage they could over the rest for survive and to satisfy their baser desires. The end of public utilities brought the scatological theme to a crescendo. Yuck! I still ponder the conscience of the doctor's wife who could not bring herself to kill more of the bad boys, take their gun, and share the food more equitably. Instead, her conscience brought about a conflagration which killed many more good and evil alike. Even the doctor's wife's altruistic efforts to feed her small group brought about more death and destruction. Frankly, I found the dog of tears to be the most sympathetic character. My attorney said it all turns out okay in the end, but in reality the total breakdown of an effective government, destruction of the food delivery system, disruption of public utilities, and the deaths in the various strata of society, could spell a likely outbreak of violent anarchy. Oh, well...Maybe it does turn out alright. We'll just have to read "Seeing," the apparent sequel, to find out.

  • Banally speculative; oceanic humanness
    From Amazon

    Be it an `international best seller' or `translated into dozens of languages' or even `winner of noble prize for literature,' nothing on a cover impresses me nor does word of mouth strike me. The bread and butter of a book is what I lust after, not an endless series of accomplishments or awards. Speculative fiction is what I mostly read but more specifically science fiction (and not the Star Trek crap). My review is written in the context of single novel of speculative fiction rather than a single piece of work from an author. Earlier sci-fi novels which have a similar plot of epidemic waves of contagion are Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain (1969) and Greg Bear's Blood Music (1985) but these both fail to reflect the human side of the outbreak, which is something Blindness succeeds in doing. The closest comparison of a humanist outbreak novel would be Adam Johnson's Parasites Like Us (2003) though written with a much wittier perspective. However, while reading Blindness, the plot doesn't feel as if it is very original- unexplained outbreak of blindness, those with the blindness are quarantined in an asylum. This basic synopsis alone, while semi-interesting, doesn't make Blindness a major landmark in speculative fiction. What makes Blindness more than a mere haunting portrait of the what-if is Saramago's continual depiction of the insensitive and frankly disturbing humans in misery. Some of the inmates were meek before the blindness and remain meek in the quarantine. Others in the asylum are criminal, which reflects their past lives before the epidemic onset. Saramago paints a simple picture of how humans will remain who they are even in the face of a terrible tragedy. As far as science fiction goes, Blindness turns the metaphorical blind eye to any scientific cause, transmission or cure for the blindness. It essentially lacks the answer to the mystery which the more inquisitive reader may find disappointing. Another frustration is the overuse of proverbs in conversations, which sucks any sort of prose out of the writing. The conversations themselves should hold essence of the proverb without directly mentioning it to the reader. And though the lack of punctuation may be frustrating at times, there's a clue towards the end of the book which may reveal just why the book was written as it was. The ending was predictable, but the leaves the reader with additional mental images of what the future holds for the characters.

  • Lost in a sea of disbelief
    From Amazon

    In "Blindness" by Jose Saramago, the author describes what happens when an entire city's populace inexplicably goes blind. It is a "white blindness," meaning that the people only see a "milky" mist of white around them. Only one woman, only known as the doctor's wife, can still see and is witness to this event. She, her husband, the first blind man and later his wife, the girl with the dark glasses, the boy with the quint, the man with the eyepatch are all placed in a ward in an asylum by the government as are the rest of the suddenly blind at the beginning of the novel. The groups are separated into different wards: the people who have been exposed to the blindness and the actual blind, separated by a foyer and the gates to reenter the city are guarded by soliders who have orders to shoot anyone trying to escape at their discretion. Within the gates of the asylum, it is a whole other world. I think one of the turning points in this first half is the shooting of a number of the blind as they are waiting for their food to be delivered by the soliders. One of the soldiers panics, thinking they are trying to escape, and shoots. Then all the soldiers shoot. A number of the inmates (the leader with a gun) from another ward begin to terrorize the main characters by holding back food and making them "pay" for their food with any valuables they had with them (all their belongings) and then by raping the women. I think the realization the government was not going to interfere with anything that happened in the asylum was the line drawn in the sand. With no repercussions, the criminal element was alble to gain control over the society in the asylum by fear. For the first half of the novel, I was riveted to the text. Sure, people have debated Saramago's style of writing back and forth-his giant run-on sentences with no tagged dialogues definitively marked and paragraphs encompassing pages and pages. It took a bit of adjustment-but, once I did, the writing added another dimension to the story. It added confusion, disorientation, and a need to pay closer attention to detail for the reader. And, in these three areas alone, the writing itself was magnificient. I read fast. Well, I read popular fiction fast anyway. By the way this book was written, I had to slow down and pay attention to every word, who was speaking, who was acting. And I honestly liked the effect Saramago's style had on the book. For the first half of it, as I said. Then the "inmates leave the asylum." Outside the gates, the city has fallen to pieces-the blind are wandering about, identity-less as well as homeless. They have all decided, because they are blind, names are of no consequence. With their eyesight left their individual identities. It seems as though everyone has panicked and society breaks down. Property rights have disappeared-the blind move in wherever they can as they can't find their ways home. We stop by the old flats where our characters lived before the blindness to discover the places are either occupied by others or in complete disarray. The world is dirty, filthy-the blind "do their business" in the streets without a care as to cleanliness. I do not think people would give up their self-identity because they are blind. And while Saramago says that there is a piece within us that has no-name, I think the larger piece of us keeps us as separate identities. I AM Kari Wolfe. And while I am a part of the world, I still retain my own identity. My name is what identifies ME to others and, while it could be any name, this is the name I was given by my parents, the ones who created me. While there are some beautifully written scenes within this half, I am pulled out of the fictional world because it's not realistic. If everyone within a city was to suddenly be struck blind, would society totally collapse in on itself? Honestly, I doubt it. Saramago's lack of belief in human beings is disheartening. Jose Saramago received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998. A recent novel adds appreciably to Saramago's literary stature. It was published in 1995 and has the title "Blindness: a novel". Its omniscient narrator takes us on a horrific journey through the interface created by individual human perceptions and the spiritual accretions of civilisation. Saramago's exuberant imagination, capriciousness and clear-sightedness find full expression in this irrationally engaging work. "Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see." I have to admit-I really wasn't that impressed. 2 stars out of 5. The story had possibility then descended into a chaotic mess, a story with no boundaries to hold it in.

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