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Blindness by Jose Saramago

blindness book cover

Blindness - Jose Saramago

First of all, a confession: I have only read one book by Jose Saramago, so saying it is my favorite wouldn’t be saying much…except that it is also one of my very favorite books. Saramago is a Portuguese author, a Nobel Prize Winner, and a bit of a genius when it comes to writing, in this librarian’s opinion.

Blindness is one of the bleaker books that has crossed my brain, but it’s well worth it.

Summary of Blindness

While waiting for the light to change, a man in his car finds that he has gone blind. But the blindness is not dark and black, it is white. His vision has been snuffed out by a white sightlessness.

And he is not the only one. In fact, it doesn’t take long before there is only one person who can see left in the town (it’s never given a name, and neither is the country).

The problem gets the military involved, and victims of the blindness are soon quarantined in an asylum. All but one: there is a doctor’s wife who, for reasons that are never clear enough for certainty, can still see.

She becomes the guide as the society unravels, which is usually the way it goes when authors thrust a horrific problem onto polite, unprepared civilization. Think Albert Camus and The Plague. Or most dystopian novels. The unraveling of societal rules and the devolution of civilized man back into something more primitive and nasty is fertile ground for metaphor.

Blindness is no exception. There are some truly disturbing scenes, and if I spend much time thinking about how awful it would be if suddenly, nobody could see, I’d be tempted to classify the book as horror.

But it isn’t. Saramago’s mind and ambitions are reaching for more.

A wonderful book that is often hard to read, both for its content and for the author’s dislike of punctuation. I have no idea if anything has been lost in the translation to English, but there are a lot of very challenging passages and sentences.

Highly recommended.

Josh

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