I read about Blindness by Jose Saramago on books i done read. You know how sometimes you know you’ll love a book? That was me with this book.
SO! Blindness. Basically, this one guy goes blind while sitting in his car at a stop light, and a good Samaritan helps him get home to his wife (and then steals the blind guy’s car! What a jerk! But don’t think he doesn’t get his comeuppance.), who then takes him to an ophthalmologist (now known as the doctor, because ophthalmologist is rather awkward to type), but the doctor doesn’t know why this guy who’s seemingly healthy would all of a sudden go blind, so sends the blind man home with promises of more tests in the next few days. Within 24 hours, the good Samaritan and the doctor are BOTH BLIND, along with some other random folks who happened to come in contact with this guy.
The government decides to round up all the people who’ve gone blind in an attempt to stem the outbreak, and puts these people in an old mental hospital. Not wanting to be separated from her husband, the doctor’s wife fakes blindness and goes with her husband to be quarantined. As more people become blind, they’re moved to this mental hospital, and because order can’t be imposed on the blind people (other than using the threat of, If you don’t do this, we will shoot you) since no one wants to get too close because they don’t want to go blind, some Very Bad Men eventually rise to the top since they have a gun and no morals now that they have no sight.
Bad things happen! Extortion, rape, theft, and degradation become the norm. And you’re either one or the other: you either do bad things to other people but get to eat or you have horrible things done to you so that you can eat, because going hungry? Not so great.
And as I read this book I wondered: Which side would I be on? Would I be able to do bad things to other people? Or would I choose the side that has horrible things done to them but who do their best to live civilly?
So not only are there very deep and profound things to think about (of which I’m not even done talking about!), but the author does an excellent job of making the reader feel blind. He’s stripped out all the conventions we expect to see in writing: quotations, structure, sentences, etc, leaving the reader to grope about in the darkness along with the characters.
The unexpected voice startled the new arrivals, but the two men remained silent, and it was the girl who replied, I think there are four of us, myself and this little boy, Who else, why don’t the others speak up, asked the doctor’s wife, I’m here, mumured a man’s voice, as if he could only pronounce the words with difficulty.
But it works! The whole book is like this, and it only takes a few pages before the writing seems to take on a cadence of its own.
Back to the plot: A fire errupts in the mental hospital, and a group of blind people, led by the doctor’s wife who can still see, are able to make their way out of the hospital. The army, who had been making sure the blind people didn’t escape, was no longer on duty, as everyone in the country seems to have gone blind. Making their way into they city, they find it filled with refuse, feces, dead bodies and dead animals, and groups of blind people groping around for food, water, and shelter.
Here’s a few quotes I thought were especially interesting:
The silence had disappeared, those outside were shouting, those inside started shouting, probably no one has noticed to this day how absolutely terrible are the cries of the blind, they appear to be shouting for no good reason, we want to tell them to be quiet and then end up shouting ourselves, all that’s wanting is for us to be blind, too, but that day will come.
Here the narrator talks about the guy who took power in the mental assylum after the first leader was murdered:
…after the tragic death of their first leader, all spirit of discipline or sense of obedience had gone on the ward, the serious error on the part of hte blind accountant was to have thought that it was enough to take possession of the gun in order to usurp power, but the result was exactly the opposite, each time he fires, the shot backfires, in other words, with each shot fired, he loses a little more authority, so let’s see what happens when he runs out of ammunition.
And some other random quotes I liked:
…blindness is also this, to live in a world where all hope is gone.
…without eyes feelings become something different.
…What is your name, Blind people do not need a name, I am my voice, nothing else matters, But you wrote books and those books carry your name, said the doctor’s wife, Now nobody can read them, it is as if they did not exist.
To sum it all up, let me just say this: I loved this book. It was deep, profound, and haunting. I loved the unusual writing style. I loved the unemotional look at what would happen to society, to people, if the population were to lose one of their senses. I loved that it made me think.
Rating: 95 out of 100
Other (probably better) reviews:
Now, because I can’t help myself, I want to know if you would rather be blind or deaf. I couldn’t possibly answer this question, because I had some friends who were deaf, and this question came up once, and they all said they’d rather be blind, as being deaf cuts you off from communicating with just about everyone. But even though I can’t make up my mind doesn’t mean I don’t like a little Would You Rather game. 🙂