Subscribe to my updates via email by entering your email address below:


more hey lady!

currently reading

  • Succubus Blues (Georgina Kincaid, Book 1)

  • Birds of Paradise: A Novel

We will always miss you:

Love this shirt:

Website development by:

Temptation Designs



recent posts

did you say that outloud?

cringe worthy


Review – Blindness by Jose Saramago (and a poll!)


by Jose Saramago
293 pages
Published in 1995

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:

books i done read

Shelf Love … Shelf Love again!

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. 🙂

[polldaddy poll=1359425]


36 Responses to “Review – Blindness by Jose Saramago (and a poll!)”

  1. Erin

    I’d rather be deaf, if I could choose. I took ASL classes in college and had to immerse myself in deaf culture for a while… in a word, it’s amazing. Just amazing how a whole auditorium full of deaf people can “feel” music being performed… by other deaf people.

    I think I could handle learning to communicate by alternate means (and I happened to love learning ASL!)… but not being able to see? Scares the bejeezus outta me!


  2. Kimmy

    I’ve been asked this question before and my first response was I’d rather be blind than deaf. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s the other way around. I’d rather be able to see. Without sight, I couldn’t read or spend hours on the internet answering questions like this…etc;-)


  3. bermudaonion

    Sounds like a good book. I think most readers will vote for deaf, like I did. (Actually I’d rather be neither, but that wasn’t a choice on your poll.)


  4. Robin of My Two Blessings

    Interesting book. I will have to check it out. I would much rather be deaf than blind. With sight, I can see where I’m going, read, do the internet and not rely on someone to drive me places, etc. I’d feel more limited being blind. Good question.


  5. Kiki

    My mother was close friends with a blind woman from our church–her husband was also blind–they had five sighted children. her husband commuted on the LIRR to NYC everyday. She did transcription work for doctors (very smart lady, I may add). They were very able and interesting people.

    I have a problem “choosing”–blind? How can you never see your child’s face? Or see a blue sky or snow, or a beautiful painting? Of course, knowing how full the B____” life was, I guess you don’t really adjust–it is just who you are.

    Being deaf? The problem for me would be communication, not being able to hear or speak clearly. Yes, there is sign language, but not everyone can “read” it.

    But I guess I’d choose…no, I can’t. Too scary.

    This book sounds incredible! I am putting it on my list!


  6. Meg @ Literary Menagerie

    This sounds great, it’s going on the list!


  7. Teresa

    I chose deaf because reading audiobooks is not nearly as rewarding for me as reading print. 🙂 And more seriously, I think it would be easier to learn to manage the day-to-day routines and tasks (going to the grocery store, the doctor, etc.) if I were deaf than if I were blind.

    And thanks for linking to my review! (The second review, incidentally, is at Shelf Life, not Shelf Love.) Blindness was one of my Top Five reads last year. I just loved it. The Double is also quite good. I’m hoping to read Seeing, the sequel to Blindness, sometime this year.


  8. Heather

    I think most of us book-obsessed would choose to be deaf rather than blind, for obvious reasons, as would I. But just as I can’t imagine a world without the written word, I also can’t imagine a world without music. So let’s just hope that neither happens to me.


  9. Chris@bookarama

    Deaf. Blind seems so much harder. I still don’t know if I could read this one, it would freak me out!


  10. Christa

    I think it would be easier to answer that question if I hadn’t already experienced both senses. But I guess I would chose Deaf because I could still watch movies with subtitles, use sign language and be able to see everyone that I love. My sister in law is partially deaf so I kind of already know some what on what goes on.


  11. Eva

    I voted for Deaf. Not because I think it’s a walk in the park, but I still sleep with a night light (we don’t have street lights, so there’s no ambient light coming through my window once the sun is gone), and I could not HANDLE being in the dark all the time. Plus, I could still communicate with my bloggy friends. 😉 And I wouldn’t have to wait for books to be translated into Braille. And I wouldn’t care when my mom and sister watch Mamma Mia for the third time this week, because I wouldn’t be able to hear the songs. 😉


  12. Meghan

    I’d rather retain both my ability to see and hear, but I’d probably choose to be deaf if I had to choose. I’m not much of a audio type person. I like music but not nearly as much as practically everyone I know. I’d only miss hearing the voices of the people I love. Whereas if I could still see, I could still easily do pretty much everything I love, like reading and playing video games (there is voice acting now, but almost always you can choose to have captions).


  13. Christina

    Deaf, for sure. Being deaf may cut you off from verbal communication, but you can still write on a blog, write an email, write a letter.


  14. Jeane

    The book sounds amazing- and scary! What a hard question… but I’d choose to be deaf. I’d still be able to read, and paint, and communicate, and enjoy sights of nature. I read a book about blindness called Touching the Rock by John Hull, have you heard of it? It’s very good.


  15. Heather J.

    Looks like I’m in the minority in the poll right now, but I’d rather be blind. I can’t imagine a world without sound, without music, without voices. Yes, I’d miss reading but there are audio books and there is braille.

    As for being limited in your actions/abilities, yes, there *is* that, but I think that once you have your home set up and you are used to it, you can probably function very well. You can get around somewhat on your own (with the use of a service dog).

    Great question!


  16. Diane

    I liked the book Blindness a lot. I read it back when it first came out. In 2008 I got the audio version and listened to it –still amazing in my opinion.

    Blind vs Deaf? I could not chose.


  17. Biblibio

    I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages now… I somehow keep forgetting it exists, though.


  18. raych

    Deaf AND missing both my legs. Blindness is seriously scary as shit. Also, I agree with every exclamation point you used in this review.


  19. chartroose

    Neither, but if I absolutely had to choose, I guess I’d rather be blind. You can still read or listen to audiobooks when you’re blind.

    Okay, I’m putting “Blindness” near the top of my TBR list!


  20. Alyce

    This is one I’ve wanted to read for a while. Your question is so hard, and I’ve gone back and forth thinking about it, but I think I would choose to be deaf rather than blind because I think blindness would be more limiting as far as being independent and getting around.


  21. Kim L

    Gosh I couldn’t chose. In a world like the one in the book where survival is important, I’d say deaf because at least you could see what was going on around you. But it would be so hard not to communicate. Interesting question.


  22. lisamm

    Why isn’t the wife blind? Just wondering.

    I think that writing style would really bug me. I need less commas, more periods.

    Deaf is better, I think. Maybe not better, but would suck less than being blind. Not that either is good, of course. Deafness would be less of a handicap in the world. And sometimes I pretend to be deaf (usually after the 47th “MOM!” of the day).


  23. cbJames

    I’ve just bought this book. Sounds like I should move it towards the top of the TBR pile.

    I picked blind for two reasons: One is the sad fact that blind people get lots of help and sympathy while deaf people are usually made fun of. Think about someone you know who doesn’t quite hear things the right way and how often you all laugh about that. Two is I think I would really miss the quiet if I couldn’t hear it.


  24. Samantha

    I’ve been meaning to read this author for awhile now. Great review and I’ll be looking into this one.


  25. Lenore

    I cannot answer your poll. But I’ve wanted to read this book for a long while!


  26. Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

    Great review! So good, that I had to buy a copy before I could even write a comment!


  27. Review - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

    […] know! GAH! SO CREEPY! Maybe even creepier than the everyone-going-blind-creepy. ‘Cause that was all kinds of shiverings. This is even worse. This is the Capital’s way […]

  28. Indigo

    I always throw people off when I answer this question. Why? Because I’m Deaf. Given a choice I would rather neither Blind nor Deaf. If I had to choose, Deaf would be my choice. Even after having lived with it for the past 4 years. I think if you have a chance of seeing or hearing for years before either strikes you at least have memory of sight or sound.

    In my case if you describe how something sounds, I can pretty much grasp what your hearing. Lyrics to songs become a form of written poetry for me. Since I became Deaf later in life, I have an eloquent voice and can command over volume (not so easy when you can’t hear your own voice. I think you would be at more of a disadvantage Blind than Deaf. (Hugs)Indigo


  29. farmlanebooks

    I’ve just finished reading this book. It was so powerful! There is so much to think about. I didn’t enjoy reading it, but I’m really glad read it. I think people need to be warned about the horrific thoughts and scenes in the book – it isn’t for the faint hearted!

    I can’t imagine what I’d do in the same situation. It was all frighteningly realistic. This sort of thing could happen to us at any point. It’s enough to make me run off to the country and try to become self sufficient as soon as possible.

    Thank you for the recommendation!


  30. Anna

    I must read this book! Thanks for the great review.


  31. The Hunger Games | Paperback Frenzy

    […] know! GAH! SO CREEPY! Maybe even creepier than the everyone-going-blind-creepy. ‘Cause that was all kinds of shiverings. This is even worse. This is the Capital’s way of […]

  32. Blindness by Jose Saramago « Literary Mumblings

    […] (better-written) reviews: Shelf Love Gaskella Book-a-holic Hey Lady! books i done […]

  33. Tif

    I am so glad to hear that you have read this book and found it as great as I did!!!! And, what an amazing review! I loved how you noted some of your favorite quotes from the book in particular.

    If you are interested in reading my personal review of it, here’s the link: . . . just be warned . . . it was one of my first reviews written!! 🙂


  34. Blindness by Jose Saramago « Book Addiction

    […] reviews: Sam’s Book Blog Dolce Bellezza Farm Lane Books Blog Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? all about {n} Thoughts of Joy Bibliophile by the Sea books i done read Shelf Love The Magic […]

  35. Blindness « Ardent Reader

    […] Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? […]

Leave a Reply

Back to top