Blindness by Jose Saramago

Jose Saramago
September 1, 1998
Harvest Books
352 pages
Fiction, Suspense

I have been hearing great things about Blindness for awhile now – it was highly recommended by some of my favorite bloggers, so I figured that the RIP IV challenge would be the perfect opportunity to finally pick it up.

Blindness fits the RIP vibe perfectly – it is CREEPY for sure.  The book starts out innocently enough, with a scene of a traffic-y street, people driving home from work during rush hour, when suddenly one of the cars just stops in the middle of the road.  The man starts yelling from his car that he just became blind in a split second.  Another man drives him home and helps him into his house only to become blind himself a few hours later.  The first blind man goes into an eye doctor’s office to figure out what is wrong with him, and while he’s there he “infects” most people there with the blindness, including the doctor himself.

Well, as you can imagine the government gets pretty freaked out by the pandemic blindness and sticks all the blind people in an abandoned insane asylum, where they are trapped with armed guards outside ready to shoot should they attempt to leave.  And inside the asylum some of the most horrific things that you can imagine occur – I don’t even want to tell you about what happens, it’s bad enough to read it once.  Through all this, one woman (the doctor’s wife) somehow remains unscathed by the blindness, and as she pretends to be blind so she can stay with her husband, she ends up in the asylum too – and thank God for her.  A group of seven of the blind people eventually form a sort of group, and she is their only hope amidst all the craziness that happens.

Okay, like I said – this book is seriously scary.  As in, reading Blindness made me seriously think of what would happen if we all ACTUALLY became blind – it really would be mass chaos, like in the book.  Saramago made the book so realistic that it creeped me out to no end.  Because of this, I cannot tell you how good Blindness is – it is an AWESOME book.  Awesome.  I was in shock while reading it, I wanted to close my eyes and run away, but I could not stop reading.  It was completely gripping.  Unputdownable, really.

The characters in Blindness are never given proper names.  They never learn each other’s names, so the reader never learns them either.  I get why Saramago did this – when they could not see each other, all they had were voices to differentiate, and they did not need names.  In addition, they became totally different people after they were blind; their names no longer represented the people they had become, their names became irrelevant.  It was a great technique and although it sort of annoyed me that they had to say “the girl with the dark glasses” instead of her name every time she did something (etc) it definitely worked.  Another thing that worked was the huge run on paragraphs and no dialogue tags or much punctuation whatsoever.  While it took me awhile to get used to this, and it would make me mad in almost anything else, it totally worked for Blindness.  It was just a totally freaky, eerie book, and the format matched that vibe.

I’m really trying to effectively communicate what a fantastic book Blindness is, but I get the feeling I’m not doing such a great job of that.  All I can say is, this is a supremely awesome book and it should be read by all.  Because it’s just THAT captivating.

I am curious about the movie that was recently made based on this novel.  Has anyone seen it?  Can it possibly live up to the amazingness of the book?

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