Blindness

Front Cover
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998 - Fiction - 294 pages
146 Reviews
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.
 

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User Review  - Floratina - LibraryThing

READ IN ENGLISH During an 'art-house movie' day back at school sometime in 2008/2009 they showed us the movie of this novel. It left a great expression on my mind as sometimes I still thought of it ... Read full review

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User Review  - BookConcierge - LibraryThing

5***** and a ❤ A man stopped at a traffic light suddenly goes blind. Within hours others who have been in contact with him also go blind. The government quickly quarantines the afflicted in hopes of ... Read full review

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Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
15
Section 3
24
Section 4
34
Section 5
51
Section 6
70
Section 7
86
Section 8
103
Section 10
134
Section 11
144
Section 12
167
Section 13
195
Section 14
215
Section 15
242
Section 16
264
Section 17
276

Section 9
118

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References to this book

The Banality of Denial
Yair Auron
Limited preview - 2003
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About the author (1998)

José Saramago was born on November 16, 1922. He spent most of his childhood on his parent's farm, except while attending school in Lisbon. Before devoting himself exclusively to writing novels in 1976, he worked as a draftsman, a publisher's reader, an editor, translator, and political commentator for Diario de Lisboa. He is indisputably Portugal's best-known literary figure and his books have been translated into more than 25 languages. Although he wrote his first novel in 1947, he waited some 35 years before winning critical acclaim for work such as the Memorial do Convento. His works include The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, The Stone Raft, Baltasar and Blimunda, The History of the Siege of Lisbon, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, and Blindness. At age 75, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998 for his work in which "parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony, continually enables us to apprehend an elusory reality." He died from a prolonged illness that caused multiple organ failure on June 18, 2010 at the age of 87.

Giovanni Pontiero (1932 1996) was the ablest translator of twentieth century literature in Portuguese and one of its most ardent advocates. He was the principal translator into English of the works of Jose Saramago and was awarded the Teixeira-Gomes Prize for his translation of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.

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