Book Review: Blindness by Jose Saramago

Blindness by Jose Saramago is a novel that delves deep into the human condition by exposing our weaknesses and strengths through an epidemic of blindness. The novel won a Nobel Prize for Literature and with good reason. In Blindness, Jose Saramago strips away everything that separates people, such as class and age, leaving behind only that which defines us on a primal level.

Structurally, Blindness by Jose Saramago is a mess. Those who find themselves picking apart grammar and structure while reading will find it difficult to sift through the pages of Blindness. Quotes have no place in Blindness, leaving the reader to sort out who is speaking and when. Commas are plentiful, as are run-on sentences. There is also the issue of paragraphs. Some pages are literally walls of text with little to separate dialogue from thoughts and occurrences. Nonetheless, much like Hubert Selby Jr.'s novels, Blindness transcends that which we would call proper writing. Readers who judge the book by its lack of order will miss a novel that can only be described as disturbing, insightful and thought provoking. *Note: For English readers, like myself, Blindness was translated for us. Nonetheless, the structure is surely Saramago's.

The characters in Blindness by Jose Saramago remain nameless throughout the novel. They are known only by their actions or by their introductions to us in the novel. For example, the first man to go blind is known as the first blind man throughout Blindness by Jose Saramago. Another character is known by the dark sunglasses she was wearing the day she went blind. It seems as though Jose Saramago knew that human characteristics would play a much larger role in his novel than names, so he did away with them. This technique of his helps us to visualize the people more than if he had used names. It seems like a strange method, but it works. It does take some getting used to, though.

Jose Saramago is not the first person to write a novel that displays the best and worst of human nature by taking away law, order, dignity and security. He is not the first person to do a fantastic job of it, either. That is not to say that Blindness is one book among many just like it. On the contrary, it is a book that stands out even among books of a similar vein and caliber. His use of blindness and the helplessness it heaps upon people who are striving to cling to the last vestiges of humanity in a ravaged city is nothing short of heart wrenching. In addition, his never-ending stream of insights into human love, resilience, cruelty, strength and madness is unequalled in any other book in this reader's experience. Novels like The Stand by Stephen King leave a similar impression. However, like The Stand, there is just something more/different to Blindness than there is to books like it. I suppose you will just have to read it to see what I mean.

Shelly Barclay

2 comments:

  1. For me this book illustrates beautifully that it is simply not true that ‘in the land of the blind the one–eyed man is king’.

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