Blindness by José Saramago
August 10, 2010 25 Comments
This book (1995) is the one-but-last read for my Dystopian Challenge. A good thing too, because the deadline is in sight: August, 24th! I have one more book to read, which will be Traveller by John Twelve Hawks and then I will never read any dystopian book in my life again.
No, that’s a lie! I love dystopian stories! I know there are lots more books around (see e.g., my list of dystopia for adults — as opposed to the ubiquitous YA dystopian novels). Unfortunately, my library does not have many of them.
Blindness is a medical dystopian story (unlike for instance the political dystopias in which the government has changed for the worse), in which people turn blind one by one. The first known case is a man that has stopped at a red traffic light, but when the light turns green, he doesn’t move his car, because he has suddenly lost the sight in his eyes. The friendly passer-by that drops him off at home turns blind very soon too, as does his wife, and other people he is in contact with.
The eye doctor he visits also becomes affected, but the doctor’s wife not. When all blind people are rounded up to go to a detention center (to avoid spreading the disease), she pretends to be blind so she can come along. She is the only seeing person in a group of blind people.
As no person of authority wants to be in charge of the blind in the detention center, for fear of becoming blind themselves, the newly blind are left to their own devices, with disastrous consequences.
The book is not a happy one. Many very unpleasant things happen. It is a very likely sketch of what people will do when they are together in a small space in completely new circumstances. It is not a pleasant view of humanity. As usual with stories, this book is no exception in having some good, decent, main characters that will not accept the inhuman situation they are in.
The book is written in a dense way, although it is quite an easy read. It’s dense in the sense that dialogues are written all on the same lines, there is no new line for a new speaker. Something like this (not a real example):
They all went outside. – What do we do now?, I don’t know, But you’re in charge, Still, I don’t know what to do.
None of the characters have a name. When you’re blind, names are no longer important, says one of the protagonists. People have lost their identity. One of the main protagonists is the eye doctor. He, more than anyone else, has become dispensable.
A wonderful book which has some interesting ideas and a dark view on humanity when the world as we know it changes. There is a sequel, Seeing, which I will definitely read!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Extra: See my review of The Double by José Saramago.