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Blindness (Harvest Book) by Jose Saramago

Blindness (Harvest Book) (1995)

by Jose Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)

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8,628277353 (4.1)5 / 462
Title:Blindness (Harvest Book)
Authors:Jose Saramago
Other authors:Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)
Info:Harvest Books (1999), Edition: 1, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Blindness by José Saramago (1995)


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English (222)  Spanish (14)  Dutch (13)  Italian (6)  French (5)  Swedish (4)  Catalan (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  German (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (276)
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
rating is a guess really. want to read this again. ( )
  lisaeves | Nov 1, 2015 |
A terrifyingly realistic take on social reactions to a blindness epidemic, the novel explores the fragility of civilised public order and the kindness and cruelty we are capable of in its absence. The first two-thirds of the novel revolves around the microcosm of a quarantine of three hundred infected people in Lord of the Flies-style with focus on the core group of seven, while the last third expels them into the chaotic new world where fear dominates the previously taken-for-granted human decency.

With nameless characters, the relationships are all the more important and realistically (and beautifully where possible) drawn out. The most important character of the core group is the doctor's wife with inexplicably unaffected sight, raising interesting questions on what her responsibilities to the population is as the only seeing person and what are morals in this horrifying new dog-eat-corpses world. The fixation on the woman with the dark glasses' occupation and supposed loose morals was a minor thorn in my side, with her final decision of mate presented as some sort of redemption of her character.

The prose is straightforward and natural, surprising as one paragraph can consist of active and meditative descriptions, multiple dialogues and interjections from the author over pages. However, the subject matters were difficult, shocking and frightening so that on one hand it is a quick to read yet hard to digest, requiring frequent breaks. This compelling novel forces the reader to confront troubling questions about humanity, as the author himself better puts it in his Nobel lecture,

The apprentice thought, "we are blind", and he sat down and wrote Blindness to remind those who might read it that we pervert reason when we humiliate life, that human dignity is insulted every day by the powerful of our world, that the universal lie has replaced the plural truths, that man stopped respecting himself when he lost the respect due to his fellow-creatures. ( )
  kitzyl | Sep 19, 2015 |
‘… here he was plunged into a whiteness so luminous, so total, that it swallowed up rather than absorbed, not just the colours, but the very things and beings, thus making them twice as invisible.’

In an unnamed city full of unnamed inhabitants, a contagion of blindness which leaves individuals unable to see anything but complete white spreads like wildfire with no reason or possible cure. The individuals that attempt to help those suddenly without sight find themselves suffering soon after. A single individual, a doctor’s wife, is seemingly the only one to remain unaffected by the contagion yet pretends to have lost her eyesight so as to remain with her husband. From the first moment the contagion began to have its effect on civilization, everything about basic human decency begins to deteriorate. It’s an apt expose on what would happen to society if we were forced to go back to our very basic mentality: survival.

‘…for dignity has no price, that when someone starts making small concessions, in the end life loses all meaning.’

In an attempt to prevent the continued spread of the disease, the government resolves to round up the afflicted and place them inside an abandoned mental institution. In one ward, those who are already blind. In the other, their family members who are likely to join the others soon enough. Within these walls is where humanity deteriorates and where ethics corrode. It’s an epidemic that inspires to bring out the best and worst in people. Where many effortlessly revert back to their survival instincts and work to gain power by force over the others that still delicately hold on to their memories of morality.

‘Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.’

It’s a deceptively simple concept: the loss of a single sense bringing society to its knees. Sure, sight is arguably the most important, but the fact that the loss of it would inevitably change us as people, as who we are in our core, is a frightening thing. And while some underwent their transformation into an animalistic thing, others were more hesitant to go there. But would it have only been just a matter of time before each one of them succumbed to their true natures? Basic human decency and the morals we cling to are clearly nothing more than an illusion when faced with adversity.

I first picked up this novel and found myself immediately lost in Saramago’s writing style. The narrative mode is a stream of consciousness and it’s quite a disorderly style of writing where commas run rampant and it’s difficult to separate between who’s who in conversations. I tried it in print first but couldn’t keep my facts straight so I opted for the audiobook where the narrator did an amazing job and fortunately made vocal differentiations in order to make the lack of quotation marks easier to bear. I definitely plan on seeking out more of Jonathan Davis’ narrations. Listen to an audio clip here.

Blindness is an incredibly difficult yet amazing read. It was horrifying and preposterous yet when you give thought to the concept of such an event occurring, the actions of these individuals appear terrifyingly likely. Let’s hope it never does. ( )
  bonniemarjorie | Sep 18, 2015 |
What can I say that others have not? It was extremely scary. It was at first hard to read with its lack of punctuation and paragraphs and run on sentences. But it was exceptionally powerful and thought provoking. A few things that maybe others did not mention: No one in the book had names, only titles. Was this sort of an Everyman/Everywoman tale? There was "the doctor," "the doctor's wife," "the man with the eye patch," "the boy with the squint," and many others. In a way that helped me to remember them better. That is often the way I remember characters in books, not by their names, but by what they do. Another thought - maybe the one who was not blind was the most unfortunate character in the book. We only had to read about it - she had to see it. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
I kept falling asleep as I was reading this book, mostly because I was always tired, not because the book was boring. And I kept not using a bookmark so I always forgot where I was and ended up reading things I didn't realize I'd already read. So that kind of influenced my feelings of the book and kind of made it hard for me to get into.

Anyway, the whole premise of the book is utterly terrifying. I don't know how you could possibly prevent the world from falling into utter chaos if there was a blindness epidemic. I tried to imagine what I would do in that situation, but it really just seems impossible.

It used to always be debatable for me whether I would rather be deaf or blind, but after reading this book I decided I would rather be deaf. But then I wondered if I would change my mind again if I read a book called Deafness. But somehow i just can't imagine that being quite as terrifying. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
¿Qué pasaría si, un día, nos volvemos todos ciegos por una extraña epidemia? Esto se lo pregunta José Saramago y su respuesta es esta apasionante novela. Saramago teje una apasionante historia que te engancha y de la que no puedes salir porque piensas que podrías ser tú uno de esos ciegos, y quieres saber qué les pasa.

Pero Ensayo sobre la Ceguera es mucho más. http://www.destejiendoelmundo.net/201...

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Saramago, Joséprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davies, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lemmens, HarrieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mertin, Ray-GüdeÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pontiero, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weissová, LadaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If you can see, look.

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156007754, Paperback)

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. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -0400)

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"A city is struck by an epidemic of "white blindness." Authorities confine the blind to a vacant mental hospital secured by armed guards under instructions to shoot anyone trying to escape. Inside, the criminal element among the blind holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers--among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears--through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twientieth century, Blindness is a powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses--and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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