A city is hit by a sudden and strange epidemic of "white blindness", which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there social conventions quickly crumble and the struggle for survival brings out the worst in people.
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 - out of their prison and 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 20th century, by Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago, Blindness has swept the masses with its powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses - and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit.
English translation by Juan Sager.
©1995 Jose Saramago and Editorial Caminho; ©1997 Juan Sager (English translation); (P)2008 BBC Audiobooks America
This is a very different kind of doomsday fiction. The writing and reading of "Blindness" are vivid enough that I'm still a bit haunted by it several weeks after finishing.
The storytelling is very like Gabriel Garcia Marquez; disparate events are woven into a well told tale. While a Latino ken for life-metaphors is apparent, "Blindness" could be any time or place.
I heartily recommend it, but be prepared to "see" things differently.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
The famous Portuguese author Jose Saramago paints a cold and halting portrait of what it would be like were Blindness suddenly contagious.
To prevent a pandemic, the government quarantines the first stricken, including the Doctor (an optometrist) and the Doctor's wife, the latter of whom is obviously immune to the disease. As the story progresses, the gov't puts more and more blind people into the abandoned building, with little food and zero supervision, forcing them all to fend for themselves. To add to the icy subtext, Saramago gives all the characters only descriptors, like the Doc, the Doctor's Wife, the Girl with Dark Glasses, the Cab Driver, etc.
This is a tale of both the goodness and baseness of humans in a world of darkness and squalor. Evil and the treachery of men initially wins, but goodness eventually prevails, so that this novel is ultimately hopeful.
The potential reader should be forewarned that this book contains graphic scenes of the rapes of several women.
As usual, the narrator Jonathan Davis is excellent.
Saramago is a Nobel laureate, so I think we have to credit him with having insight worthy of our attention. Blindness is a powerful parable, but I think it has to be read as a surrealistic allegory rather than any attempt to portray the situation as it might actually occur in the real world. I agree with the reviewer that pointed out that this parable is much more accessible in the oral than in the visual format. The endless run-on sentences and lack of proper names makes the reading hard to follow, but as a narrative, it isnt so bad. Maybe this was the intention of Saramago. In the story he has the blind listening to readings from the only sighted individual as their only source of entertainment, and he may have intended this as a more powerful verbal parable that a written one. I am an ophthalmologist myself, I found this story to be an intriguing thought experiment, but I was waylaid by the fact that the author made no attempt, or possibly consciously avoided the attempt, to make the story scientifically plausible. There are so many incongruous elements in time and space, its like a Dali painting. For instance he talks about the doctors wife being distraught about not winding her watch. The last time I had to wind my watch was probably in the 1960s, and then he talks later about computers functioning the water system. The ophthalmologist talks about ordering an encephalogram , which we havent used since the 1970s, instead of a CT scan or MRI. He also talks about how the blind stop gesticulation when they talk. But people with acquired blindness have their gesticulations programmed into their extrapyramidal system and never loose that habit. Did he intentionally ignore present day science so as to make the story more surrealistic, or is he a lazy Nobel laureate researcher?
I thought it was a provocative read, intriguing and thought provoking. But dont expect Crichton. Think Lord of the Flies by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
This book is being made into a movie and the trailer intrigued me. The book was not available on Audible yet, so I went to the book store and purchased the text version.
I could not read it. The author is known for his long sentences and paragraphs. Wikipedia warned me that the author does not give any of the characters names. It was too difficult to read the text. I wondered how in the world did this author ever win the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
Then, I saw the Audible version was available. I listened to a sample. The narrator made up for the author's idiosyncrasies. I purchased the book and could not stop listening. What a story! Rarely has a book taken me so deeply into the psychology of human nature ... why they do what they do ... how the mind works. I felt I knew some of these characters better than I knew members of my family. I recommended this book to a teacher/friend for her Advanced Placement English class.
Read this book. It's worth it. I hope Audible makes the sequel available.
Great story, very well written
Yes, the multiple characters with a single voice becomes an issue sometimes. The reader does a great job in interpreting different characters but it becomes a bit confusing at times.
Great audiobook. The story is for you to judge, but the audio was great. The quality was good, the audio was very clear. And the reader was able to change his voice in order to adapt to the characters. One of the best audiobooks I've heard!
Middle School teacher with a 100 miles round-trip daily commute; which I could never maintain all these long years without audible books.
I simply cannot figure why I listened to this book. I kept listening despite several impulses to turn the damn thing off! The author's idea of a world gone blind was so different, so intriguing....that I plugged on past the stiff, formal and just weirdly inappropriate narrative voice to finally be rewarded by an inevitable world of blind humans being treated and treating others badly. Inevitable also were allusions to various and sundry meanings of "blind". Oh yes and in this world gone blind nobody listens to music and folks defecate everywhere. I might go see the movie just out of curiosity.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I have no issue with the premise. In fact, that and the reputation of the author were what drew me to this book in the first place. And I wouldn't be doing the book justice if I didn't acknowledge that there are a number of observations about people that ring true. Certain ways people continue to behave despite circumstances, or perhaps indulge in because of circumstances. But overall, the flatness of the characters, the lack of individual reactions, the paucity of human interactions, ended up leaving me cold. Perhaps I need to be more familiar with the rest of Saramago's work. Perhaps I need to be more well read in this particular literary genre. Whatever it was I was supposed to appreciate about this particular thought experiment, I didn't. I like thought experiments in general, but if you're going to spin them out to book length, you'd better have a pretty good story to tell. I will say this in its defense: it's not a book I'm ever going to forget.
I chose this book because of a stellar review I heard on NPR. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was so disappointed when I listened to it. I thought the story just didn't have much description. My imagination didn't "run wild" painting pictures of the scenarios and the characters. I know that if I found myself in the same predicament, my emotions would have been intense. As I listened, I found my thoughts drifting because the reactions of the characters didn't seem genuine or even logical for that matter. I may have felt differently if the narration hadn't been so distracting. In general, I don't mind the "voice" or gender of the narrator being different than the main character, but I had a very difficult time picturing the main character actually speaking. It also felt like every sentence read by the narrator was an unfinished thought. It drove me crazy! I thought that if I just survived to the end, there would be a huge payoff and I would look back and everything would make sense. It didn't, not for me at least.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
I read the reviews but they said nothing about the content, narration or story resolution, so I bought it thinking it would be better than the reviews said - assuming others were offended because it showed blind people in a bad light. That was not the case.
The reader, while not bad, takes a bit of getting used to - he seems a bit too "breathy".
There is excessive/rapid/unbelievable character personality development - i.e. the "car thief" went from car thief (and we are told specifically that he only stole cars) to wannabe rapist in about 3 scenes. Is this supposed to be thief = rapist or blind = rapist? Either way, it is ridiculous.
There are several tangents - i.e. each person tells what they saw before they went blind - one guy goes on and on about art pieces he saw - who cares? What does this artistic tangent have to do with progressing the story? Nothing. But I suspect it makes the author look intelligent.
There is a scene around winding a watch - not only do we not wind watches, how could anyone who has had nothing to do for 3 days forget to wind her watch? What else was she doing that distracted her from this? - oh, right, the blind spent their days pooping in their beds. Yes, we are expected to believe that the blind defecate in their own beds because, well... I am not sure the author's point. I read scifi a lot and am very used to suspending disbelief - I can accept that a post-apocalyptic world would be "strongest survive", or martial rule where infractions mean death. But human kind, sighted or not, will not defecate in their own beds. Period.
I do understand that this is not meant to be a book about real people and real blindness anymore than Stephen King's books are about real happenings but - even keeping in mind that I really wanted to like this story - ultimately it tries WAY too hard to be "artsy"/moralistic. I don't need to be thumped on the head to "get it".
"We need more audiobooks from Saramago"
Saramago left this world last week, leaving for us one of the most incredible work written by a human being. He won the Nobel prize as the only Portuguese writer to conquer that title, revealing to other languages an unique way to express through words. This way, is like somehow he collected all those poems throughout his entire life and connected with a prosaic line through his stories. His books are never about that or some other story, it is more than mere stories, it is about to touch our soul and move us, to be connected with human history again and be willing to do something better to this world. I think a better thing would be to record his entire work as audiobook. He deserves this homage. Looking forward, OK, audible? :) Thanks!
"Gripping and chilling"
Feeling completely steamrollered by this amazing novel! I listened to a BBC America audio, via Audible, and, although it was an English translation of the original Portuguese, the text retained its poetic quality, horrific and beautiful. Perhaps Margaret Atwood crossed with Cormac McCarthy! I appreciated the 'no names' device - the woman with dark glasses, the first blind man, the woman nobody knows - as it aided understanding their world. The philosophising throughout is very moving and I thought that the calm narration by Jonathan Davies was the perfect way to immerse myself in this dystopian city.
Jose Saramago isn't well appreciated in this country, it seems to me. OK, so some of his books are very specific to his native Portugal so it's not that surprising but I find it a bit sad that this one seems to be the only full-length title available, and that only because it was made into a film. It's an eerily believable magical-realist tale about a world turned blind and the way society changes. when nobody can see. It's definitely worth a listen and when you've finished get hold of the paper copies of some of his other stuff too.
"Maybe it's me?"
I suppose this is what one would call a good book, but I gave up half way. Both my husband and daughter really liked it (in French translation), but the unrelenting miserableness of it all really got to me. And I was bored, bored, bored. Maybe he writes wonderfully in Portuguese, and maybe it translates well into French, but I found the English stilted and clunky, not poetic at all. It really irritated me that the characters had no names (probably to dehumanise them even more) but I just felt this was a pretentious attempt to be "literary". And it just made it repetitious, having to constantly have people referred to as "the girl with dark glasses" or "the first man". I thought I would love this (I love post-apocalyptic fiction, and its themes of how normal people survive in a disastrous situation) - I never thought such a dramatic story could be so tedious.
"Superb book and flawless narration"
A harrowing book but well worth the ride.
The ending. I stopped what I was doing and put everything on hold until the final words had been spoken.
Jonathan Davis' narration was phenomenal. This is a man who was born to read books aloud. The way he takes on every single character - with such care and consideration - is amazing.
When the doctor's wife gets bloody revenge on the brute who has abused her, on behalf of all the women, was particularly satisfying.
Some people have found this book hard to read due to the lack of punctuation. This being an audiobook removes that obstacle. The narrator makes it accessible and engaging. Great book, great narration.
Great book to provoke a discussion. I really wanted to keep discussing this with friends and family.
I have not listened to the book, but read it in paper form, long before I was an Audible member and also a long time before the film was released. It's not a pretty book, it'll make you angry and sad, but it will also make you think, it's very psychological.
It's also worth noting that the film is a very good and accurate reflection of the book (as apposed to most films), so read the book first, if you can, as it's much more vivid.
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