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.
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.
Reader & Wordsmith
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.
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.
Jose Saramago is an ok writer. I was hoping for more though. What an interesting concept. Jonathan Davis did all he could to save it, but eventually the book fell flat. Perhaps it is the translation that kills it. I found the same problem with 100 Years of Solitude.
the original idea of the story is fascinating.
His performance was fine, the book just didn't have enough to compel me to care.
No. You'll be hard pressed to finish this book, I wouldn't waste my time with another translation.
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".
After 13 hours of listening to Jose Saramago "Blindness" I came to the following conclusion:
How fortunate was I, so that for so many years I have been reading and listening to mostly good books with largely prevailingly stories...
Unfortunately, Blindness is not a good story. And I'm sure of my firm opinion. The totally fictional novel of an epidemic that causes total blindness of the population of some unnamed country.
Well, as for the initial setting it was quite interesting - it could be a ground to serious deliberations on human nature - particularly under severe conditions. At some moments, I had the feeling that Jose Saramago was close to great prose and deep analysis of what can happen to man under an ill fortune and severe calamities. Some remote recollections of stories from death camps resonated in parts of the book ...
However, everything there was too far from the really deep thoughts and considerations, to deserve an appraisal. The moral notion of so many scenes is unconvincing. The considerations of some sexually oriented behaviour of blind people - quite offensive, to say the least.
The book ends with totally naive sudden recovery of all people from the blindness - almost like a happy end, with one shadow of unknown fate of one main character.
Unfortunately, I also found there too many tedious and flat passages - was this the result of poor translation? That I do not know. Maybe, in its original language, the book written, despite everything, by a Nobel price laureate, could defend its merits... Maybe....
I regret to write such review, but - I had no choice - this what my heart dictates...
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.
The author interrupts a fairly decent plot line with overblown hyperbole and moralizing. Read this one in print instead, you can skip the continuous editorial comments.
Such a disappointment. I don't know if it was the translation, but I doubt it. I have read a lot of Spanish lit and am usually ok with its pedantic and preachy tone, but I found this book nearly intolerable. I can't claim to have spent any time, myself, finding out from a blind person what blindness is like, but it seems unlikely that Saramago checked any of his assumptions about blindness with actual blind people. They are portrayed in the most insulting and inhuman ways in this book. They wait for the one sighted individual in the story to help them with everything from cleaning their own bodies to providing entertainment. "If only there were a working radio" laments one character over and over, as if going blind has also stopped her from being able to sing. And don't even get me started on the public health aspects of the story. The idea that a doctor would wait overnight to report a possible epidemic of blindness to the medical authorities is ludicrous, that people would immediately be quarantined and abandoned without sanitary facilities, food, water, etc is absurd, and that only one person would be untouched by such an epidemic is ridiculous. There have been much better books exploring the breakdown of society because of nuclear or biological catastrophe, if that was what the author was attempting. I would recommend "A Canticle for Liebowitz" by Walter M Miller, "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood,"Dies the Fire" by SM Stirling, "Speech Sounds" (short story) by Octavia Butler.
Some folks found the book thought-provoking as a parable of man's inhumanity to man, or blindness standing in for our isolation from one another, but I disagree that this was a parable. For an actual parable about blindness, interested readers should check out the fabulous play "En la ardiente oscuridad" by Antonio Buero Vallejo, in which the blind really do lead the blind. Now, THAT'S a parable.
"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!
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.
"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.
Great book to provoke a discussion. I really wanted to keep discussing this with friends and family.
"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.
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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