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Blindness  By  cover art

Blindness

By: José Saramago
Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©1997 Juan Sager (English translation); 1995 Jose Saramago and Editorial Caminho (P)2008 BBC Audiobooks America

What listeners say about Blindness

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Surrealistic

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.

53 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Sexual violence is not entertainment.

The author creates, and dwells on, some horrendous scenes of gratuitous sexual violence which are not in any way necessary to the story. I really don't recommend this book.

44 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Dark

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.

41 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best books I've ever "read"

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.

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Lost me with the bed-pooping bit

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".

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Ridiculously boring, except if you enjoy lists

SPOILERS**** Great premise. Terrible execution. Suspension of belief is essential to most good stories but when pushed too far it ruins the experience. No names used, not one character shows even the slightest adjustment to their affliction throughout the story, a single immune person amongst the entire population, literally no thought toward long term survival by the characters, behavior bordering on stupidity by the characters (such as not looking for batteries and a flashlight inside of a store). AND THE LISTS!!! MY GOD THE LISTS!! Half of the book is spent listing off seemingly irrelevant possibilities if the characters could only see. Great idea with the zest of an accountant in its execution. Only finished out of sheer stubbornness. Oh and the end is as predictable as the book is boring.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Stark Portrait of Blindness as Contagious Disease

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.



13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Blindness ... A paragon of bad story

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...

Mirek Sopek

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Can't Put My Finger On It

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.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

No, seriously, whiskey tango foxtrot?

This is just bad writing. The story gets bogged down in minutiae that add nothing beneficial to the story. The characters act in ways that do not conform to logic. For example, after one of their group violently attacks another man and shortly thereafter proceeds to sexually assault one of the women, the group expresses an inordinate amount of concern over the wound he received from his female victim during the attack which has become infected. This woman goes on to appologize TO HIM for the injury as though she had simply overreacted to a harmless compliment! Follow that with some more inane descriptions, and i finally called it quits in chapter five.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Colin
  • 04-08-13

Wonderful

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.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Fibri
  • 01-27-13

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.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Danilo
  • 06-25-10

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!

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
  • 01-28-14

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.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • A. Reuben
  • 08-09-16

Superb book and flawless narration

What made the experience of listening to Blindness the most enjoyable?

A harrowing book but well worth the ride.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Blindness?

The ending. I stopped what I was doing and put everything on hold until the final words had been spoken.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Davis – was your favourite?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When the doctor's wife gets bloody revenge on the brute who has abused her, on behalf of all the women, was particularly satisfying.

Any additional comments?

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.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-29-22

Harrowing but excellent

A harrowing insight into human behaviour in crisis.
Interesting and insightful, would highly recommend. Five stars.


1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Elle
  • 06-16-22

sounds like a news bulletin

I couldn't wait to listen to this as the story intrigued me. 2 hours in and I couldn't take anymore. was like listening to the news. not engaging narration at all

lifes too short

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Davie
  • 06-12-22

This book is PERFECT as an audiobook!

Absolutely hooked on the story! The narrator is outstanding. I feel like the bad reviews are very unfair. Yes the book is detailed but you have to remember these characters are blind, so they are going to speak in detail. The listener is also basically blind as they can't see the characters or world, therefore, the detailed narration is absolutely needed.

As someone that's half blind, I can really relate to this book and it shared a lot of similarities with the Covid-19 pandemic, at least early on - which I found interesting. My favourite character was the eye doctor, and it's interesting that a person that specializes in blindness goes blind himself. I do wish he was the character to keep his eyesight instead of his wife though, as it would make more sense for him to be the leader as he's studied eyes his whole life.

I wasn't expecting much from this novel due to all the bad reviews but it's one of my favourite audiobooks and I believe it deserves more praise. My only issue is the awful movie cover...audible, please keep movies and audiobooks separate! If you are interested in blindness or pandemics PLEASE listen to this aueiobook.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Auri Jürna
  • 05-27-22

Good, but not enough

The idea is very interesting and story itself is intriguing, but the writing is slow and too detailed, distracted and overwhelmed. Narration is good, but not enough to enliven the story.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • VDS
  • 07-26-20

A bit too long

I like the concept of everyone going blind, but the author hasn't made it into an interesting story. It only covers a small social group. The book started really well, but I was disappointed afterwards.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Laeticia Muller
  • 04-10-15

Loved this thought provoking book

Well written and illustrating the rotten human nature and its needs and the struggle between the world and the soul. It also dhow the conflict of the Atheistic author, culture, religion and society.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Tiffany
  • 10-25-21

Interesting plots. Quite disturbing though

interesting concepts and storyline. I didn't enjoy too much of the philosophical part of the narration. I don't think normal people will talk like that if we were in a true blindness pandemic. There would be more chaos. But, cool read nevertheless

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-12-22

Not worth it, even if it was for free

An absolute chore to finish. Felt like something Brian Griffin would have written. Utterly offensive to the blind - nothing salvageable. Save yourself the disappointment and read Day of the Triffids instead

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-21-22

blindsided

as a vision impaired person myself, I'm totally blind, I found this story did not live up to any expectations either in the fictitious world or in the real world. the scenarios that were explored here did not really portray what it would be like if everyone lost their sight! especially in this day and age