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Thoughts on “Blindness” by José Saramago

Blindness by José Saramago was a pick for my IRL book group a few months back.

About the Book:

Blindness by Jose Saramago (cover)In an unnamed country, an epidemic begins: As he waits at a stoplight, a man is struck blind. Faster than it can be combated, the white blindness spreads. How can it be contained? How can it be cured? What should be done with the afflicted? And how can humanity live in a world it cannot see?

I’ll leave it at that. Half the fun of reading a book like Blindness is watching the story unfurl before you as you read!

My Thoughts:

I don’t have much to say about Blindness that hasn’t already been said somewhere, but I couldn’t let this one go without mentioning a few thoughts on it and on Saramago in general.

Blindness is my second book by José Saramago; my first was Death with Interruptions, which I read last year and adored. I struggled with Saramago’s writing style during my first of his novels, but Blindness was much easier to follow. I don’t know if all his books are this way, but the two I’ve read share several things in common: unnamed characters, a lack of traditional formatting (no quotes, for instance, just commas between different speakers’ words), and — my favorite — a premise that takes our own reality and adds one big twist. In Death with Interruptions, death stopped happening. In Blindness, a mysterious blindness spreads through the population. Both novels feature worlds much like our own, then go on to examine how these sweeping events impact that society.

Saramago has a way of making me consider things I’d never thought about before. He takes his chosen topic and applies it to every aspect of society: from language and habits to government and other institutions, from interpersonal relationships to the practicalities of everyday life. I am blown away by how deeply and completely he explores the topic at hand. My curiosity about what he will investigate next, at least as much as the plot itself, keeps me turning pages.

Blindness had more of an overarching story and more consistently present characters than did Death with Interruptions, which I think makes it a better choice as a first Saramago novel if you’ve yet to experience his unique style. I was not one hundred percent satisfied with the end of Blindness, but there is a sequel (Seeing) which I intend to read at some point and that may change my feelings about the end of the former. Blindness is certainly an excellent book, and I’m still puzzling out why Saramago ended the novel the way he did. There must be a reason! Blindness was very much enjoyed by my book group, and I know at least one member has already sought out others by Saramago. I currently have three others on my shelf, and I plan to read them all eventually.

The original translator for Blindness, Juan Sager, passed away before completing his revision. Margaret Jull Costa took over, and she is the same translator who did Death with Interruptions. I don’t envy her, taking over a project with such a distinct and tricky style in the middle, but both translators did an excellent job.

Those are my thoughts. Check out Blindness by José Saramago on Goodreads or LibraryThing, or read a plethora of other bloggers’ reviews!

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  • http://www.farmlanebooks.co.uk Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

    This is one of my all time favourite books so I’m really pleased that you enjoyed it. Unfortunately not all Saramago’s books share the wonderful style of the two books you mention (although several do – I recommend trying The Double next) Seeing is very different in style and I found it so painful to read that I couldn’t finish it. It isn’t really a sequel – it just takes place in the same world after the Blindness and contains different people. I hope you have more luck with it than I did, but be prepared for a very complex, very slow read.

  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I have a few books by Saramago on my shelves, but have not yet read them. Sandy and Dawn were both really excited about this book, and told me that I needed to read it, which I really, really do. I love weirdness in the books that I read, and have read so much about the premise of this one that I think it falls into that category really well. I am looking forward to getting to this one, whenever that is! Great and very thoughtful analysis today. I enjoyed it!

  • http://www.eclectic-eccentric.com Trisha

    I’ve never read the book, but I really didn’t like the movie. I probably should have read the book first like I usually do since so many of you guys enjoyed this one!

  • http://loveyalit.com Em (Love YA Lit)

    I listened to Blindness, which made the lack of quotation marks a non issue. I thought it was an interesting, well-executed and disturbingly believable story. I haven’t read anything else by Saramago, but may go ahead and try out Death with Interruptions next since you loved it so. Glad your book club enjoyed it – I wish I had a book club.

  • http://www.tiftalksbooks.com Tif

    Blindness is one of my all-time favorite books! It is my one and only by Saramago so far, but I have a number of his other books on my shelf, including Seeing. I’ve heard very mixed reviews about this sequel, but I look forward to discovering it for myself.

  • http://myreadingbooks.blogspot.com Kailana

    I have been curious about this author for a while, but never read anything before.

  • http://www.stephandtonyinvestigate.com Steph

    I have this theory that whatever book you first read by Jose Saramago will be your favorite. I don’t have anything to back this up, except for the fact that nearly everyone I talk to seems to claim whichever book they read first was their favorite. Blindness is actually the second book I read by Saramago, and while I thought it was great, it didn’t surpass All The Names as my favorite read. A few things bothered me about this one, actually, but one thing that always impresses me about Saramago’s writing is that even though he doesn’t really use punctuation which you’d think would impede comprehension and clarity, his writing and meaning is always so clear.

  • http://www.lovelaughterinsanity.com Trish

    I just got up to search my bookshelves to see which Saramago book I own but I couldn’t find it. I think I keep hoping it is this one, but I don’t think it is. I haven’t ever read anything by him and your comments and the depth and overarching themes and open questions and questionable endings etc both have me interested and intimidated. One day…although writing this reminded me of your review of Cloud Atlas and I still need to read that, too!!

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Erin!

  • http://kinnareads.wordpress.com/ Kinna

    As a Saramago fan, I like Steph’s comment a lot. I love all of his stuff frankly but my all-time fav will be All The Name.