Blindness by José Saramago was a pick for my IRL book group a few months back.
About the Book:
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!
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.