Blindness by Jose Saramago

November 22nd, 2008 at 7:48 am

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Saramago set an enormous challenge for himself with his book Blindness.

You write a contemporary novel called Blindness about a pandemic of blindness. Whoa, Captain Obvious! On the nose, a bit? Had much metaphor recently? Does the blindness symbolize obviousness???

But of course, you don’t win the Pulitzer for hackwork.

You win it for the gritty realism that populates Blindness. You see, Saramago starts big (obvious blindness metaphor) and immediately goes small the rest of the way (right down to the blind people haplessly defecating in their own filth. Putrefaction makes several appearances.)

There is no better book than one that perfectly combines content and style.

Jose Saramago’s Blindness is such a book.

It is told with a sparse, tail spinning language. Sentences float and slam and ebb and flow. The result is a telling so bleak that several evenings after my warm glass of milk when I usually read I did not want to read Blindness.

It is a depraved descent into hell, a freefall aided by the literary aerodynamics of sparse punctuation, flowing run-ons, and conversations crammed into paragraphs:

“…Today is today, tomorrow will bring what tomorrow brings, today is my responsibility, not tomorrow if I should turn blind, What do you mean by responsibility, The responsibility of having my eyesight when others have lost theirs, You cannot hope to guide or provide food for all the blind people in this world, I ought to, But you cannot, I shall do what ever I can to help, Of course you will…”

In a story about blindness, Saramago strips us of literary luxuries. Quotation marks, question marks, and exclamation marks are absent. Not even a single semicolon is to be found within Blindness. Vonnegut would approve.

There are no proper names. Characters are referred to as doctor, old man, boy with squint, and girl with dark glasses. Saramago’s approach is ecumenical. His style is informal and immediate, utilizing the present tense and even first person plural.

There are small clarifications, authorial intrusions, which dampen the bleakness:

“The driver went blind just as the chairman was about to enter the building by the main entrance as usual, he let out a cry, we are referring to the driver, but he, meaning the chairman, did not hear it.”

Such asides are a welcome relief from Saramago’s vicious extrapolation of our modern existence in all its sinister glory.

So read Blindness. I don’t think the movie was so good.

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One Response to “Blindness by Jose Saramago”

  1. “Such asides are a welcome relief from Saramago’s vicious extrapolation of our modern existence in all its sinister glory.” Jesus, man, take it down a notch. I am trying to enjoy a drink, here. You lay that kind of shit on me, I am liable to go beat the shit out of some poor simpleton, just to continue the vibe. Just on literary principle, man.

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