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Blindness [Paperback]

Jose Saramago
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Sep 1997

A driver waiting at the traffic lights goes blind. An opthamologist tries to diagnose his distinctive white blindness, but is affected before he can read the textbooks. It becomes a contagion, spreading throughout the city. Trying to stem the epidemic, the authorities herd the afflicted into a mental asylum where the wards are terrorised by blind thugs. And when fire destroys the asylum, the inmates burst forth and the last links with a supposedly civilised society are snapped.

No food, no water, no government, no obligation, no order. This is not anarchy, this is blindness.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2 Sep 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860466850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860466854
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 13 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

1998's Nobel Prize winner for Literature, José Saramoga, has, with his astonishing and superb story Blindness, written one of the finest European novels of the last 20 or 30 years. Portugal's best-known writer--but like many Nobel winners hardly a household name in the UK--Saramoga has created a formidable and beautiful body of work deserving (and receiving) the very highest recognition. From the sublime, humanistic The Gospel According to Jesus Christ to the intelligent, metaphysical The Cave, Saramoga challenges, warns, argues but also entertains and enlivens through the truth of his transcendent and highly cultured fictions.

Suddenly, while stopped at a red light in his car, a man goes blind. A "white evil" obliterates his vision plunging him into light as fathomless and impenetrable as the darkest night. A crowd gathers and one man is kind enough to see him home. It is not long, however, before an epidemic of the new blindness causes the government to act in the most authoritarian and fearful of ways, throwing many of the recently disabled into a mental asylum, guarded by scared, trigger-happy soldiers, left to fend for themselves.

While Lord of the Flies might seem an immediately similar reference, Saramaga's work has both more craft and more acuity than William Golding's tale. Blindness is a luminous piece and a wonderful starting point for readers seeking a scrupulous and wise guide to these injudicious and myopic times. --Mark Thwaite

Review

Extraordinary...a tour de force of thought-experiment and feeling-experiment (Observer)

This is a shattering work by a literary master...a book of real stature (Boston Globe)

Saramago repeatedly undertakes to unite the pressing demands of the present with an unfolding vision of the future. This is his most apocalyptic, and most optimistic, version of that project yet (Independent)

He writes a prose of particularly luminous intensity, brilliantly rendered into English by his regular translator Giovanni Pontiero... Sweepingly ambitious (The Times)

A powerful fable (Scotsman)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 4 Jun 2008
By Wuzart
Format:Paperback
I read this book after it was highly recommended to me by a good friend and i can honestly say it's up there with the best books I've ever read. It takes a while to get used to the writing style of different authors but with Saramago this is even more the case because of the way he avoids the use of punctuation etc. This can seem a bit confusing at times, but it does nothing but heighten the confusion felt my the blind condition of the population so it works a lot better than it sounds. There is a movie of the film due out any time soon and from the trailer I would say it's nigh-on spot on to the images the book conjured in my minds eye, which is no mean feat.

The story covers all the expected 'stuff' when society is faced with it's breakdown: filth, chaos, death, relationships, strength - ranging from sheer horror (with regards to the conditions the people have no choice but to experience) to odd moments of utter delight. But the bit that hit me like a bolt was a page towards the end: I guarantee you will never thing about a glass of water in the same way again.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars is not enough 27 July 2008
By Boof TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This book is amazing, incredible, breathtaking. It was recommended to me and once I started it 2 days ago I have barely been able to put it down. This book has just earned a place in my top 5 ever books and deservedly so.

The story starts with a man in his car at traffic lights who goes suddenly blind. He is helped home by a stranger, who a few hours later also goes blind. Within a few days the blindness has spread round half the city and also those afflicted are herded up by the government into a disused mental assylum and left alone. The wards quickly become overrun with filth and chaos ensues. In the middle of this, though, we get to know a handful of characters very well and it is really their story that we follow through the neverending days, lack of food and riots. The whole story is told through long paragraphs of uunbroken text. There are no quotation marks, hardly any punctuation and none of the characters are given names.

I admit to being concerned that I would find it difficult to overcome the lack of punctuation, but for commas and fullstops, and the lack of names (characters are referred to in such ways as the girl with dark glasses, the boy with the squint etc) but not only was it very easy to get used to this it actually added to the story. Also, although the characters don't have names, I found myself identifying with and caring about these characters far more than I have done in other books as Saramago writing drags you in and you find yourself unable to let go. It's as though I was "there". Genius!

If you read nothing else this year, make it this. It is astounding and I only wish I could award more than 5 stars.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking; disturbing; uplifting. 29 Feb 2004
Format:Paperback
This may well be Saramago's greatest book (and he did win the Nobel prize, after all). It is one of that very rare class of novels which deal with terrible events, and should by rights be a depressing read, but instead leave the reader uplifted and more able to deal with life's horrors: the only real parallel I can think of is with Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones", and not with Golding's "Lord of the Flies".
A man stuck at traffic lights suddenly goes blind in his car. Passers-by who come to help him (or not) are soon similarly afflicted. An opthalmologist can't come up with a diagnosis, and is soon blind himself. As the contagion appears to be spread by close contact, the authorities are soon interning the sufferers at gunpoint in an abandoned lunatic asylum. After a horrifying bloodbath, the survivors break out of the asylum to discover a desecrated, almost post-nuclear city, inhabited by wandering bands of the blind...
On the face of it, Saramago goes out of his way to make things difficult for the reader: the text is virtually unpunctuated, and none of the characters are named. He also gives us frequent authorly "asides" on the action: as noted by other reviewers, it is not always clear how to take these, but they seem likely to be meant ironically rather than literally. Despite these apparent obstacles, the novel actually reads like a thriller, and the reader may well find it unputdownable (I certainly did).
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a understated masterpiece 24 Nov 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read. I rember stumbling into a secondhand book shop on my year out in Australia, and stumped for choice, I asked an assistant for a recommendation. He said that Blindness wasn't in stock but that it was absolutely unputdownable. I bought it elsewhere, and a week of missing stops on the tube later I was inclined to agree. The stark, unpunctuated prose, and the nameless, almost two dimensional characters add to the feeling of disorientation and fear. Saramago uses his characters as vehicles to convey his complex themes extremely effectively, also allowing us to both experience the stumbling of the blind and to see the devastating effects through the eyes of the doctor's wife. The resultant breakdown of society and of the individual to its basest forms due to the contagion is both plausible and terrifying. Even within the raw, sometimes brutal prose there are moments of powerful imagery and symbolism that evoke intense emotion within the reader, such as the "dog of Tears" scene and the blindfolded images in the church. It is incredibly thought provoking, original novel that I cannot recommend highly enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down.
Couldn't put it down until I knew the ending! Definitely would recommend to anyone who enjoys dystopian literature but do not read before bed or you will be tempted to lie awake... Read more
Published 9 days ago by Imogen
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to read
I bought this book on a recommendation from Amazon, but I would not pass on that recommendation. The idea for the book is good, a disease so infectious just being in a room with an... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. RT Hamilton
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic work
A great book, recommended to me by a friend. Took me only two days to read it. Set in a city where one by one it's inhabitants go blind. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Kirsty Ayre
1.0 out of 5 stars couldn't finish it
this book was recommended to me and I really tried to read it but apart from the depressing subject material I found the lack of punctuation & usual rules of grammar very hard... Read more
Published 5 months ago by blobby
1.0 out of 5 stars the point?
the emperor's new clothes. if this story is not an allegory then it is not a very good story. if it is an allegory then how does it work? and it has too many words.
Published 5 months ago by david craig
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling and beautiful
there is a generic nature to the people and places in this book, but this just adds to the sense of everything being indistinguishable to the blind. Read more
Published 6 months ago by AmesIsTheName
2.0 out of 5 stars uncomfortable
This was hard going and not one that I would recommend to others as it is not the easiest of reads, reminds me of The Handmaid's tale.
Published 6 months ago by Ann Caborn
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for someone looking for a little light reading...
This one was hard work. And I don't like reading being hard work. I read in order to take a break from work/kids. To rest my mind. To be effortlessly (on my part! Read more
Published 8 months ago by UlsterPotter
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
I have never read any of the authors books and was stunned at what a thought provoking, terrifying and heart felt book this was. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Miss M Rea
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone, but brilliant all the same
While reading this I was sure I'd rate it 4 stars.

Having finished and reflected on it, it's definitely a 5 star book. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lynette
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