Blindness Paperback – 2 Sep 1997
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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
"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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Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderfully written and extremely different book. For a start no one has a name. Everyone is described as - for example, the first blind man, the first blind man's wife, the... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Four Violets
A classic of its genre. Can be challenging read due to its structure but worth the effort!Published 4 months ago by FDouglas
Gift for my husband, who enjoyed it immensely. He is going to look for other books by this author.Published 6 months ago by Judith Shepherd
Beautiful writing, even though I thought I'd see where it was going it was still filled with uncomfortable tension. Great descriptions of humanity, fear, courage and love. Read morePublished 7 months ago by PK
Yes, this book is a sort of literary zombie movie... a plague of sudden, infectious blindness sweeps through the population and order breaks down. It's gripping, and disturbing. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Reading Reader
Started so well then never lived up to its promise. If you want to read a book about a contagion of blindness, read The Day of the Triffids.Published 7 months ago by William Aslan