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Blindness Paperback – 2 Sep 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2 Sept. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860466850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860466854
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,690 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 doctor's wife. As in The Day of the Triffids people are struck blind, but this book is far more savage and we only encounter one person who can see - the doctor's wife. When the epidemic of blindness spreads she struggles to keep a small group of people alive when they are interned. The epidemic takes over the whole city with horrific consequences, anarchy, murder, feral gangs, rape and starvation follow in a very short time.

The book also has minimal punctuation so that it takes a while to get used to and also sometimes to work out who is speaking. But it works and in fact the writing is wonderful. It could be read on many different levels, as an allegory or parable, there are many biblical references throughout, blindness of course is often used as a metaphor. There is one startling scene with the doctor, his wife and a prostitute which makes one think of the situation being an eye opener - the doctor's wifes' eyes were opened to her husband - I think if I re-read the book I would see many more allusions and themes such as redemption, human relationships, and altruisim versus selfishness.

Of course the book is harrowing, in a way I was putting off reading it, but ultimately it is uplifting and I am intrigued to know there is a sequel, Seeing. Blindness was made into a film in 2007.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good friend suggested that this would be a topical read, as the social stability we've always taken for granted has started to look horribly fragile lately. However, I must confess that the first page, with its unsettling lack of establishing viewpoint and its deliberately odd punctuation, had me thinking that I'd be struggling through a 'worthy but difficult' allegory.

I needn't have worried. Yes, it's a thought-provoking allegory, but it's also a page-turner. The style plunges you into the heads - and the terrifying predicament - of the protagonists. The lack of familiar punctuation to give shape to the sentences and the dialogue, like the lack of names for the characters, is all part of an immersive experience that leaves you, like them, groping around the story, trying to get your bearings, fearful of what you're not seeing and what you're about to stumble onto. And it works. It's like having an intelligent conversation while binge-watching The Walking Dead.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The more of Jose Saramago's work I read the more I love them. This one is not as difficult a read as others and it was an intriguing tale of how the modern world can collapse when people start going blind. The blind are rounded up and quarantined with the first part of the book a tale of how the survivors cope left on their own and locked away.
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This is the novel which suits Saramago's prose style to a tee. Using only commas and full-stops, no paragraph breaks for speech, and only referring to characters with descriptive labels ("the woman in dark glasses" etc), Saramago paints a chaotic and nightmarish vision of an unnamed city thrown into an unholy mess by an epidemic of blindness: white blindness. The afflicted are rounded up and shipped into a disused mental asylum where they are quarantined and left to defend for themselves. What unfolds is a sequence of terrifying events as the blind struggle to cope with the unprecedented contagion. People are dying, sanitation is horrendous, a gang of blind thugs run riot, and yet amidst all the confusion and hopelessness one woman can still see. Slowly and secretly she influences the break-out. Will the world outside the asylum's walls be the world they left behind before the outbreak of the white blindness? - This is a gripping read: a powerful, shocking and brutally honest portrayal of human nature in an extreme situation.
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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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Format: Paperback
The 1997 Nobel Laureate for Literature, the Portuguese writer José Saramago, 1922-2010, did not set out to win over readers. His idiosyncratic style is a continuous block of text with only occasional paragraphs, long sentences, minimal punctuation, changes from first to third person, repetition and frequent interjections and comments on the action by the narrator. Although the book is divided into chapters, each typically 15-20 pages, it is over 300 pages long and so represents a considerable barrier to the enquiring reader. Are publishers at liberty to alter a writer’s style to make it more accessible, I wonder?

Published in 1995, the translation is by Giovanni Pontiero, 1932-96, who died before completing the task, subsequently fulfilled by Margaret Jull Costa. Very soon this translation engages the reader’s interest and Saramago’s literary hurdles are significantly lessened.

The opening is dramatic as a motorist is struck down with blindness at a busy cross roads. As the driver says ‘it’s as if I were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea.’ Soon the condition is spreading across the unnamed city, although the means of transmission and aetiology baffle medical specialists. The book centres on one group of people, including the driver, who are amongst the earliest to be affected. These are simply referred to as ‘the doctor’, ‘the girl with dark glasses’ and ‘the old man with the black eyepatch’, ‘the boy with the squint’. The reader is forced to imagine, ‘see’, these characters rather than being able to read their descriptions.
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