Monday, January 30, 2006


"Blindness", by Jose Saramago, the first book chosen for the book club over at prettier than napoleon.

I have to be honest when I say that this book started off incredibly slow for me. Still, as it was one of the books that I voted for, and the cover blurb made it sound intersting, I pushed through. (I think it helped that I was on a flight to Atlanta and I didn't let myself bring anything else to read.) And while I did end up liking it, I'm not really sure how to express that, but here goes...

I liked the way it felt real. The soliders and their "blind" fear of the the blind, the condemnation of anyone who was "contaminated" by them, the way they would yell at the blind when they were searching for food or to get back to the door really struck a cord with me. Even when they shot the thief, and the others, it felt, normal. (For lack of a better word.) I liked the way the doctor's wife tried to hide her sight from the blind, because yes, they would have insisted that she do everything for them. I liked the way the call girl chose the old man to sleep with, before the group rapes, rather than the younger, more insistant pharmacist assistant.

And, while "like" is NOT the right word, I did like the rape build up. The way the men came back with the message, that these thugs have now taken over the food supply, demaning anything of value, and then sexual favors, that felt real. I can imagine all of this happening, if suddenly, everyone here started to go blind. I agree that human nature doesn't change just because something else has.

Also, I liked the dog of tears. I don't know, maybe because I'm a dog lover, but I really liked that. I also liked how the doctor's wife goes blind after everyone else's sight comes back. That it's now her turn to be blind. To be the one who doesn't see the horrors, the damage, the death. To be less able one, now that it's all over. Although, really, it isn't, because I think that after witnessing everything that has happened, that's all she'll see. The whiteness in her eyes won't change that. And I think that she'll have the hardest time, out of anyone, becuase she'll go from being the only witness, to being blind, to seeing, while everyone else experienced it the other way.

I'd be interested to know what the author was thinking about when he came up with the idea for this novel.

As for what I didn't like, I didn't like the way this book was structured. The run-on sentences, the lack of punctuation, drove me nuts. I understood why it was written that way, but I didn't like it. I actually had to use a piece of paper to block the sentences below the one I was reading to help me focus sometimes. Which, I also didn't like.

So that's my commentary on "Blindness". Again, I don't know how to exactly explain what I thought, except, that it felt real, which is depressing, that I could see all of this happening, which is also depressing, and that I expected the doctor's wife to go blind at the end, so I'm glad I was right.

What did you think?


Paul said...

It's interesting that you read the doctor's wife as going blind at the end - "Then she liefted her head up to the sky and saw everything white, It is my turn, she thought. Fear made her quickly lower her eyes. The city was still there." To me, it sounds like she looks up, and the whole sky is white (it's cloudy), and she's knows it's just the sky, but she's freaking out that maybe she's losing her sight, but when she looks down again, she can still see. But it doesn't preclude your reading.

Amber said...

Yeah I didn't think she went blind at the end either.