Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blindness (1997)

The lovely Julia lent me a copy of José Saramago's 1997 novel Blindness, and I would go so far as to say it is one of the best novels I've read in a long time.

In a contemporary unnamed city, a man goes blind while sitting in his car waiting for the light to change. A stranger helps him home and his wife takes him to the optometrist. Nothing seems to be wrong with his eyes so the doctor sends him home to await more tests in the morning. But that night, while researching the strange eye problem, the doctor goes blind too. And the stranger who brought the man home. And the other patients in the waiting room at the doctor's office. The government quickly orders a quarantine of all the people struck by the "white blindness" in an abandoned mental institution. The population grows and grows and the social order quickly deteriorates. Yet one woman, the doctor's wife, inexplicably retains her sight.

This book is filled with large and small allegories and written in an experimental style with page-long sentences, unusual punctuation, and little explanation of who is saying what and if thoughts were spoken or only thought. And yet, it also has a clear narrative, strong characters, and draws an overwhelming picture of a horrifying and desolate world that is occasionally pierced by hopefulness and life. And the ending was perfect.

You should read this one...

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