Blindness by José Saramago

Blindness, by the Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, is completely different to The Double which I read last year. It’s an astonishing book. I don’t think I will ever forget it.

It’s the story of an epidemic of ‘white blindness’, which spreads across a city affecting everyone. The novel reveals just how quickly chaos descends.

It begins with the sudden blindness of a man at the wheel of his car, and though a stranger’s first impulse is to kindly drive him home - the opportunity to steal the car is irresistible. He is then taken by his wife to an eye doctor, who soon goes blind himself, and within 24 hours the others in the waiting room become blind as well. The only one not to lose her sight, inexplicably, is the doctor’s wife.

Before long they are quarantined along with other victims in a former mental asylum, and Part I of the story traces their adjustment to the loss of their sight, their freedom and their independence. The government abrogates their human rights, providing them only with rudimentary shelter, paltry rations, inadequate sanitation, and no medical assistance or supplies. There is also a trigger-happy set of guards, who eventually panic over the proximity of the internees and fire on them because they believe the blindness to be contagious. There are squabbles over bed allocations and sharing of rations; there is distrust and untruth; there is a distasteful dispute over the burial of the dead and there is opportunistic fondling of one of the women with a dramatic consequence – but that is nothing compared to what is to come.

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1 comment

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

A friend gave me a copy of this book and I'm yet to read this. The story sounds metaphorical.

© Read the NobelsMaira Gall