Friday, September 12, 2008


I read Blindness, by Jose Saramago, at the suggestion of a friend.
Subsequent reviews I've read find it either powerful or irritating, the latter mostly due to the way the book is written (in run-on sentences).
I actually didn't mind the wording--it is written as people speak, without concern for grammatical perfection, with rambling and words spoken out of order.
It was, in this way, real. Even refreshing.

The tone of the book itself, however, is somewhat of a combination of Twilight Zone meets Lord of the Flies.
It is the capacity for human selfishness and cruelty, and a supposedly eye-opening revelation of it all.

This is a book that is probably best read as part of a class, where the instructor can point out profound sections that the general reader may gloss over.
This book deserves discussion, because I'm pretty sure it's a statement about internment camps and other atrocities of the modern world.
Too, it is obviously a comment of the theoretical--of seeing but not seeing.
Of being blind to our actions, to things around us, etc.
Too, one must consider the layers and layers of subliminal meaning to the point of overwhelming.
Or am I 'seeing' too much here?

While I appreciate that the book won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I was not as taken with it as I had hoped.
Parts of it seemed unnecessarily lengthy, and I just wanted to scream, "enough already, get on with the conclusion!"

That being said, I still did dog-ear many pages, so here are some excerpts: (note spoiler alert)
It was my fault, she sobbed, and it was true, no one could deny it, but it is also true, if this brings her any consolation, that if, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyond the point where our first thought brought us to a halt. The good and the evil resulting from our words and deeds go on apportioning themselves, one assumes in a reasonably uniform and balanced way, throughout all the days to follow, including those endless days, when we shall not be here to find out, to congratulate ourselves or ask for pardon, indeed there are those who claim that this is the much-talked-of immortality.
(page 78)

He tried to imagine what the place must look like, for him it was all white, luminous, resplendent, he had no way of knowing whether the walls and ground were white and he came to the absurd conclusion that the light and whiteness there were giving off the awful stench. We shall go mad with horror, he thought.
(page 92)

If things continue like this, we'll end up once more reaching the conclusion that even in the worst misfortunes it is possible to find enough good to be able to bear the aforesaid misfortunes with patience...
(page 151)

Deaf, blind, silent, tottering on their feet, with barely enough will-power not to let go of the hand of the woman in front, the hand, not the shoulder, as when they had come, certainly not one of them would have known what to reply if they had been asked, Why are you holding hands as you go, it simply came about, there are gestures for which we cannot always find an easy explanation, sometimes not even a difficult one can be found.
(page 181)

In a few minutes, the rescuers reached their destination, they knew it before even coming into contact with the bodies, the blood over which they were crawling was like a messenger come to tell them, I was life, behind me there is nothing.
(page 207)

Say to a blind man, you're free, open the door that was separating him from the world, Go, you are free, we tell him once more, and he does not go, he has remained motionless there in the middle of the road, he and the others, they are terrified, they do not know where to go, the fact is that there is no comparison between living in a rational labyrinth, which is, by definition, a mental asylum and venturing forth, without a guiding hand or a dog-leash, into the demented labyrinth of the city, where memory will serve no purpose, for it will merely be able to recall the images of places but not the paths whereby we might get there.
(page 217)

Don't cry, what else could she say, what meaning do tears have when the world has lost all meaning, In the girl's room on the chest of drawers stood the glass vase with the withered flowers, the water had evaporated, it was there that her blind hands directed themselves, her fingers brushed against the dead petals, how fragile life is when it is abandoned.
(page 248)

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