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Blindness
by Jose Saramago

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In an unnamed city in an unnamed country, a man sitting in his car waiting for a traffic light to change is suddenly struck blind. But instead of being plunged into darkness, this man sees everything white, as if he "were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea." A Good Samaritan offers to drive him home (and later steals his car); his wife takes him by taxi to a nearby eye clinic where they are ushered past other patients into the doctor's office. Within a day the man's wife, the taxi driver, the doctor and his patients, and the car thief have all succumbed to blindness. As the epidemic spreads, the government panics and begins quarantining victims in an abandoned mental asylum-guarded by soldiers with orders to shoot anyone who tries to escape. So begins Portuguese author José Saramago's gripping story of humanity under siege, written with a dearth of paragraphs, limited punctuation, and embedded dialogue minus either quotation marks or attribution. At first this may seem challenging, but the style actually contributes to the narrative's building tension, and to the reader's involvement.


Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (19 of 19), Read 10 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2001 10:14 PM I'm not far from the end of 'Blindness' now, and for awhile I've tried to figure out what Saramago really means by the word 'blindness'. I'm sure the entire novel is allegorical. Is this really the story of man's blindness to the terrible things that happen in life, just as these people in the book are blind to the terrible things happening in the asylum? In a way, 'Blindness' reminds me of a Stephen King novel. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (20 of 32), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Thursday, October 11, 2001 07:14 PM Beej, I agree with you that this must be allegorical, but I was thinking more of society's blindness and indifference to the needs of humanity. MAP
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (21 of 32), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 11, 2001 10:10 PM MAP, yes, I think so, too. And I think this book is frightening in its portrayal of how quickly people can become so completely uncivilized once human dignity is dismissed. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (22 of 32), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Saturday, October 13, 2001 04:23 PM Oh my. I just finished this book and am blown away by feelings I cannot define. I keep wondering what sort of allegorical message I'm supposed to come away with, and all I can come up with right now is that there is no comparable message. Instead, there is only human nature. More complex than we can ever understand, for better or worse. Best book I've read all year, without a doubt. Anne
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (23 of 32), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 04:14 PM I just finished this one myself. This is a wonderful book, once you get past the lack of paragraphs and conventional punctuation. For those of you who write, can you please explain to me why an author would choose to take that approach? As several have mentioned, you get (almost) used to the run-on paragraphs fairly quickly. Much more important is what this author has to say and the beautiful way in which he expresses it. In many ways this is a very discouraging book. The story shows how people all too soon degenerate into animal behavior. But some of the characters rise above the squalor and terror that surround them. The doctor's wife, for example, is truly inspirational. Other characters show signs of true humanity, such as the girl with the dark glasses who becomes a mother figure to the boy who squints. PLOT SPOILER ***************************** For me the most haunting image in a book full of them is the church at the end of the book, where all the statues and the pictures of Christ and the saints have their eyes covered. This strikes me as a rebellion against God, who watches humanity suffer, but does nothing. If we can't see, you shouldn't be able to either, the person who covered the eyes seems to have decided. At the end of the book, the doctor and his wife have a conversation. The doctor's wife, the heroine of the story, says people didn't "go blind," they "are blind." "Blind, but seeing," her husband replies. "Blind people who can see, but do not see (italics added)." (As with most of the conversation, it is difficult to say who precisely is speaking which lines.) Perhaps this is the message of the book, that we choose to ignore so much of the misery that goes on around us so that we can be safe in our own little words. And is that really so bad? I'm not sure. After all the doctor's wife nearly goes mad with the burden of seeing all that is really happening. Ann
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (24 of 32), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 04:34 PM The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind1568 BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder Tempera on canvas, 86 x 154 cm Galleria Nazionale, Naples Ruth "Citizen! Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry—all of it—is a trip into the unknown. " Vladimir Mayakovksy
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (25 of 32), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 05:55 PM If these were Saramago's blind, I'd expect them to be in tatters and covered with excrement...a still-chilling thought. Anne
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (26 of 32), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 06:14 PM Ann, I've been thinking a bit on Saramago's choice to write this way. Is it always this way? I read Baltazar and Blimunda, but I've forgotten. This style seemed to me to fit the subject of blindness very well, one sentence following another, almost as if they were afraid to let go, almost like the people in Breughel's painting. But if he always writes this way, that kind of knocks that hypothesis into a cocked teapot. Anne, if Breughel's blind are reasonably clean now, just watch. Sooner or later they're going to fall into the cesspit. Ruth "Citizen! Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry—all of it—is a trip into the unknown. " Vladimir Mayakovksy
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (27 of 32), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 07:45 PM Ruth, He wrote much the same way in Baltazar and Blimunda, except that the latter has a lot more long descriptive passages and a kind of omniscient first person narrator. He runs the dialog together in both books. After awhile you figure out that a capital letter usually indicates that a new person is speaking. These conversations give his book a kind of breathless quality. One character speaks a few lines, followed by another, answered by the first, etc. There are few long speeches. I loved the originality and daring of this book. Although we never learn any of the characters names, we feel we know them well by the end of the book. Much of the subject matter is revolting -- filth, barbarity, raping, murder, etc. -- and yet the writing was so good and the characters so touching that it was difficult to put this book down. Ann
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (28 of 32), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 08:30 PM I agree, Ann. This was a terrific book, one I shall never forget. And all the time I was reading it, I kept seeing Breughel's Parable of the Blind. Now about the doctor's wife..(Oh, I do think it's nice that the doctor's wife seems to be the heroine. Generally, we get such a bad rap.)...I think she' was left sighted so that we would have someone's eyes to see the scene through, so we wouldn't be left fumbling in the dark like everyone else. So she's a literary device. But she's much more than that, don't you think? I'm interested in others' thoughts on this. Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (29 of 32), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 10:54 PM Ruth, Yes, I agree that one character had to retain her sight in order to make the novel work, and I also agree that she was much more than a literary device. Her attitude towards her husband and the girl with the glasses was almost saintly. :) And yet, she seemed very down to earth and real to me. She was a character who became stronger and better through adversity, even though at times the burden almost broke her. Very few of us could behave as well as she did under the same circumstances. ***PLOT SPOILER*** Do you think it was inevitable that Saramago made her go blind just as the others were regaining their sight? There was a lot of foreshadowing that eventually she would lose her sight too, but as a reader I hated to see it happen. Did it tie up things just a bit too neatly? What does everyone else think? Ann
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (30 of 32), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Sunday, October 14, 2001 11:24 PM Ann, I didn't interpret the ending that way. Then she lifted he head up to the sky and saw everything white, milky white, It's my turn, she thought. Fear made her quickly lower her eyes. The city was still there. I believe she still feared the blindness, but she could still see the city. Any other thoughts? The scene that made such a huge impression on me was when the women were on the balcony in the rain, and the girl with the dark glasses and the wife of the first blind man were telling her how beautiful the doctor's wife was. That was such a powerful scene. The writing pattern worked to catch me up in the intensity of the story. I had to force myself to slow down in order to savor the beauty of the writing. And I agree that the ploy of not using names was to the reader's benefit. It helped us to associate the characters with attributes that we might otherwise not "see." Anne "Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are."--the girl with the dark glasses
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (31 of 32), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 12:41 AM Yes, that rain scene on the balcony was almost lyrical wasn't it? But I'm not sure about that business of our seeing the attributes more clearly because the person isn't name. Terms like "doctor's wife," or "woman with the dark glasses," don't give us any more insight than "Pamela," or "Lucinda." Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (32 of 32), Read 11 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 08:00 AM I didn't think she went blind either. For some reason, she was immune to this but it was never explained why or how. I was a bit disappointed that this was not revealed to us. I think one of the reasons the names were not told was to give us a feeling of a universal affliction. As in most major crises, we often don't know names, we are more involved in the crises itself, rather than the individuals affected. Saramago gets us somewhat involved in the individual's stories but as a whole, at least to me, its the magnitude of the disease he most wants us to center on. I'm curious as to what others here think of the fact that the blindness was 'white'. To me, white is the symbol of purity. and I think, possibly, that has great meaning within the allegorical context. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (33 of 46), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 12:22 PM I didn't mind that there was no explanation as to why the doctor's wife didn't go blind. There was no explanation as to why the others did go blind. If this had been science fiction, the explanations would have been there, but in this book we're focussed on other things. As to why the blindness was white. At first I thought it was just to make it differ from regular blindness. Then I did a little brainstorming. In pigments, white is no color, black is all colors mixed. It's just the opposite in visible light. White is all colors of light mixed, black is no light. White is light, black is dark. Can anyone else add to this list? Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (34 of 46), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 12:37 PM I saw the white as a symbol of purity.. sort of a purification from having to experience the awfulness in life. Throughout this novel, the words to 'Amazing Grace' kept running through my mind. I have no idea why this song meshed with this book for me. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (35 of 46), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 02:03 PM Out of curiosity, am I the only one who thought the doctor's wife became blind at the end? I agree that the last line "The city was still there" could mean that she saw it when she looked down, but then what was the significance of her seeing everything white when she looked up to the sky? For me, black means absence; the whiteness meant that the things were still actually there, but the light was so blinding that the people could not discern them. Ann
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (36 of 46), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 02:08 PM I was sitting firmly on the fence about the doctor's wife at the end. Was she blind or wasn't she? I couldn't tell. Perhaps this was a central question that Saramago meant to leave unanswered. Why would you think that would be? Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (37 of 46), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 09:22 PM Ann, I thought that the doctor's wife could see at the end as well. I think that the sky was white as it is sometimes, so she was worried that it was her turn, as she said. But the last line tells me that she could still see the city, I keep thinking about the church scene where all of the saints had on blindfolds or there was white paint across the eyes in the paintings. The doctor's wife said that only one statue of a woman didn't have a blindfold. This was the woman whose eyes had been gouged out, and she was carrying her eyes. I felt that this woman represented the doctor's wife. She didn't experience the white blindness, but she was suffering because she was the eyes of everyone else. It was as if she were carrying her eyes before her. I also felt that at one point, the doctor's wife was thinking about gouging her own eyes out when she found the scissors. Did anyone else get that feeling? I found it interesting that the doctor felt that life would return to normal quickly. He was hoping to remove the cataract from the eye of the man with the patch. To me, it seemed unlikely that the return to normalcy would happen soon. I kept thinking about the collapse of the financial institutions and the lack of services. Jane
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (38 of 46), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 09:50 PM Jane, good note. That church scene was incredibly powerful. She not only suffered because she was the eyes for them all, but she also knew this would happen. she went into this, well... with her eyes wide open, so to speak. But, what choice did she have but to let them know she was not blind? who do you suppose suffered more, the ones who could not see or the one who could see? I was soo worried they would end up eating the dog of tears. Jane, you said earlier that, as you read this, your eyes began to bother you. As I read this, I had the recurring urge to wash my feet. I have a REAL 'thing' about clean feet and all that excrement they continuously walked through got to me. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (39 of 46), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 10:06 PM I,too, was afraid they were going eat that poor dog. I love that "name," it's more resonant than the "names" of all the people. "The Dog of Tears," wow. Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (40 of 46), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 10:16 PM The "names' by which they referred to one another intrigued me. When you think of it, all surnames evolved within new societies from either professions or personal descriptions. And so, as a new 'society' the same seemed to be happening here. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (41 of 46), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 10:22 PM By the way, Ruth, that Bruegel painting you posted is very emotionally stirring and appropriate for this story. Its exactly as I pictured these poor people as they were herded into the 'pseudo-concentration camp'. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (42 of 46), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 11:04 PM Jane, I liked your comparison of the doctor's wife to Lucy, patron saint of the blind. (My sister has a little Lucy statue on her dresser, and I admit it cracked me up to see the eyes on the plate in front of her!But now I have extreme respect!) Given the choice, I imagine I'd prefer to be sighted in a blind world than blind with all the others.The horrors would be different, no less, no worse, but I'd feel less vulnerable. Maybe. Anne
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (43 of 46), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, October 15, 2001 11:57 PM Jane, Excellent observation about the saint carrying her eyes. Anne, I too would choose to be sighted, even though I believe that the doctor's wife experienced more horror than the other characters. This was a fable. In real life, I wonder if the people who had been born blind or been blind for many years would take over and get things organized. These people would certainly know how to compensate for their lack of sight better. What do you think? Ann
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (44 of 46), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2001 09:41 PM I am enjoying everyone's notes. I ,too, would prefer to keep my eyesight, and Beej, I know how you feel about the clean feet. I kept hoping that they would all get a chance to bathe, because I think that is one of the great luxuries of the modern world: to bathe every single day. I recently heard from my mother-in-law who was talking to a woman missionary who recently returned from Afghanistan. According to this woman, the Taliban has told women that they can't bathe at all! During the church scene, I kept wondering if the doctor's wife pulled all the blindfolds off the statues, would the people regain their sight? That was before I knew the ending. This book shows how much misery the human spirit can endure. I guess that the concentration camp survivors really are a testament to this spirit. It makes me wonder how much I could survive, given my pampered upbringing. By pampered, I mean that I was raised in comfort, not necessarily in luxury. Jane
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (45 of 46), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2001 12:08 AM And, like Lord of the Flies it shows us how thin a veneer is civilization. Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (46 of 46), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, October 18, 2001 07:07 AM I've enjoyed everyone's notes. What a powerful book; one that invaded my dreams last night. Anne, you picked the scene I liked best, too, the balcony scene. I thought the water-drinking scene was powerful, too. Like a church ritual, a blessing. What did people think about the hellish basement? Why was there a light down there? And why did this finally overcome the doctor's wife. It seems to me she had seen worse. Sherry
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (47 of 47), Read 0 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@home.com Date: Thursday, October 18, 2001 11:30 AM I've only read a few of the notes here, and I've only started re-reading the book. It is, without a doubt the best book I read the year it was published, and still one of the best and most memorable books I've ever read. And since some of the impressions and ideas I got during that first reading remain, I'll venture to comment on a couple of things that have come up here. I remember thinking, when I first noticed that none of the characters would be named, that this was just fantastic. Except for Russian novels, names can be the worst part of reading a foreign book to me. I tend to scan past names that are unfamiliar or difficult to me, so that in the end I can easily lose track of individuals within novels. I had no trouble of that sort in Blindness. By the end, though, I thought Saramago's decision to eliminate names made the book completely universal; if the book had been about Jane and Dick, you'd read it picturing America, and adding elements from your experience and imagination. If it were about Maria and Juan you'd have another picture and another set of notions. Ditto Irina and Vladimir, and so on and so on. I was totally blown away by the notion of "white" blindness. During both the first reading and this one, I find myself trying to "see" that, when I'm reading or at night, when I put the book down and turn out the lights. I'm obsessed by the concept. Jane, I remember having exactly the same thought, that removing the blindfolds would restore the others' sight. For the record, the second reading is better than the first, even! I wouldn't have thought it possible. Tonya
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (48 of 56), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@home.com Date: Thursday, October 18, 2001 02:03 PM Found this on the web: From THE INDEPENDENT October 9th 1998: His best work, Blindness, is a disturbing allegory about social meltdown. "This blindness isn't a real blindness - it's a blindness of rationality," he said recently. "We're rational beings, but we don't behave rationally. If we did, there'd be no starvation in the world." I enjoyed the entire article: http://www.portembassy.gla.ac.uk/info/saramago.html
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (49 of 56), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, October 18, 2001 03:43 PM Tonya, Thanks for nominating this book and for the link to that article. Good point about the relationship between the lack of proper names and the universality of the characters. It certainly makes sense now that you have mentioned it. Sherry, the doctor's wife was counting on that food supply in the basement. Without it, it appeared that they would all starve to death. I think the realization that it was gone, coupled with the horrible evidence of how these people had died, made her become unhinged. Ann
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (50 of 56), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, October 18, 2001 05:19 PM Ann, to me there seemed to be more to it. There was this eery light coming from the basement. What was that? It seemed like a metaphor for hell -- the culmination of all the evil that was done, whether on purpose or by accident. What she did was not evil, but it resulted in a terrible tragedy. Who would have thought that eating a sausage could cause such trouble? Sherry
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (51 of 56), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: S.F. Strahan Date: Thursday, October 18, 2001 06:55 PM I read this book back in the spring (because I just couldn't wait). It has stayed with me in rather vivid detail though. I, too, thought the doctor's wife went blind at the end. One thing I thought of as I read the book was an old science fiction novel (good book, made into a really hokey movie) The Day Of The Triffids by John Wyndham. That book, too, as I recall, had some very realistic scenes of the panicky people and the way society fell apart quickly when everyone went blind. Moving from place to place, scavenging, etc. Of course that book, written some decades ago, was no where near as brutal and graphic as Blindness and it had alien predators (triffids) rather than human predators. Still, Blindness made me think of it again after all these years...there can't be all that many books written about the whole world mysteriously going blind at the same time. I think books like these show that civilization as we know it is more vulnerable to disruption than we think it is and that human beings are resourceful and resilient in the wake of disaster. At least that is what I'd *like* to take away from Blindness. The violence and brutality are what have lingered distastefully in my mind over the months since I read it. It's a grim little book. ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (52 of 56), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Friday, October 19, 2001 06:58 PM What a relentlessly immediate, disturbing, horrible, beautiful book this is. I'll have to let it sink in for a while before I can say more, but I'm enjoying everyone's notes. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (53 of 56), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, October 19, 2001 07:06 PM I'm as bowled over as you are, Dale. There's just so much to think about. And I'm sure there're all sorts of symbols and metaphors we're missing. Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (54 of 56), Read 9 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Friday, October 19, 2001 09:59 PM Sherry, I haven't gone back to check, but I thought that the light under the door was supposed to be caused by the rotting bodies that had fallen down the stairs. These bodies created a kind of gas like swamp gas that was burning. It was a hellish scene. Jane
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (55 of 56), Read 7 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, October 19, 2001 10:01 PM That was the scene as I understood it, too, Jane. Interesting that it was DOWN, and it was (as you say) HELLISH. Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (56 of 56), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, October 20, 2001 07:17 AM I didn't know bodies would do that, but I didn't think Saramego would have anything supernatural representing hell. He didn't need to. Well, the blindness was sort of supernatural. Sherry
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (57 of 64), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 07:20 PM As if BLINDNESS weren't enough of an emotional juggernaut on its own, reading it against the backdrop of this week's current bio-events has been downright eerie. I don't know where to start in saying how much I admire Saramago's achievement here. The fact that he maintains occasional flashes of dark humor and never goes maudlin or preachy during such a horrible odyssey is part of it. Another miracle to me is the simplicity and beauty with which the author renders their return to "normal" life after their escape from the camp. Ordinary pleasures like drinking clean water or standing naked in the rain take on an exalted, almost holy, quality. This book's going to stay in my mind for a long, long time, I think. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (58 of 64), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 06:48 AM Did anyone else besides me have a need to try to imagine what life would be like once everyone had re-gained their sight? I wondered what government would emerge, how the economy would start over, how life would change after the cataclysm. Would it eventually settle down and be like before? How would people react to the government after their treatment in the quarantine facilities? Would any lessons be learned? Sherry
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (59 of 64), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 08:02 AM Sherry, I wondered about that, too. I'll bet it would be a long, long time before any sense of security returned. Not only would it probably be difficult for them not to worry that it could happen again, but also that their government would take care of them. Beej
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (60 of 64), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 11:28 AM As to what comes now for these folks...my first inclination is that, having seen so much chaos and horror up close, they'll become fervent members of what the conservative news commentators are currently referring to, so sneeringly, as "the civil liberties crowd." On the other hand, my guess is that whatever was on that country's law books at the time of the disaster was pretty much irrelevant in practice. Once the excrement hits the fan to that extent, the worst of each individual's human nature easily trumps what's written on a page--or woven into a flag, for that matter, but don't get me started. So do these people become fatalists, going through the motions of life and just hoping to God nothing that terrible happens again? And, about those blindfolded religious icons...{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (61 of 64), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 11:52 AM PS...I hear that federal emergency planners are brainstorming with producers of Hollywood disaster movies about the WORST that can go wrong in a large-scale disaster. My guess is they'd be better off putting Saramago on retainer, instead. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (62 of 64), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 11:56 AM I finally had a chance to re-read this book last week. I have really enjoyed catching up on everyones posts here, fabulous! I repeat what Tonya said, that this is even better the second time around. This stand s out as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all. gail, you asked if this reminded us of another story...well I read a book here a few mmonths ago---that reminded me of Blindness, it was called Waiting For The Barbarians. Another brilliant science fiction novel. Allso, another ood connection was Ruth's with Lord Of The Flies. I don't have much to add to all the amazing thoughts already here...um Dale, your last posts have really got me choked up along with thinking about this novel. And Tonya, thanks for that link and quote---of course I liked it because of the part about how much we are not rational or we won't having starving people---see, things often often get metered by how we treat food! many things to think about love all the thoughts here, and feeling sad too Candy
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (63 of 64), Read 7 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 12:18 PM Candy, I thought of Waiting for the Barbarians too. I forgot to mention it. That was another novel where there were no names. Coetzee "named" his characters in much the same way that Saramego did. Both of these books make me think that man does not need Satan, he contrives his own hell. But he can also create his own hope. Another thought. We were wondering whether the doctor's wife went blind in the end, and it still seems unsure to me. I had a feeling that she almost wanted to go blind. She needed the rest; was tired of being the eyes for everyone. Blindness wouldn't be as frightening if you knew it would pass. Sherry
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (64 of 64), Read 6 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 02:45 PM I wondered about the future, too. But with an attitude much less optimistic than yours, Dale. I'm afraid that having seen so much chaos and horror up close, they'll become fervent members of the conservative grab-what-you-want-and-hang-onto-it-no-matter-the-cost-to-others crowd. In other words, chaos. Not unlike the period of blindness, with the toughest dog making it to the top of the pile, and others willing to follow, willing to give up liberty, just so that the trains will run on time. Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (70 of 77), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, November 07, 2001 12:33 PM William: Glad to have you on Constant Reader. Enjoyed your comments. BLINDNESS is still haunting me, and I have a few questions I'd like to pose to you guys as soon as I can get my mind around them. gail: My library copy (hardcover) of BLINDNESS is 293 pages. I found it to be very fast, and compelling, reading, which kept me up late a couple of nights and then edged into my dreams. I think most any book group could really get its teeth into this. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (71 of 77), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: William Hayes whayes43@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, November 07, 2001 11:22 PM Saramago, old man and old writer both, has important things to say about words and feelings. p. 281ff "You were never more beautiful, said the wife of the first blind man. Words are like that, they deceive, they pile up, it seems they do not know where to go, and suddenly, because of two or three or four that suddenly come out, simple in themselves ... we have the excitement of seeing them come irresistibly to the surface through the skin and the eyes and upsetting the composure of our feelings..., it was as if they were wearing armour, we might say. The doctor's wife has nerves of steel, and yet the doctor's wife is reduced to tears because of a personal pronoun, an adverb, a verb, an adjective, mere grammatical categories, mere labels, just like the two women, the others, indefinite pronouns, they too are crying, they embrace the woman of the whole sentence, three graces beneath the falling rain." This passage stopped my reading still. I have tried to imagine this scene filmed -- who to cast as the "three graces" embodying and bestowing beauty and charm -- and have realized both the richness and the poverty of filmic diction: we would hear those five words spoken, we would see the feelings exhibited in response, but we would understand nothing, receive not an iota of insight about the powerful linkage that Saramago posits between those words and those feelings -- or is that just my view?!
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (72 of 77), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, November 07, 2001 11:31 PM I agree absolutely, William. And it's why I'm more of a reader than a movie-goer. With a book I've got both the author's words, and the movie that I see in my head. With a movie I've only got the movie someone else saw in their head. Before I get clobbered by the film lovers here, I will say that there are some wonderful films. But it's different way of doing things. That's a great passage, William, thanks for posting it. I think Blindness is going to top the list of best books of the year for me. Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (73 of 77), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 07:23 AM William, that was my absolute favorite part of the book. Thanks for posting it. This is a book that bears rereading. Sherry
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (74 of 77), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: William Hayes whayes43@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 08:06 PM It is a wonderful book, isn't it. Please let me make another nomination for a scene worth revisiting, namely. the visit of the first blind man, his wife, and the doctor's wife to the apartment where the first two used to live. It begins on p 290 as follows: "I am alone, my family went to look for food, perhaps I should have said the women, but I do not think it would be proper, he paused and then added, Yet you may think that I should know,... I am a writer, we are supposed to know such things." And with these words Saramago begins what is for me a most engaging statement, by a writer, about the struggle to be a writer -- at least in our world. The blind writer says in passing, "a writer manages to acquire in life the patience he needs to write." Patience, indeed, and I thought immediately of the the last line in Milton's sonnet On His Blindness: "They also serve who only stand and wait." The doctor's wife makes two stunning contributions to the scene. First, she raises again the subject of words and feelings, which was the subject of the scene with the three graces. "You are a writer, you have, as you said a moment ago, an obligation to know words, therefore you know that adjectives are of no use to us, if a person kills another, for example, it would be better to state this fact openly, directly, and to trust that the horror of the act,in itself, is so shocking that there is no need for us to say it was horrible, Do you mean that we have more words than we need, I mean that we have too few feelings. Or that we have them but have ceased to use the words they express, And so we lose them." Second, she discovers -- reveals, points to, I'm not sure just how to put it -- the connection between the struggle to live and the struggle to write: "she picked up the written pages, there must have been about twenty, she passed her eye over the tiny handwriting, over the lines which went up and down, over the words inscribed on the whiteness of the page, recorded in blindness, I am only passing through, the writer has said, and these were the signs he had left in passing." The whiteness of the page lying blank before them, filling their eyes with the white blindness, is surely what plagues all who write. And this book, which is many fine things, is surely a metaphor for the lifelong struggle of those among us who acquire the patience in life to endure that plague, to endure that white blindness. I never would have read this book, except for a chance visit to this web site. Thank you all -- it was a gift.
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (75 of 77), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 08:21 PM adjectives are of no use to us....trust that the horror of the act,in itself, is so shocking that there is no need for us to say it was horrible Thanks for pointing out these wonderful little comments on writing, William. And now that you've found us, stick around. Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (76 of 77), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 08:40 PM William, I found that scene very poignant. What a tragedy to be a writer, but have no one able to read your words. And yet, that man kept on writing--- Ann
Topic: BLINDNESS by José Saramago (77 of 77), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 10:33 PM I think that's the point, Ann. Writers write because they are driven to do so, not because there are eyes to read the written word. Anne

 
Jose Saramago
Jose Saramago

 
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