Blindness

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Overview

A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers-among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears-through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation ...

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Overview

A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers-among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears-through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses-and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit. The stunningly powerful novel of man's will to survive against all odds, by the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a shattering work by a literary master."—The Boston Globe
"This is an important book, one that is unafraid to face all of the horrors of the century."—The Washington Post
"Symphonic . . . [There is] a clear-eyed and compassionate acknowledgment of things as they are, a quality that can only honestly be termed wisdom. We should be grateful when it is handed to us in such generous measure."—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
"This is a shattering work by a literary master."—The Boston Globe
"This is an important book, one that is unafraid to face all of the horrors of the century."—The Washington Post
"Symphonic . . . [There is] a clear-eyed and compassionate acknowledgment of things as they are, a quality that can only honestly be termed wisdom. We should be grateful when it is handed to us in such generous measure."—The New York Times Book Review
Independent (London)
A bold piece of work -- almost biblical in scale and style, hauntingly sustained.
Jesse Barrett

More frightening than Stephen King, as unrelenting as a bad dream, José Saramago's Blindness politely rubs our faces in apocalypse. Its detailed history of an unaccountable epidemic of "white blindness" that inundates the nameless inhabitants of a nameless country makes you fear for your own sight: Have the corners of the pages dimmed ever so slightly? Saramago won this year's Nobel Prize for literature, and at 76 his powers have not dimmed: This fable is so unsettling, so limitlessly allegorical -- the Holocaust, AIDS and Bosnia come to mind -- that it feels infinite. "The whole world is right here," one character tells another. Blindness merely amplifies everyone's fundamental helplessness and interdependence and makes plain the lies they tell themselves to get through the day. As a blind ophthalmologist puts it, his useless expertise an emblem of the surplus with which we all burden ourselves, "Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are."

In Saramago's view, that truth is what we cannot bear to see. Strip away the power of our eyes, "the windows to the soul" -- a metaphor with which the author teases us repeatedly -- and what's left, he suggests, is little more than ravenous beasts mauling their competitors in the fight for survival. "Evil ... as everyone knows, has always been the easiest thing to do." The reasoned calm with which Saramago depicts the unspeakable (as society collapses outside its walls, the main characters, the first to go blind, struggle for survival inside the asylum in which they have been quarantined) makes the reader long for mercy, for some release from the suffering. And even when that release comes, when the inmates escape the asylum to wander a world gone blind, it's hard to know what to make of it. Are we better off learning to live with our blindness or glorying in what little we can see? And when sight returns, what seems at first to be a happy ending may be anything but.

A metaphor like "white blindness" might easily seem forced or labored, but Saramago makes it live by focusing on the stubbornly literal; his account of a clump of newly blind people trying to find their way to food or to the bathroom provides some surprisingly gripping passages. While this epidemic has a clear symbolic burden, it's also a real and very inconvenient affliction. Saramago is familiar with this balancing act: he has an affinity for skepticism, and his curling, run-on sentences, some of them lasting several ages, have the dense eventfulness, but rarely the tilt into fantasy, of Gabriel García Márquez's in Autumn of the Patriarch. The result is a minute study of how effortlessly we can be divested of all that we call "humanity," how fear and selfishness conspire to let us do our worst. "God does not deserve to see," thinks the doctor at the book's lowest point, and Saramago's powerful achievement is to make his readers wonder: What have we wrought by choosing so selectively what we can bear to look in the face? -- Salon

James Wood
. . .[T]he story. . .lives in the spread of its particulars, and in the conviction of its allegory. . . .We are all . ..confirming ourselves by closing our eyes and thinking of each other. —The New Republic
Village Voice
. . .[T]his year's most propulsive, and most profound, thriller. . .
Publishers Weekly

Saramago's chilling thriller about an epidemic of "white blindness" that affects everyone in its path is a truly remarkable tale of loss and a metaphor for the horrors of humankind. With such a large and varying cast of characters including young children, a mother and an elderly man, narrator Jonathan Davis gives a truly rousing performance and displays his wide-ranging ability. Each character is original and believable in the face of this unbelievable epidemic. Davis's reading puts his audience in a bright white place, where little is visual save for the listeners' imaginations running wild. Davis's voice paints a vivid portrait. A Harcourt paperback (Reviews, July 13, 1998). (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
To describe as allegory this story of unnamed characters in an unnamed city who are struggling with an undiagnosed epidemic of "white blindness" is both too simple and too complex. Beyond any emblematic purpose, the characters act out life with all its paradoxes and hidden truths. Ultimately, the greater meaning here is the simple story of human frailty and community in the modern world. In searing prose, both complex and minimal, all this and nothing more is revealed. No wonder Saramago won the Nobel prize this year. (LJ 8/98)
Robert Taylor
[Blindness] is a shattering work by a literary master. -- The Boston Globe
Andrew Miller
Saramago is the most tender of writers. . .[he has] a quality that can only honestly be termed wisdom. -- The New York Times Book Review
The Missouri Review
Saramago's fine balance between believable narration and philosophical meditation will pull in the intelligent reader and keep her there...Saramago has created a story and characters that will remain with the reader a very long time.
Kirkus Reviews
The embattled relationships among the people of a city mysteriously struck by an epidemic of blindness form the core of this superb novel by the internationally acclaimed Saramago, the Portugese author of, most recently, The History of the Siege of Lisbon. A driver stalled at a busy intersection suddenly suffers an attack of 'white blindness' (no other color, or any shape, is discernible). The 'false Samaritan' who helps him home and then steals his car is the next victim. A busy ophthalmologist follows, then two of his patients. And on it goes, until the city's afflicted blind are 'quarantined' in an unused mental ward; the guards ensuring their incarceration panic and begin to shoot; and a paternalistic 'Ministry' runs out of strategies to oversee 'an uprooted, exhausted world' in a state of escalating chaos. But then, as abruptly as the catastrophe began, everything changes in a wry denouement suggesting that what we've observed (as it were) amounts to an existential test of these characters' courage and mutual tolerance. But Blindness never feels like a lesson, thanks to Saramago's mastery of plot, urbane narration (complete with irreverent criticisms of its own digressiveness), and resourceful characterizations. All the people are nameless ('the girl with the dark glasses,' 'the boy with the squint'), but we learn an enormous amount about them, and the central figure, the ophthalmologist's wife, who pretends to be blind in order to accompany her husband, is triumphantly employed as both viewpoint character and (as a stunning final irony confirms) 'the leader of the blind.' Echoes of Orwell's 1984 and images hinting at Holocaust experiences enrich the textureof a brilliant allegory that may be as revolutionary in its own way and time as were, say, The Trial and The Plague in theirs. Another masterpiece.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156007757
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Series: Harvest Book Series
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 67,259
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

JOSÉ SARAMAGO (1922–2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Read an Excerpt

Blindness (Movie Tie-In)
By Saramago, Jose
Harvest Books Copyright © 2008 Saramago, Jose
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780156035583



The amber light came on. Two of the cars ahead accelerated before the red light appeared. At the pedestrian crossing the sign of a green man lit up. The people who were waiting began to cross the road, stepping on the white stripes painted on the black surface of the asphalt, there is nothing less like a zebra, however, that is what it is called. The motorists kept an impatient foot on the clutch, leaving their cars at the ready, advancing, retreating like nervous horses that can sense the whiplash about to be inflicted. The pedestrians have just finished crossing but the sign allowing the cars to go will be delayed for some seconds, some people maintain that this delay, while apparently so insignificant, has only to be multiplied by the thousands of traffic lights that exist in the city and by the successive changes of their three colours to produce one of the most serious causes of traffic jams or bottlenecks, to use the more current term. The green light came on at last, the cars moved off briskly, but then it became clear that not all of them were equally quick off the mark. The car at the head of the middle lane has stopped, there must be some mechanical fault, a loose accelerator pedal, a gear lever that has stuck, problem with the suspension, jammed brakes, breakdown in the electric circuit, unless he has simply run out of gas, it would not be the first time such a thing has happened. The next group of pedestrians to gather at thecrossing see the driver of the stationary car wave his arms behind the windshield, while the cars behind him frantically sound their horns. Some drivers have already got out of their cars, prepared to push the stranded vehicle to a spot where it will not hold up the traffic, they beat furiously on the closed windows, the man inside turns his head in their direction, first to one side then the other, he is clearly shouting something, to judge by the movements of his mouth he appears to be repeating some words, not one word but three, as turns out to be the case when someone finally manages to open the door, I am blind. Who would have believed it. Seen merely at a glance, the man’s eyes seem healthy, the iris looks bright, luminous, the sclera white, as compact as porcelain. The eyes wide open, the wrinkled skin of the face, his eyebrows suddenly screwed up, all this, as anyone can see, signifies that he is distraught with anguish. With a rapid movement, what was in sight has disappeared behind the man’s clenched fists, as if he were still trying to retain inside his mind the final image captured, a round red light at the traffic lights. I am blind, I am blind, he repeated in despair as they helped him to get out of the car, and the tears welling up made those eyes which he claimed were dead, shine even more. These things happen, it will pass you’ll see, sometimes it’s nerves, said a woman. The lights had already changed again, some inquisitive passersby had gathered around the group, and the drivers further back who did not know what was going on, protested at what they thought was some common accident, a smashed headlight, a dented fender, nothing to justify this upheaval, Call the police, they shouted and get that old wreck out of the way. The blind man pleaded, Please, will someone take me home. The woman who had suggested a case of nerves was of the opinion that an ambulance should be summoned to transport the poor man to the hospital, but the blind man refused to hear of it, quite unnecessary, all he wanted was that someone might accompany him to the entrance of the building where he lived. It’s close by and you could do me no greater favour. And what about the car, asked someone. Another voice replied, The key is in the ignition, drive the car on to the pavement. No need, intervened a third voice, I’ll take charge of the car and accompany this man home. There were murmurs of approval. The blind man felt himself being taken by the arm, Come, come with me, the same voice was saying to him. They eased him into the front passenger seat, and secured the safety belt. I can’t see, I can’t see, he murmured, still weeping. Tell me where you live, the man asked him. Through the car windows voracious faces spied, avid for some news. The blind man raised his hands to his eyes and gestured, Nothing, it’s as if I were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea. But blindness isn’t like that, said the other fellow, they say that blindness is black, Well I see everything white, That little woman was probably right, it could be a matter of nerves, nerves are the very devil, No need to talk to me about it, it’s a disaster, yes a disaster, Tell me where you live please, and at the same time the engine started up. Faltering, as if his lack of sight had weakened his memory, the blind man gave his address, then he said, I have no words to thank you, and the other replied, Now then, don’t give it another thought, today it’s your turn, tomorrow it will be mine, we never know what might lie in store for us, You’re right, who would have thought, when I left the house this morning, that something as dreadful as this was about to happen. He was puzzled that they should still be at a standstill, Why aren’t we moving, he asked, The light is on red, replied the other. From now on he would no longer know when the light was red. As the blind man had said, his home was nearby. But the pavements were crammed with vehicles, they could not find a space to park and were obliged to look for a spot in one of the side streets. There, because of the narrowness of the pavement, the door on the passenger’s side would have been little more than a hand’s-breadth from the wall, so in order to avoid the discomfort of dragging himself from one seat to the other with the brake and steering wheel in the way, the blind man had to get out before the car was parked. Abandoned in the middle of the road, feeling the ground shifting under his feet, he tried to suppress the sense of panic that welled up inside him. He waved his hands in front of his face, nervously, as if he were swimming in what he had described as a milky sea, but his mouth was already opening to let out a cry for help when at the last minute he felt the other’s hand gently touch him on the arm, Calm down, I’ve got you. They proceeded very slowly, afraid of falling, the blind man dragged his feet, but this caused him to stumble on the uneven pavement, Be patient, we’re almost there, the other murmured, and a little further ahead, he asked, Is there anyone at home to look after you, and the blind man replied, I don’t know, my wife won’t be back from work yet, today it so happened that I left earlier only to have this hit me. You’ll see, it isn’t anything serious, I’ve never heard of anyone suddenly going blind, And to think I used to boast that I didn’t even need glasses, Well it just goes to show. They had arrived at the entrance to the building, two women from the neighbourhood looked on inquisitively at the sight of their neighbour being led by the arm but neither of them thought of asking, Have you got something in your eye, it never occurred to them nor would he have been able to reply, Yes, a milky sea. Once inside the building, the blind man said, Many thanks, I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you, I can manage on my own now, No need to apologise, I’ll come up with you, I wouldn’t be easy in my mind if I were to leave you here. They got into the narrow elevator with some difficulty, What floor do you live on, On the third, you cannot imagine how grateful I am, Don’t thank me, today it’s you, Yes, you’re right, tomorrow it might be you. The elevator came to a halt, they stepped out on to the landing, Would you like me to help you open the door, Thanks, that’s something I think I can do for myself. He took from his pocket a small bunch of keys, felt them one by one along the serrated edge, and said, It must be this one, and feeling for the keyhole with the fingertips of his left hand, he tried to open the door. It isn’t this one, Let me have a look, I’ll help you. The door opened at the third attempt. Then the blind man called inside, Are you there, no one replied, and he remarked, Just as I was saying, she still hasn’t come back. Stretching out his hands, he groped his way along the corridor, then he came back cautiously, turning his head in the direction where he calculated the other fellow would be, How can I thank you, he said, It was the least I could do, said the good Samaritan, no need to thank me, and added, Do you want me to help you to get settled and keep you company until your wife arrives. This zeal suddenly struck the blind man as being suspect, obviously he would not invite a complete stranger to come in who, after all, might well be plotting at that very moment how to overcome, tie up and gag the poor defenceless blind man, and then lay hands on anything of value. There’s no need, please don’t bother, he said, I’m fine, and as he slowly began closing the door, he repeated, There’s no need, there’s no need. Hearing the sound of the elevator descending he gave a sigh of relief. With a mechanical gesture, forgetting the state in which he found himself, he drew back the lid of the peep-hole and looked outside. It was as if there were a white wall on the other side. He could feel the contact of the metallic frame on his eyebrow, his eyelashes brushed against the tiny lens, but he could not see out, an impenetrable whiteness covered everything. He knew he was in his own home, he recognised the smell, the atmosphere, the silence, he could make out the items of furniture and objects simply by touching them, lightly running his fingers over them, but at the same time it was as if all of this were already dissolving into a kind of strange dimension, without direction or reference points, with neither north nor south, below nor above. Like most people, he had often played as a child at pretending to be blind, and, after keeping his eyes closed for five minutes, he had reached the conclusion that blindness, undoubtedly a terrible affliction, might still be relatively bearable if the unfortunate victim had retained sufficient memory, not just of the colours, but also of forms and planes, surfaces and shapes, assuming of course, that this one was not born blind. He had even reached the point of thinking that the darkness in which the blind live was nothing other than the simple absence of light, that what we call blindness was something that simply covered the appearance of beings and things, leaving them intact behind their black veil. Now, on the contrary, here he was, plunged into a whiteness so luminous, so total, that it swallowed up rather than absorbed, not just the colours, but the very things and beings, thus making them twice as invisible.   Copyright © José Saramago and Editorial Caminho, 1995 English translation copyright © Professor Juan Sager, 1997 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Continues...

Excerpted from Blindness (Movie Tie-In) by Saramago, Jose Copyright © 2008 by Saramago, Jose. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

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First Chapter


Chapter One

    The amber light came on. Two of the cars ahead accelerated before the red light appeared. At the pedestrian crossing the sign of a green man lit up. The people who were waiting began to cross the road, stepping on the white stripes painted on the black surface of the asphalt, there is nothing less like a zebra, however, that is what it is called. The motorists kept an impatient foot on the clutch, leaving their cars at the ready, advancing, retreating like nervous horses that can sense the whiplash about to be inflicted. The pedestrians have just finished crossing but the sign allowing the cars to go will be delayed for some seconds, some people maintain that this delay, while apparently so insignificant, has only to be multiplied by the thousands of traffic lights that exist in the city and by the successive changes of their three colours to produce one of the most serious causes of traffic jams or bottlenecks, to use the more current term.

    The green light came on at last, the cars moved off briskly, but then it became clear that not all of them were equally quick off the mark. The car at the head of the middle lane has stopped, there must be some mechanical fault, a loose accelerator pedal, a gear lever that has stuck, problem with the suspension, jammed brakes, breakdown in the electric circuit, unless he has simply run out of gas, it would not be the first time such a thing has happened. The next group of pedestrians to gather at the crossing see the driver of the stationary car wave his arms behind the windshield, while the cars behind him frantically sound their horns. Some drivers have already got out of their cars, prepared to push the stranded vehicle to a spot where it will not hold up the traffic, they beat furiously on the closed windows, the man inside turns his head in their direction, first to one side then the other, he is clearly shouting something, to judge by the movements of his mouth he appears to be repeating some words, not one word but three, as turns out to be the case when someone finally manages to open the door, I am blind.

    Who would have believed it. Seen merely at a glance, the man's eyes seem healthy, the iris looks bright, luminous, the sclera white, as compact as porcelain. The eyes wide open, the wrinkled skin of the face, his eyebrows suddenly screwed up, all this, as anyone can see, signifies that he is distraught with anguish. With a rapid movement, what was in sight has disappeared behind the man's clenched fists, as if he were still trying to retain inside his mind the final image captured, a round red light at the traffic lights. I am blind, I am blind, he repeated in despair as they helped him to get out of the car, and the tears welling up made those eyes which he claimed were dead, shine even more. These things happen, it will pass you'll see, sometimes it's nerves, said a woman. The lights had already changed again, some inquisitive passersby had gathered around the group, and the drivers further back who did not know what was going on, protested at what they thought was some common accident, a smashed headlight, a dented fender, nothing to justify this upheaval, Call the police, they shouted and get that old wreck out of the way. The blind man pleaded, Please, will someone take me home. The woman who had suggested a case of nerves was of the opinion that an ambulance should be summoned to transport the poor man to the hospital, but the blind man refused to hear of it, quite unnecessary; all he wanted was that someone might accompany him to the entrance of the building where he lived. It's close by and you could do me no greater favour. And what about the car, asked someone. Another voice replied, The key is in the ignition, drive the car on to the pavement. No need, intervened a third voice, I'll take charge of the car and accompany this man home. There were murmurs of approval. The blind man felt himself being taken by the arm, Come, come with me, the same voice was saying to him. They eased him into the front passenger seat, and secured the safety belt. I can't see, I can't see, he murmured, still weeping. Tell me where you live, the man asked him. Through the car windows voracious faces spied, avid for some news. The blind man raised his hands to his eyes and gestured, Nothing, it's as if I were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea. But blindness isn't like that, said the other fellow, they say that blindness is black, Well I see everything white, That little woman was probably right, it could be a matter of nerves, nerves are the very devil, No need to talk to me about it, it's a disaster, yes a disaster, Tell me where you live please, and at the same time the engine started up. Faltering, as if his lack of sight had weakened his memory, the blind man gave his address, then he said, I have no words to thank you, and the other replied, Now then, don't give it another thought, today it's your turn, tomorrow it will be mine, we never know what might lie in store for us, You're right, who would have thought, when I left the house this morning, that something as dreadful as this was about to happen. He was puzzled that they should still be at a standstill, Why aren't we moving, he asked, The light is on red, replied the other. From now on he would no longer know when the light was red.

[Chapter One Continues...]

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Reading Group Guide

1. What is Saramago's purpose in presenting the doctor's wife as the only person not afflicted by the white blindness? In what ways, and in what stages, does she grow in terms of both political and moral authority? What roles does she assume? How may we explain, in particular, her assumption of responsibility as guide and protector? Why does she experience a feeling of intense, unbearable loneliness at just that moment when the others begin to regain their sight?

2. What is the purpose of Saramago's use of proverbs, folk sayings, and cliches throughout the novel? How does the characters' new reality affect their former habits of expression and create new habits of expression? What are the implications of the narrator's later comment that "if sayings are to retain any meaning and to continue to be used they have to adapt to the times"?

3. As the white blindness spreads, the Minister of Health decides on the necessity of quarantine "both from the point of view of the merely sanitary aspects of the case and from that of the social implications and their politi-cal consequences." What "social implications" and "political consequences" do you think the minister has in mind? What social and political conse-quences does the quarantine itself have?

4. Waking to her second day in the mental hospital, the doctor's wife thinks, "what fragile walls we'd make" against our enemies. What "fragile walls" are erected, demolished, or made useless by the blindness? What frag-ile walls in your life and community would be threatened by a catastrophe similar to the white blindness?

5. "The whole world is right here," the doctor's wife says to her husband on the morning of theirfourth day in the hospital. In what ways does the mental hospital contain "the whole world"? To what extent may we read Blindness as a commentary on the excesses and horrors of the world of the twentieth century?

6. What meanings can we attribute to the white blindness? To what extent does it represent ignorance, political ineptitude, the absence of per-sonal and social morality, and the failure of imagination? What other mean-ings can you suggest? How does the "harsh, cruel, implacable kingdom of the blind" differ, if at all, from our everyday world?

7. Why does Saramago provide no names for his characters and their city and country? What are the effects of this namelessness?

8. In what ways do the central characters' experiences lead them to a new kind of interdependence and, at the same time, a new awareness of the human potential for selfishness and cruelty? How do both contribute to the emergence or re-emergence of tenderness and love?

9. What pattern emerges in respect to the breakdown of order and of the various systems that we all take for granted -- civic, social, political, and so on? How do individuals, identifiable groups, and institutions of authority contribute to that breakdown? How does the structure of society itself alter to fit a world in which virtually everyone is blind?

10. How do the women in the novel differ from the men in their attitude toward the blindness and the resulting conditions of life? What moral, emo-tional, psychological, and imaginative capacities do the women possess that the men lack?

11. Variants of the phrase "when the beast dies, the poison dies with it" recur in the novel. And we are told that "the mind suffers delusions when it succumbs to the monsters it has itself created." What beasts and monsters, actual and delusional, are the subjects of this novel?

12. In response to the newly interned old man's report on conditions out-side the hospital, the doctor comments, "Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are. . . . People, too, no one will be there to see them." In what ways might this be true, and to what degree?

13. At the very end of the novel, the doctor tells his wife: "I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see." What does he mean? How is this judgment related to the first blind man's report to the doctor that his going blind was "More like a light going on"?

14. How does the novel illustrate the doctor's wife's observation that "what is right and what is wrong are simply different ways of understanding our relationships with others"?

15. One reviewer has noted that Blindness conveys "the disturbing notion... that full humanity is achieved only through suffering." Do you agree or dis-agree with this statement, in respect to both Saramago's novel and actual life? Which characters achieve a fuller humanity because of their suffering?

Copyright © 1999. Published in the U.S. by Harcourt, Inc.

Written by Hal Hager & Associates, Sommerville, New Jersey
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 246 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    CLASSIC

    I loved the premise of Blindness. It had a great flow to it, excellent character development (though highly unconventional), and a story that kept one guessing most of the way through.
    Though the ending was somewhat predictable, some of the scenes completely off base on human reactions, and the action often simplistic, the story itself had a cohesiveness that keep me locked in the whole time. Some have described the story as if it were an interpretation of a painting, attributing many facets to it that were not obvious. Maybe I am just shallow, but though it was a great read, I would not rank it up there with "War and Peace"!
    I read the book in two sittings, and will do it again. That said, the style of writing best associated with an internet chat room, missing all writing conventions except periods for the end of a sentence, makes the book difficult to read. Though, as you become accustomed to the style it gets easier, it creates confusion as you often find yourself rereading parts to figure out who was speaking, and trying to decide if it was a thought or a spoken word. The minimum amount of paragraphs, even though action, conversations and thoughts among many people take place in one paragraph, make following the threads of the story difficult. Many have said that this was intentional, and maybe it was, but I fail to see how it would have hurt the story to follow normal writing rules. Unfortunately, the sequel "Seeing" is done the same way, and makes even less sense!
    All that said, if you like apocalyptic science fiction with an intellectual bent, this is a great book to work your way through. It even has a slight feel of Asimov to it.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2011

    I did not like this book!

    I'm actually surprised that everyone gave it such good reviews. The translation was awkward, which made it very hard to read.


    I also kept waiting for someone to be a little more self sufficient! They all walked around like sheep and did nothing to help themselves. They relied on the only sighted person in the story. It was frustrating!
    They couldn't cook because there weren't any microwaves? Ahhhh...what did we do before microwaves? The whole book was like that! Sorry, I just was surprised at how weak it was. Good idea that fell flat.

    But, what do I know, he won a nobel prize for it!

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2011

    Awkward translation

    A friend recommended this book to me. The premise of the story is interesting and one I would normally like. However, the translation is not very good. The phrasing is awkward and there is not a good use of punctuation. Some of the sentences are more like paragraphs. I found it hard to follow. I rarely put a book down once I start it, but I put this one down after only about 30 pages. I may pick it up again when I have more patience to wade through it because I do think the story sounds really intriguing.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2001

    Another literary work of a genius!!!

    Blindness, compells us to believe that the veneer of civilization runs thin. Saramago is a master story teller who has succeeded in exposing the animal, survival instinct we all possess. It intricately follows the plight of six characters brought together by fate in a what can be described as 'a sea of blindess'. A very shocking revelation as to how delicate our perfectly balanced world is and how quickly it comes crumbling down when it doesn't behave the way we expect it to.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 16, 2012

    This is one of my favorite books. It is difficult to get used to

    This is one of my favorite books. It is difficult to get used to the style of writing at first, but once you get used to it, the rest is pretty easy to read. Definitely gives you a glimpse of human nature and how people really are when no one is looking (or seeing). I recommend this to everyone I discuss books with. You should give it a shot!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2012

    Imagine that you're in your car, stopped at a traffic light; sud

    Imagine that you're in your car, stopped at a traffic light; suddenly the whole world goes white and you're blind. This is how Jose Saramago's award-winning novel opens. With a single man struck by blindness. Eventually this blindness spreads to every person he has been in contact with, from the person who helped him home, to his wife, to the eye doctor he saw and all the patients in his office. It spreads rapidly, prompting the government to quarantine all of those who have been blinded and all of those whom have had contact with the blind. An abandoned mental asylum is chosen as the quarantine location. The internees are guarded by soldiers who are terrified that they too will go blind, treating the blind as little more than criminals, with orders to shoot if the sick and contaminated get too close. The rest of the novel tells the story of what happens within the wards of their confinement.

    This novel surprised me. I had previously heard of it, and thought it was something I might like to read, so I was fairly pleased when my book club made it our August selection. What I had not expected was to be hooked from start to finish. I literally sat up until 2:30 in the morning finishing the book, unable to put it down to go to sleep. Even after I did go to sleep, I laid awake thinking of it. Saramago seems to have a very strong grasp upon human nature which made the book feel real. Given today's society, if some medical crisis of this nature were to actually occur, I could easily see that our own collapse would happen in nearly the same fashion he described.

    Saramago's writing style is experimental. He uses almost no punctuation beyond commas and periods with miles of sentences in between. None of the characters are given names, instead referred to by defining characteristics such as the doctor, the first blind man, the car thief, the man with the black eye patch. For some this could be off-putting. For me it was perfect. I thought that the stylization only emphasized the bleak reality of the blind, their lack of identity and the breakdown of civilization into chaos. However, this could deter a lot of readers, which is unfortunate because if you can past that into the real heart of the story, it is completely unforgettable.

    <i>&quot;Then, as if he had just discovered something that he should have known a long time ago, he murmured sadly, This is the stuff we're made of, half indifference and half malice.&quot;</i>

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2012

    The formatting made this book a bit hard to read, though perhaps

    The formatting made this book a bit hard to read, though perhaps only the ebook is affected. There were very few paragraph breaks, and dialogue was not separated, so it was sometimes hard to distinguish when one person stopped talking and another began.

    Aside from these formatting issues, however, I enjoyed this book. It was compelling. For the first portion of the book, it was easier to keep distance, but because of certain plot developments that I shouldn't reveal, the second half came to feel all too real. I even started worrying that I would go blind as well.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2011

    A Book that challenges the way we view our lives...

    The concept of this book was very interesting. What would you do if you went blind? Where would you go? What would you do? This book is a very scary and realistic view of what would happen if everyone faced an epidemic of blindness. A chilling story, but what happens in this book, could very well happen in real life if an event similar to this were to happen. This is a great book in its own sense, but probably not for the faint of heart. Upon completion of this book you will learn to appreciate our ability to see and realize how much we come to depend on it as a society.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Heard a review on NPR... this was not what I expected

    This book is well written and does generate thoughts about what could happen. It's not what I usually have in my pile of books to read but I heard a lady on NPR rave about how this was the only book she had read or would read more than one time and I thought that was a good recommendation. It did make me think about a lot of things I would never have thought about which I suppose a good book will but it was pretty dark (no pun intended) and had a little to much of the gritty details for me.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2010

    A Surrealistic Masterpiece!

    Mr. Saramago manages to destroy the structured society that we all know and believe in. This book is powerful, unique, sad, and disturbing. It touches the philosophical side of all the readers. It's eloquently written with vivid characters that makes you truly "feel" that you are in the novel itself. This is truly one of my favorite books.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    See the world differently

    Perhaps the greatest novel since John Fowles's DANIEL MARTIN. Like Camus's THE PLAGUE, BLINDNESS establishes an extreme situation - in this case, a whole nation becomes blind - and through the situation tells us (the reader) about humanity. The rape scenes in the middle of the book are a little difficult to stomach but worth pushing through to get to the tear-jerking scene in the church, which for whatever reason reminded me of a similar scene at the end THE ATHEIST'S CHURCH (though thankfully that one didn't make me cry). All in all, along with the other novels I've mentioned here, BLINDNESS is one of my favorites.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2009

    Difficult, but worth it!

    I read this book nine years ago, and have never forgotten how powerful the story is, and how difficult it was to read. No matter how horrifying and depressing the characters lives became, I could not put it down. This book will make you think, and is great for group discussions. You won't forget it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    Boring

    Did not understand the story.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2003

    Good ideas, difficult style

    I am an avid reader, and a good one, but I found Saramago's style annoying and unnecessarily difficult. If the style was meant to slow you down, or make you feel like a blind person, okay, I get it, but it also became tedious. Punctuation and the conventions of 'he said, she said' exist for a reason--to clarify words into identifiable sentences with meaning. I do not agree with the business style of today that discourages long sentences--but long sentences lose their meaning without the indicators of punctuation to guide the reader. Perhaps the problem was exacerbated when the translator died before proofreading was done?? In any case, though I appreciated the message that chaos is only a moment away, I found the ending rather simplistic (although how could one end this?) and overall, only finished this book because it's for discussion by my book club.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2002

    A sometimes disturbing yet thoughtful novel

    The novel Blindness really illustrates the difference between sighted and non-sighted. Although there are many blind people all over the world, what would happen if, suddenly, everyone were to go blind? The book is more than a story of universal 'disability' but of government, power, and what would happen if we all had to, basically, start over and live as our clan-living ancestors did thousands of years ago.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014

    Difficult to read - love/hate relationship with this book!

    I loved and hated this book at the same time. If I were going by the story alone, I loved it. It was very intense and I couldn't put it down. The writting style however, made the book far less enjoyable then it could have been. I understand the authour was trying to set a certain tone but I think it worked against him. Some reviewers seem to think this was to be blamed on how the book was translated but I think this was not the case. It was intentionally written this way. I could handle the long run on sentences and strange paragraph structure, but the lack of quotations and clearly defined dialouge drove me nuts! It happened all too often that I was completely immersed in the book, hanging on every word, until i would come upon a lengthy section of dialogue. It was often confusing, trying to keep track of who was speaking or even how many characters were involved in the conversation. More than once i had to go back and re-read several pages to make sense of it all. Not necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it completely disrupted the flow of the book form me. It just felt so unnatural and unsettling to read in this manner. Would have been much more enjoyable otherwise. There were several times I considered just giving up on the book completely but that's not something I like to do. Am I glad I read it? Yes. But I would never read it again, would not reccomend it to anyone, and wouldn't have read it in the first place if I known these details.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2013

    Finished, but was a challenge

    This book was a challenge to finish, and then at the end I thought, "Wow! That was weird!" I do not recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    at the end everyone starts to see again

    at the end everyone starts to see again

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2012

    No

    BOOOOO

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    This book is a classic.

    This is a great read. Beacause it is translated from Potuguese, the text can be a little choppy, but I thought the translator did a god job. I saw the movie first, which did it great justice, but the novel does have some twists that are different, especially in the second half.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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