Title: Blindness (Translated from Portuguese)
Writer : José Saramago (Translated by Giovanni Pontiero)
Published: 1995 (Translated in 1997)
My Rating: 3 on 5
Blindness is a story about the sudden epidemic of blindness that is spreading fast and affecting almost everybody. The book concentrates on a few characters who are the first few people to have gone blind and a central character known as ‘the doctor’s wife’ who for some reason is unaffected by the epidemic. The story traces the characters’ path who find themselves quarantined in an asylum with nobody to fend for them. The asylum soon is full to its brim and the orderly routine set out for the blind for their food breaks down.
The plot of the book is strong and intriguing. I would say it was a great plot for a mystery novel, not so much for this book. There is no explanation for the blindness and more importantly, no explanation for why it doesn’t affect the doctor’s wife. I wish there was more on this but I do understand that is not the point of the book.
Talking about the book’s purpose, I don’t really get it, but from what I gather, I think the book tries to showcase human tendency in the face of adversity. Everybody is brought down to the same level/weakness of blindness and how people tend to group together for survival and how some of these gang up and take advantage of it. The book turns gory and dirty (literally) in parts and made me gag. I don’t see why this was needed, apart from trying to be dramatic.
It is interesting to note that none of the characters have names. They are just referred to as “doctor’s wife”, “doctor”, “girl with dark glasses” and so on. At one point there are quite a few characters and to have them named this way makes it tiring and at times, confusing. The conversation between the characters also is written in a different way. There are no double quotes and ‘he said’, ‘she said’ used. Even the dialogues are written out as sentences, which appears strange at first, but then one gets used to it.
If the book begins with a bang, it ends without any fizz. The ending was as predictable as it can get. By the last page, it was a lot of “meh” and “doh, of course” and wish the author had come up with something better.
I believe the book has been made into a movie, which I have no inclination to watch.