Blindness (Saramago)

Book Reviews 
This year's most propulsive, and most profound, thriller.
Village Voice

A bold piece of work — almost biblical in scale and style, hauntingly sustained.
Independent (London)

More frightening than Stephen King, as unrelenting as a bad dream, Jose 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 the 1998 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."
Jesse Barrett - Salon

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.
Publishers Weekly

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 1998 Nobel prize.
Library Journal

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 texture of 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.
Kirkus Reviews

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