Monday, July 18, 2016

One Year, 25 Books: Blindness by: José Saramago

“Blindness" is one of the most intriguing books one will ever read as its premise will never leave you. Imagine a world with pandemic blindness, with that, imagine all the fear, widespread panic and then envision the degradation that would follow. This book is part science fiction, part parabolic and all original. Indeed very worthy of the Nobel prize it gained for Literature in 1995.


"White Blindness” (rather than “dark” blindness) is the illness that sweeps the city in this story. It begins with one man who is driving a car, then it afflicts the bloke that helps him, then on to the ophthalmologist who attempts to treat him, and on to other patients present in the clinic during the first blind man’s visit, and further still, on to people who come in contact with all the preceding characters then eventually to everyone in the city and perhaps the world.

Entropy. The first set of people to be afflicted are interned in an empty mental hospital and at the start, government, society, and the diseased try to keep the peace, order and reason, however, due to lack of information on the ailment, its mode of contamination, incubation period and other queries,  the ones afflicted are neglected, threatened and even abandoned. With the arrival of the succeeding packs of newly blinded people, disintegration takes residence in the wards and a “Lord of the Flies” scenario occurs. A group of thugs in one ward decides to go feudal on the food and supplies for everybody in the hospital until they get their retribution.

Meanwhile in the world outside, it appears that blindness has set upon all humans of all the social strata; pet animals are roaming about left to fend for themselves and have reverted back to their wild instincts. Chaos defines the place and groups grapple together in packs to find food and shelter day by day, night after night wherever possible with their world narrowing down to holding out for survival. If we pan out circumspectly, we can study the behavior of how our specie might be able to survive in such a drastic and horrifying scenario, yet our depravity will always get in the way with our hope and potentials as people.

One woman lives to see all of this and she is spared of the illness, the reason behind her immunity is as mysterious as how the blindness came about in the first place. Though the tale is not told in her perspective, we see her dilemma of being fortunate enough not to go blind but conversely she witnesses the erosion of the world she lives in and the people around her. Was her sight worth having?

The plot though begs the question as to why couldn’t people who were blind prior to the epidemic, having already mastered their surroundings without sight not step up to the plate to some degree? Couldn’t they have helped guide and teach the ones afflicted how to adapt to their new condition? However, to be finicky is to take the essence away from the story. Give this one a tumble, it’s quite thought-provoking and will leave you thinking about it days after you finish it.