Monday, 5 June 2017

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Blindness by Jose Saramago
First published in Portuguese in Portugal by Editorial Caminho in 1995. English translation by Juan Sager published in 1997. Blackstone Audio edition narrated by Jonathan Davis published in 2008.

Featured in 5Books1Theme: Blindness and WorldReads: Portugal

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A city is hit by a sudden and strange epidemic of "white blindness", which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there social conventions quickly crumble and the struggle for survival brings out the worst in people. 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 - out of their prison and 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 20th century, by Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago, Blindness has swept the masses with its powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses - and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit.

On finishing, I felt completely steamrollered by this amazing novel! I listened to a BBC America audiobook and, although it was an English translation of the original Portuguese, the text retained its poetic quality, horrific and beautiful. Perhaps the style could best be described as Margaret Atwood crossed with Cormac McCarthy! Saramago has created a truly terrifying vision, one in which an unknown disease spreads rapidly and brings cities to a halt within weeks. We follow one of the first groups of people to contract the white blindness and I appreciated the 'no names' device used to identify them - the woman with dark glasses, the first blind man, the woman nobody knows - as it aided understanding their world.

Certain of the more grotesque scenes are scarringly memorable and I would hesitate to recommend this book to anyone squeamish. Transferring this review here reminded me clearly of the horror of the mental home scenes where the very basest of human nature is displayed, and the tragic greed of the supermarket basement. Even though it must now be three or so years since I listened to Blindness, these scenes are still vivid. What made the novel so compelling was its frightening believability, especially in how swiftly people can turn on each other and resort to a survival of the fittest mentality when we feel threatened. The philosophising throughout is very moving and I thought that the calm narration by Jonathan Davis was the perfect way to immerse myself in this dystopian city.

Etsy Find!
by avedouda in
Penela, Portugal

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Books by Jose Saramago / Dystopian fiction / Books from Portugal


  1. That is quite the literary combination. I'm curious but intimidated at the same time!