jose saramago's pulitzer prize winning novel blindness has been by the bed for oh so very long now. so long in fact that this blog was probably a mere speck in the back of my mind at the time.
i'm not ashamed to admit i was a little frightened to pick this novel up. i knew it would be difficult, stylistically, thematically and, as a work in translation, i had to deal with my growing bias towards the interpretation problems i always imagine there will be in translated works as well.
something else though. i think i have maybe always had a strong, mostly unspoken, fear which stared me in the face every time i picked up this book: blindness.
i have very poor vision. i've worn glasses since the third grade and when my vision continued to degrade in my teens, i had to wonder with every approaching eye exam, how far would it go? at it's worst, my eyesight was so poor, i was half blind in one eye and not to far from that in the other.
my eyesight has thankfully improved since.
my myopia will never strike me blind like the plague that infects the population in jose saramago's deeply moving parable. (thank god.) this book will shake you to your core and show you the most basic truths of your nature.
the epidemic beings arbitrarily with one man and then spreads exponentially throughout the population of the town and city and maybe, country. we follow him, and meet seven others as we journey through the novel. only one of these is not blind herself. she has faked her blindness in order to be with her husband, the doctor, and her instincts have forced her to act quickly because as the government learns of the blindness they decide to round up all those infected and place them in an empty asylum to "protect" the rest of the population. still she is determined to remain with her husband. when all around her fails; morality, humanity, kindness, she persists in keeping the clarity of a woman who is not blind, figuritively, and perhaps because of this, does not become blind, literally. why this plague has infested the city becomes unimportant in the novel. and although the characters continue to muse about the philosophical reasons and medical possiblities behind the blindness, the practical reality of their situation rules them, and shows them that they are not above the barest form of survival.
this is not an easy book. But the writing seems simple, so simple that you are forced, as a reader, just through the lack of syntax, or more accurately, punctuation i guess, to read very carefully, which in turn pushes you to visualize everything. there is no quick skimming in this book. every detail, every sigh, every scream, every tear shed by the dog of tears will be experienced and felt by the reader. and that's where the difficulty arises.
one thing that this novel points to is our self. the responsiblity we have to our moral self and thus, our responsibilty to each other in times of deep darkness. the world today is an odd place. we live in constant fear of disease and war and sadly, each other.
this is the answer, says blindness: trust and keep your self and each other. maybe in this idea lies the true evolution of our human nature.
Posted by bobbi at 22:52