Blindness by Jose Saramago

‘Blindness’ by José Saramago is a fable about an unexplained mass epidemic of blindness which has unsurprisingly chaotic consequences.  The story begins with a man suddenly going blind as he is waiting in his car at some traffic lights.  Several other characters who come into contact with him also lose their sight.  The blind are quarantined in a mental asylum and left to fend for themselves but criminals soon gain control as society rapidly breaks down completely.  Only the doctor’s wife is still able to see for unknown reasons but she doesn’t reveal this fact.  Can she still help the others?

When I first started reading this book, I found it quite hard to concentrate.  Initially, I couldn’t tell if it was because of the extremely long paragraphs of densely written prose or because the woman sitting near me on the train was threatening to smash someone’s face in.  Normally, I am quite good at blocking out other people’s conversations when I use public transport but this person was particularly loud and scary.  Thankfully, when I found myself in a quieter environment, ‘Blindness’ became more enjoyable to read although the long paragraphs of densely written prose still require a fair amount of concentration.  Not only that, but none of the characters or settings are ever given real names and the dialogue is written without quotation marks and rarely separated into paragraphs.  Remarkably, however, this wasn’t off-putting at all and the story was still reasonably easy to follow which is testament to the strength of Saramago’s writing, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, and also the English translation.

‘Blindness’ is a fascinating and unconventional novel which is simultaneously uplifting and harrowing.  The scenario presented to the reader is nightmarish and dystopian to say the least but with occasional moments of hope and joy.  ‘Blindness’ is not a particularly easy read but it is very rewarding.   Even though the ending was a little too convenient, I don’t think it took anything away from the rest of the story which explored a lot of interesting ideas, most notably the theme of blindness in both its literal and metaphorical senses.  An inspiring read.


Filed under Books

21 responses to “Blindness by Jose Saramago

  1. Great review. This is a remarkable book by a fantastic author. And for a change, the film adaptation was also pretty good.


  2. Make sure you follow up Blindness by reading Saramago’s sequel, Seeing. Also, apropos to your comments on the density of the prose and the attention required to read Blindness, I too had somewhat the same response to much of Saramago’s earlier work but starting with Blindness I felt the author had eased up at bit and the next several works were almost fun to read. José Saramago was an excellent author and almost all of his novels deserve our attention.

    It is good to remember that much of the contemporary literature from Spain and Portugal is colored by the effects of living under a dictatorship for many years.


  3. I agree with everything here. I love his work, but it takes sustained concentration.


  4. jamesfantbooks

    Great review. The book seems to be the result of a what if question. What if everyone in the world went blind simultaneously, save one person? The story had to be awesome considering the lack of quotations in the dialogue.


  5. I’m about to read this book. Thanks for giving me an idea of what to expect, without revealing anything substantial. 🙂


  6. Indeed, Saramago is an inspiring read. Like its sequel Seeing, Blindness is very relevant to our present era of the deepening crisis of the world capitalist system


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  8. Vishy

    Nice review! I haven’t read this book but have seen the movie version and liked it very much. Julianne Moore’s performance as the doctor’s wife was brilliant. If you like movies which are based on books, you might enjoy the movie too. I hope to read this book one day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.


  9. I have never read anything by Saramago, but everyone who read this book says it’s wonderful although Saramago has a peculiar way to write!


  10. Sounds like a wonderful read, I love a good fable, all those layers. And a sequel too!


  11. Seems like a challenging book.. The fact that you mentioned “long paragraphs of densely written prose” twice makes it intimidating to me. How thick is the book & how long did you take to finish it? Nevertheless, it’s interesting enough to go in my to-read list and the movie to watch. 🙂


  12. fullmetalclo

    I really enjoyed that book, For me, it was the Cave I had trouble to get into at the beginning, this one went much more smoother. I like his view of human nature and I enjoy philosophical fiction.


  13. prisailurophileblog

    Never heard of this book, but definitely checking it out. Thanks for the great review!


  14. ‘I couldn’t tell if it was because of the extremely long paragraphs of densely written prose or because the woman sitting near me on the train was threatening to smash someone’s face in’ Haha. Ah, at least it isn’t just me then! All hail public transport and those nutcases who sail upon her. Glad you finally found enough peace to enjoy this one 😉


  15. Check out my analysis of Blindness on my literary blog:

    I have two posts on that novel: Blindness and the Existential Choice, and Blindness and the Inevitable In-Group


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  17. Despite the despondent theme, I really liked Saramago’s Blindness. The sequel Seeing is also fantastic.


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