Blindness (book review) – José Saramago

Blindness is a journey into the depths of hell and Saramago is the reader’s faithful Virgil. It allows a brutal introspection and questions the resilience of human nature when faced with the nine circles of hell all at once. The story portrays the degradation of an unnamed town when a white blindness plagues all its citizens. The government responds to the crisis by isolating the first cases between the walls of a former asylum, which becomes a container for people who otherwise would not interact: the doctor and his wife, the girl with the dark glasses, the boy with the squint, the old man with the black eye patch, the car thief, the first blind man and his wife, the man with the gun, the blind accountant and other nameless creatures. Names are useless in a world of the blind. Among these blind fellows however, someone still sees but she soon learns that in the world of the blind seeing is as good as being dead. Through her eyes we learn about the slow yet certain degradation of human dignity between filthy bed sheets when the nocturnal nightmare extends far into the day. Life is so fragile when abandoned and abandoning one’s self leads to something more terrifying than death. When humans freely surrender themselves in the arms of lust and violence what replaces humanity is inhumanity. The woman who can still see struggles to save her closest companions from the depths of depravity because she feels that through her eyes they are a little less blind and by saving them she saves herself from becoming dehumanized among monsters. In the world of the blind intimate lovers are strangers, showing the superficiality of human bonds. In the world of the blind love is dead for the eyes no longer see the other. Hands reach out just to take and never give. The white blindness epidemic was a calamity for those who were already blinded by fear and the loss of dignity was easily accepted. The woman who can still see is the only constant in the whole story and maybe, just maybe, her bravery and inner strength say a lot more about human nature than all the raw anger in the new world she finds herself in.
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