This book will blow you away. And that’s just simply put. This book has so many elements that make it so phenomenal that it is hard to sum it up in 500 words, but here it goes. Dystopian novels always have a great what-if quality about them, and this is no exception. Going blind has got to be the worst non-fatal illness that one could contract. Don’t believe me? Read this book and I promise you will not take your eyes for granted again.
This novel explores various elements of life, both hypothetical and real. One of the biggest is contagion. Unlike the typical boils-and-burns diseases usually explored in books, this blindness envelops the eyes in a rich white ocean of uniform nothingness, and spreads who-knows-how. Very intriguing. The mystery of how and why is never revealed in the story, making every second of the account that much more exciting.
Furthermore, the novel explores the animalistic, primal behaviors of humankind. Without eyes, humans are collectively reduced to uselessness, as is proved by the turmoil and disorganization of the nation presented in the story. Without eyes, there is no civilization — at least the functional kind. Reading Blindness will take you on a tour to see what the characters in this story cannot see.
Jose Saramago’s writing style is unconventional, but it is almost perfect to narrate this unconventional story. He doesn’t use any punctuation other than commas and periods, so it sort of feels like you’re fumbling through the dark to decipher and separate the quotations and questions from the narrative detail. Talk about empathetic writing! Also, Saramago doesn’t bog you down with a single name, whether it be of a person, animal, city or country. He focuses solely on the characteristics and relationship between the characters. After all, what’s in a name for the blind that a voice can’t provide?
The story presented is certainly not a 1-dimensional tale of good and bad. The most important character of the novel, the woman with the only pair of seeing eyes, will surprise you with her actions, decisions, and thoughts. Don’t expect cliche endings here! Spoiler alert: This story ends abruptly. That way there is plenty of room to pack in all of the gripping, sometimes haunting details of the story.
Expanding on my earlier statement about the scope of the themes in the story, I can say that you will get more than what you expect once you peel back the cover. The novel is definitely an uncensored, unsweetened account of the crisis and devastation of an epidemic blindness. It may shock you with its vivid descriptions of sexual assault and murder, drive you to tears with its sad accounts of hunger, loneliness, helplessness, and weakness, and surprise you with its moments of endearment, love, and persistent willingness to live on.
You should read this book not only to be a spectator to the “Blind Hunger Games,” but to experience humanity in one of its most powerless forms. Read it not only to witness a woman’s two-eyed journey in the land of the blind, but to realize the burden she faces. Read it and discover that the world is still something, visible or not. Close your eyes, and you’ll see.