Blindness – José Saramago

The winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, a novel about the survival against all odds.
A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. 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-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 twentieth century, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of man’s worst appetites and weaknesses-and man’s ultimately exhilarating spirit.

This is not a normal virus outbreak story, it’s definitely not a story like that. The disease is sudden and highly contagius and while people were trying to find a cure, they suddenly found themselves infected and bling. Instead of looking for a cure, the sick people are isolated and excluded from society. The plague here is just an excuse to explore human behavior, how this blindness affected people, how they’d react if nobody could see them and they could do anything, knowing that they won’t be judged.

People attack each other because they all went blind at the same time and were quarantined, away from anyone that could see. They become helpless from not having any experience being blind. There is only one character who was blind before the epidemic and he is the second most powerful character in the movie, since he knows how to be blind. He is taking notes of his surroundings and he becomes a chronicler for the new world.

In “Blindness”, disease-blindness manifests itself not as darkness but as total, blank-page whiteness.

The book is about how we lose our humanity and how we get it back, how we learn to see again. In other words, the whiteness they see isn’t, or doesn’t have to be, merely blindness: it’s also the light at the end of the tunnel.

After all these years of civilization we’re still very primitive. In a crisis, we always seem to go back to our basic instincts, everything becomes about eating and sex. It’s a reminder that we’re part of nature, not so special, we’re really animals.

BlindnessThe book revolves around a doctor’s wife, the only one not affected by the white blindness. She lies about her state and agrees to be taken in with her husband to a mental asylum where the blind people are quarantined. She is the only one able to guide him and the ones around her and she’s the only one able to see the atrocities that can happen when the powerful pray on the weak.

I cried. I have cried before when watching a deeply emotional movie and God knows I have cried when reading A dog’s purpose. But during Blindness, I cried when they raped the women. I know I am giving a lot away but I have to warn – this is a strongly graphical book. The wards in the asylum are split into two, one of them takes over the food supply and demands all precious goods from the other.
Once they have nothing to give, the sentence falls swiftly:

“Then send us your women.”

blindness-free_7Bruised and bitten, raped for the food that they and their friends will have to share, the women are tough and present a powerful force to be reckoned with. I have never rejoiced as much as when revenge was taken and dished out.

They escape the asylum when a fire breaks out and they found a world plunged in disarray. People moving about in groups, fighting over food, eating whatever they can find, trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic world.

In the land of the blind, the person who can see is king. The doctor’s wife guides her small group to her home, washes them, gives them new clothes and offers them a sanctuary where they can regroup and re-learn the world. She reads stories at night and guides the people to their previous homes during day time.

After a while, a miracle happens – they can see again, the odd white blindness is lifted and everyone is normal again.
The woman considers as she looks around:

“I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”

Blindness Movie

A movie was released in 2008 for the Cannes festival. Powerful and very true to the book.

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