54. “Blindness,” José Saramago

Really interesting, but very problematic– frequently sexist and blindness exists only as a metaphor for the worst side of human nature. People who experience this white blindness quickly become animals, shitting their beds, hording food, lashing out violently. In fact, the author has them referring to one another as animals: when one character asks the other his name, he responds “what use would names be to us, no dog recognizes another dog” by name (52). So throughout the story, people are referred to by a descriptor. Predictably, the married women are referred to as [whoever’s] wife, and not as autonomous beings. Even the doctor’s wife, whom I will refer to as the woman who could see, is nothing more than her husband’s job.

Liat Ben-Moshe breaks down the problematic theme of blindness in “Disability Studies Quarterly.” I also came across a blog that asks What Sorts of People Should There Be? that comments on a few of the advertising techniques employed by the movie promoters.

Stylistically, Saramago does not use punctuation marks to set off dialog, nor does he use carriage returns. Paragraphs are often quite long. This makes the book difficult to put down, because there are very few natural pauses. I don’t mean difficult in a bad way, nor in an entirely positive way. It took some getting used to each time I returned to it, but once I figured it out, it kept me reading. It also augments the confusion of not yet having learnt how to navigate blind in a seeing world, as the speech sees to overlap and sometimes it is hard to sort out who is saying what.

I did find the book engrossing– while reading I experienced the odd blurring between life and reading and kept forgetting that neither my friend nor I were blind. In my defense, for a lot of the time that I was reading, he was sleeping half-sitting up in the same room, there but not seeing. Also in my defense, I am ridiculous and apparently don’t understand the difference between having your eyes shut and being physically unable to see.

Page count: 352
Page total: 22,864

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