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Blindness by José Saramago

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This book is proving hard to get hold of, but the thread is here for those that manage! (And if anyone does get it, and wants to pass it on... :))

 

Blindness by Jos

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First off I must admit Saramago is one of my favorite authors so I'm quite biased. Blindness is written in Saramago's minimalist style with absent punctuation, nameless and barely described characters that seem so one dimensional and simple. Yet...... Somehow with his barely completed pen strokes he weaves the most complex of characters, rawest of emotions, deep and meaningful themes. His prose, with its run-on sentences and occasional self-awareness (Saramgo poking his nose in to say I'm at the other end of this pen here) takes some getting used to but it is beautiful and poetic.

 

Blindness is a horrific tale that examines some of the darkest in human behaviors, the deepest of fears, and the frailest of relationships. There are some great heroes in this story.

 

Other Saramago to try, The Double, All the Names, Seeing (the sequel to Blindness). There are many others......

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I'm new to the book club forum (first post - yay!), but I thought I'd dip my toe in the water by joining in the October reading circle. I picked up my copy of Blindness from Amazon and I have it now in my hand (not literally, or else it would be awkward to type!). I have to admit that I am not good with scary stories - I think it'll take all of my will power to read it!! (..and even then I will probably only read it in the mornings away from bed time!!). It seems like such an interesting story though that I am (timidly) looking forward to it! I've had a little read already of the first chapter and the writing style is so unusual that it is interesting for that alone. It takes some getting used to follow the conversations without the traditional grammatical structure - I look forward to reading it, and discussing it with those of you who have also managed to score a copy!

 

- I'm off to bed now, with a nice Calvin and Hobbes book!

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The writing style is unusual. When I first started reading Saramago I struggled with it a bit. However once I became accustomed to it I felt it helped immerse me in the story. I reads with the same flow as we think or talk; without the distraction of punctuation.

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Hello Princess Ponti, welcome :D

 

Now should I dig out and re-read Blindness :D so I can join in, or just let you all jog my memory :haha:

 

Hope those of you who managed to get it, enjoy it :D

 

Wabbit xx

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Thanks for the welcomes!!! :D I think I'm steaming ahead of everybody else a little bit - oop! I'm actually really enjoying it - for a book that I was quite scared of reading! The same as you Dogmatix, the writing style is quite difficult to get on board with, but I only find it awkward for the first page or so after I pick it up, once I switch my brain into the right gear I'm ok and it flows quite nicely. Although, saying that, it is a book that you need to immerse yourself in, I was trying to read it on the a noisy train yesterday and was getting nowhere fast!

 

I'm also very pleased that it's not traditionally scary (not yet anyway), the writer's style seems to me to be quite matter of fact, purely just explaining what's going on, so I am spared of the tense build up leading to horrible events (poor delicate flower that I am!). I think that the subject matter is scary enough itself!!!

 

*must slow down so that others can catch up*

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I feel the need to post even though it seems I'm the only one reading at the moment! Today I reached I difficult place with this book.. I don't want to spoil anything so I'll let you know that I'm up to page 185 of the 'Vintage Classics' paperback edition that I have (no chapter numbers!)... I shall attempt my first use of spoiler tags as not to ruin the plot for everybody...

 

 

 

Today revealed the doctor sneaking off to the bed of the girl with dark glasses - it really affected me! I think it's because the story is so horrific, yet matter of fact, that I kind of feel immune to the general horror of the situation a little. The relationship between the doctor and his wife however has felt like the cornerstone of the book to me, their strength together I thought would continue on, unwavered by the events or that they would even become stronger still together because of the situation. After all, they must have a strong relationship for her to go with him even though she is not blind. I felt so overcome when his wife saw him get into the other bed and kiss the girl, I honestly wanted to put the book down and not pick it up ever again! I'm thinking that it's probably a personal reaction owing to events in my own life, but I was wondering if anyone else felt the same shock at this turn of events? I dread to think what happens with them later on :D

 

..I have actually read on a little further than this now, and the horror is chipping away at me, I must have pulled some very unattractive grimacing faces on the train on the way home; the ante has been well and truely upped and it's all a bit grim!

 

Although I feel a bit disheartened at the turn of events, I'm still enjoying the book. I'm still enjoying his writing style, it does somehow make it even more compelling - I feel slightly deprived of sight myself whilst reading it! I've found myself a few times in the last couple of days testing my vision! bizarre! I think that the neglect of character names and lack of visual descriptions (obviously apart from the wifes sparce comments) all add to the feeling disorientation and deprivation that the characters feel.

 

- ooo, and I have a theory about the doctors wife :haha: looking forward to seeing how it all turns out in the end!

 

 

 

It seems I have waffled on! - come on everybody - catch up!! :D

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Princess I had the exact same feeling about this turn of events. Really couldn't make peace with that. I guess it happened because

 

 

The wife knew she couldn't truly empathize with her husband's plight and that the blind girl could provide some comfort that she was unable to. Nevertheless I hated that it happened and saw their relationship much as you did, as a cornerstone

 

 

The other thing I believe Saramago is pointing out is that you don't know what you're capable of doing until you get into a specific situation. This theme of course is throughout the entire book.

 

Oh and although I read this a while ago I'm always willing to talk Saramago. So keep on discussing!

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Dogmatix! I'm so pleased you replied!! It really got to me this morning and has been on my mind all day! (I'm so sucked in!) Your explanation makes perfect sense and I feel so much better carrying on now! It's weird isn't how one paragraph can completely trip you out! - I can finally relax again! I'm also pleased that you felt the same way, thought maybe it was just me!

 

(not sure how to do the quote thing)...

The other thing I believe Saramago is pointing out is that you don't know what you're capable of doing until you get into a specific situation. This theme of course is throughout the entire book.

 

 

I can truely see this through every aspect of this book, it really demonstrates the strengths and courage of the human spirit (i.e. the women sacrifising their bodies for a shipment of food), and also the unthinkable lows that people will go to in order to survive, when really up against it (the doctors wife comitting murder). I'm completely shocked by the 'evil' blind people and their regime, it was utterly unexpected turn of events, but one which, sadly, isn't too hard to believe that could happen. Unfortunately I can imagine there are people in the world that would take opportunity of such an appaling situation and try to use it to their advantage. So many different (and extreme) aspects of human characteristics, both good and bad are seen! ...not only with the blind people, but also the Government and the army when under extreme pressure...

 

 

So tired! Probably rambling!

 

I will keep posting! x

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Saramago is making both a human and political statement. "What would you do?" is intertwined with "No what would you really do(to survive)?"

 

 

As far as the government response; it's totally believable don't you think? Think Japanese interment camp.

 

Just love Saramago!

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Noooo!!! ~There's so much pressure when it's a reading group of one!!! :dunno: *sob* ... I actually finished this book a week ago but have been waiting to see if anyone else posts about it!!! Outcome does not look favourable!! Having an incredibly busy week this week, and so will post my closing comments for you Dogmatix when I am free-er (how do you spell that?!) - I've spent the week trying not to read anything else so that I can ponder the book, ready to pick your brains!!

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I do know the participation level was low due to the fact this book is like gold dust to find. I know I had the only copy in Lancashire from the library. I just didn't fancy reading it when I got it home, I'm having a really picky week.

 

Feel free to post your comments though, I know I have been encouraged to read some past reading circle books from other people's comments. I know some people also like to participate after the original time frame has passed.

 

It would be nice to hear what you though of it.

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I'll throw this question out there? (Posted it in a small discussion of Seeing by Saramago as well)

 

What do you think about Saramago's use of the word "we"? He has this uncanny ability to throw that word into a sentence where it's grammatically incorrect and nonsensical and yet it works beautifully and serves to make the story more intimate. When I read Saramago it's like I'm sitting in dark room with him watching the story unfold and there he is saying "Ooohh now watch this part, this is important because later...."

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It's definately a hard book to pick up (even if you can get hold of it) I had troubles too, it's not a particularly appealing subject matter; in fact, after hearing the synopsis I really didn't want to read it, I just pushed through that feeling as I wanted to play on the forum! ..and I have been surprised! As I'm sure I mentioned above, it is such an interesting and very different book to anything I have ever read. The whole way in which it is constructed, the writing style, the lack of real visual descriptives on the most part and the lack of grammer really do leave you feeling a bit sensory deprived yourself. Which is a really unusual thing to feel whilst reading, and I imagine it must have been very difficult to write (or else he is a very clever man!). I did find myself looking up from the book, testing my vision which is just bizarre! Even when I think about the book now, I don't have any real sense of visuals (I normally can picture scenes and characters after reading) but not with this one, it's all a bit fuzzy around the edges! Sorry if I'm repeating myself, I'm trying to get my head back into the book.

 

--------spoilers ahoy from this point forth--------------------------

 

sorry if it's a bit disjointed, I have a lot of thoughts and they're all going down at once!! :D

 

After the incident with the doctor and his wife that I found disturbing above, the story really became about the doctors wife for me. The doctor and the other characters really were very much secondary to the story. I really feel like I have missed something though. Dogmatix, why do you think she was spared? Is there a greater reason behind the blindness? I feel like everyone else went blind as they were thinking of themselves (i.e. looking in the mirror thinking 'am I next'), but I'm sure that the doctors wife really only thought of others, or certainly put them first...am I trying to think too much? Is it because she still had hope? I notice at the end the doctor said 'we are already half dead' but she replied with 'we are still half alive too'. She seemed to have this continuous optimism throughout which sets her apart from everybody else in the story. I really loved her character, she had such strength, the cracks only started to appear towards the end when the responsibilities of her position really started to sink in once 'normality' (to a degree) was restored and her exhaustion was setting in. But even then she was still trying to do her best for the others. I love the way that she 'absorbed' all of the horrors around her and painted a nicer picture for her comrades (such as when the dogs were feeding off a dead body, and she told them something else was happening).

 

I really felt the pressure lift from her once the first man regained his sight and she let herself cry. She was no longer isolated and alone, no longer the sole carrier of the burden. I really felt the release in those tears.

 

I wish that there was a little more build up to the relationship between the dark glasses and the eye patch; I enjoyed the subtle intimices that they shared but I didn't feel much when they got together :) is this just me? Although I do love the 'the man I am still loves the woman you are'. I love the fact that they could fall in love, or at least want to live together without ever seeing each other, such a romantic idea :)

 

I still think I missed the over all message of the book ( I can be a bit of a dummy and I'm sure there's one in there somewhere!) 'We are blind, blind but seeing, blind people who can see but do not see'. That to me is probably where it's hiding, but I'm not quite getting it. Is he saying that people in general are blinkered to the things around them? People look and see things but chose not to react or act, chosing to ignore instead? Is it a comment on society today? And the blind statues in the church, is this saying that even God is blind? ..or was the epidemicc something that people had to experience without Gods aid for some reason? Is 'Seeing' set after they all regain their sight? I wonder how people have changed from the experience, I wonder if they now place more value on their life and things that they have and their relationships, I wonder if they are kinder to each other. I wonder how the government was put back together, how the people reacted (particularly those that were in quaranteen) and I wonder how society as a whole would have changed.

 

- one question - why didn't the blind interns ever use the 'one telephone in each ward to request cleaning materials'? I would have been ringing out all of the time! It was mentioned on the recorded message but I don't remember it ever being mentioned by the interns.

 

I loved the rain scene on the balcony. It felt so important for the women to wash away what they had been through, particularly with each other and not alone. Only they could truely understand (and not the men); it felt important to wash, repair and comfort each other. The feeling of the downpour to me was captured beautifully by the author. I could smell the rain, feel the crispness of the air, the purification and the collective unburdening of these women. That is a scene that is hard to forget.

 

I like the way the 'baddies' seemed to get retribution, the car theif, the hoodlams, the soldiers too in a way. It made me feel that there was some justice, even if sacrifices had to be made.

 

It was a true test of survival, strength and survival instinct. It showed how people can adapt and that everything that was once important (cars, homes, family, material possessions) were taken out of the equation and replaced with new values. Even the boy no longer cried for his mummy as life was so completely different. The blindness brought a completely new set of needs and values; staying with the group, finding food, finding shelter. After a time, it felt like people were gettin used to the new situation, senses of humour were returning and people had begun to organise and debate the future. It showed an amazing strength in the human spirit!

 

Whilst reading, I would wander around London imagining the same situation, not seeing what the shops are, not knowing how the roads interconnect, not being aware of approaching danger; it really feels impossible to survive, but Saramago made it feel like although it may be hard, anything is possible!

 

All in all, it was a very enjoyable read (sometimes hard going because of the harshness of the realities of life), but well worth it as it is such an interesting and unusual book.

 

...Dogmatix, I hadn't noticed the use of the word 'we' but I did feel very much close to the action, like I was peering in through windows or listening in to conversations. I guess that's the magic of his writing subtlely bringing me in without me even noticing.

 

(excuse all the poor spellings, this (as you can tell) is one long ramble!)

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Wow what a great post. I am so glad you liked this book as much as I.

 

I love your points and heartily agree with them all.

 

Why didn't she go blind? Really I have no idea either. Your point on optimism is well stated though. I wonder though; was she optimistic merely as a survival tactic, to preseve herself?

 

The bathing scene was touching and gorgeous. What did you think about the dog of tears? How heartwrenching was that? Certainly made me cry.

 

The amazing thing about Saramago is how he can evoke strong images and emotions with little use of descriptives.

 

As for your question about Seeing. Why don't you jump over to our little thread on it? Hint. hint..... you'll recognized some familiar characters there.

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ooo I've been thinking about Seeing, I have had a little glimpse over to the thread but not really READ anything, I don't like to spoil things but can't resist a look! I imagine I will read it but I'm enjoying relaxing with 'Marley and Me', a book about a couple and their dog (talk about a breather!!).

 

It really was such an unusual book for me, something like I've never read before, I think that's really what made it so good!

 

I think definately it was a survival tactic to be optimistic, it would have been incredibly difficult for her without the optimism living in those conditions and being the only seeing person. I think without hope she wouldn't have had the strength to carry on. I really like the idea that she may have been singled out because of it though. That she was rewarded in a way for being positive and not selfish (it's hard to explain what I mean after wine... maybe I should post this tomorrow!). I like the thought that everyone else was (originally) already "blind, blind but seeing, blind people who can see but do not see "where as she is different. Everyone else had to go through that experience in a way to get to where she was already - does that make sense? She was already 'aware' of the world and the people and in tune, whereas others may have been more blinkered and happy to ignore.

 

OMG the dog of tears! I loved him! It was so poignent (certainly can't spell that after wine!) that he appeared when she was feeling so desperate and alone; and then his dedication to her after that point was so touching. I felt like he was strong and aware and wanted to drink the tears to take the sadness away and make the burden easier to bear. I need one!

 

Wine is not a good lubricant for coherant book discussion! Why did I put the computer on after the pub!!! I'll check in tomorrow to correct my brain!! x

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Having read the thread for the first time today, I felt I had to tell you, Princessponti, that your enthusiam is like a breath of fresh air, and your reaction to the book reflects what the forum is, I understand, trying to achieve, i.e extend our reading experience. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and at some point in the future I will read it also. Unfortunately my TBR pile is pretty high at the moment. However, you have proved to me that it is possible to read something that scares you, and survive. Like you I am a bit of a coward, but I am also learning to take leaps in the dark.

 

Thank you Dogmatix and Princessponti. I enjoyed reading this thread.

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I found Blindness a particularly grim book to read. Saramago gave a very bleak view of humans but unfortunately it was very believable the way that people reacted to the circumstances. The style I had no problem with after the first two or three pages. I even think it added to the drama. The conversations seemed very realistic to me.

 

I think Princessponti has summed this up exceptionally well. I did not read all her posts until after I had read the book and then I found that I agreed with her. Thank you for your reviews Princessponti.

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Renniemist, Blindness is very grim indeed, but at the end, I found it quite uplifting somehow, that the people had to go on this journey in order to gain understanding and greater appreciate what they have. I'm glad you liked my ramblings :018:

 

PP, I find the opinions on Dorian Gray really interesting, because this book I had heard great things about but really could't enjoy it at all! It'd be great to have a separate thread for it! I think maybe I missed the point, or just got bogged down because it lacked the hope or the glimmer of goodness that I need in a book. Dorian just isn't redeemable to me at all!! (Did I miss something?)

 

...I can see what you mean by his picture...Lol!!! :018: So funny!!

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