Blindness (Blindness #1) by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)

blindnessAbout the Book

A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” that spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides her charges—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and their procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. As Blindness reclaims the age-old story of a plague, it evokes the vivid and trembling horrors of the twentieth century, leaving readers with a powerful vision of the human spirit that’s bound both by weakness and exhilarating strength.


Blindness by Jose Saramago is the book of the month for my book club. There is a lot that I can say about this amazing book. First of all, the writing is quite unique. The whole book had no names. Yes, the characters had no names. The MCs were; the doctor, the doctor’s wife, the first blind man, the first blind man’s wife, the girl with the dark glasses, the boy who cried for his mommy and the man with the black eye patch. All the characters were described this way. We had support characters such as the writer, the leader, the thief, the pharmacist. You get the idea? The reason behind this was to illustrate that names were unimportant in the face of blindness.

“Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.”
José Saramago, Blindness

Another interesting thing about the writing was the limited use of punctuations. The book had no speech marks at all and the only thing separating speeches were capital letters. The sentences run on and so you have to be very attentive not to lose the flow. The texts run from margin to margin but still, the voices were quite distinct. In a way, the author makes the reader feel blind. You no longer rely on what you see such as quotation marks. Instead, you have to distinguish each voice to identify the speakers.

The writing wasn’t the only thing that makes you feel blind as you read the book. There are other issues such as lack of distinguishing physical attributes. I couldn’t even guess where the book was set and all along assumed that it was in India until I saw the movie poster and felt ten times more confused. You can’t tell the race of the characters either so once again the movie poster messed me at the end. All these factors made this quite an interesting, blind read.

The book is dystopian. After the epidemic, we get to witness everything fall apart. There are no systems or structures. There is no running water, electricity and food is scarce. However, the worst bit was watching humanity get lost. Human beings turned on each other in the worst ways possible. There were chapters that were  hard to read due to the shocking things that people were made to do in exchange of food and other basics for survival.

“You never know beforehand what people are capable of, you have to wait, give it time, it’s time that rules, time is our gambling partner on the other side of the table and it holds all the cards of the deck in its hand, we have to guess the winning cards of life, our lives.”
José Saramago, Blindness

Blindness by Jose Saramago is very well written. I found myself getting attached to the characters despite never knowing their names (what is in a name anyway?) I was completely immersed in the world created by Saramago. At times, I took time to wonder what it would be like to suddenly lose the ability to see. Can you imagine that? One minute you are reading your beloved ARCs and then suddenly, you only see white? This book will give you an in-depth look into blindness and what it means to get lost into such a world.

There are several questions that remained unanswered at the end of the book. I still don’t know why one of the characters became the witness. I also feel like there is more to the story than just a dystopian world. Recently, I read about Stuart Hall’s research about media representation of African Americans. The research is titled, ‘The Whites of their eyes’ and it focuses on racist ideologies on TV. So I kept thinking about it when reading about the white blindness. The book may not be about race ideologies but perhaps it is about something else similar? I am still thinking about that though.

The book review meeting is today but I will not attend it though I’m dying to know what everyone else thought about this book. However, I have a wedding to attend today. To my friend, Mary, have a wonderful wedding and a beautiful marriage. To my book club, have a wonderful review meeting. To everyone else, you need to read this book!

“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.”
José Saramago, Blindness