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

30 thoughts on “Blindness (Blindness #1) by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)

  1. I’ve heard of this book (coincidentally, it was an option for my own book group, but we didn’t choose it.) I haven’t wanted to read it, though, because I don’t know that I could handle it! it sounds so intense! But you did a lovely job of reviewing it!

    I hope the wedding was fun! Maybe you can get on of your book group mates to tell you about their discussion.

    1. Hey,yeah the wedding was great.Spoke to some of the bookclub members and got their view about it.Seems like the book had mixed reviews.Some members even thought it was pointless.I still think its a wonderful read though.

      What did your bookclub decide to read?

    1. I get what you mean.I’m still thinking about the ending.It made me wonder about whether the book was really about physical blindness and if it was,I wonder how the world would change after all that happened.Memorable and thoughts provoking end 🙂

  2. I love that the narrative reflects the story. There’s blindness all the way through and it makes it so interesting! It’s wonderful for an author to be able to create a connection between nameless characters and their readers. This is a brilliant review!

    1. Thanks Donna and I agree with you.I didn’t know that it would be possible to get that connected to ‘nameless characters’ or read and enjoy a book with no speech marks.The writing was superb.

  3. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a book written in such a unique style! Having the characters have no names is one thing, but the lack of punctuation sounds like it would be jarring at first. However, I can see how it may help the reader feel more in the shoes of the blind characters.

    1. The writing definitely is unique.The lack of names and few speeches made it a more interesting read.Once I got used to it,the book became more enjoyable 🙂

  4. Ohhh this sounds amazing, I actually knew this book, the author is Portuguese I think and there was the movie, of course, although I didn’t watch it. I’ll keep it mind 😀 So happy you enjoyed it so much!

    1. Thanks Annie.I found out about the movie after reading the book.Seeing the movie poster made me realize how wrong I was about my thoughts about the characters.Seriously,I thought the story was set in India but I guess it wasn’t 🙂

  5. Great review, Diana! I’m so happy that you enjoyed it because I remember finding it to be such a brilliant read when I read it a few years back.
    Hope you had a lovely time at the wedding 🙂

  6. Interesting premise! Do you know if there’s been anything about the representation of blindness? This sounds fascinating, but I wouldn’t want to read anything with problematic rep.

    1. No,I haven’t heard/read anything negative about the representation.The author tackled it in a way that I think was realistic and sensitive.He tried to portray the daily struggles of someone who suddenly loses ability to sight.

  7. A very unique book – both in premise and execution! I don’t know if I could focus enough on the formatting of the text itself to get through the book, honestly. I find that formatting decisions affect my enjoyment a LOT. It’s something I wish I could get around.

    Did you hear back from your book club friends? What did they thinK?

  8. I remember watching the movie around the time it came out. Julianne Moore played the woman who could still see, and even in the film it was not revealed why she could see. I remember thinking the movie was somewhat mild compared to how the story could be told. I never felt the sheer terror of sudden blindness.

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