“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.”
The world gets infected by an epidemic, not a plague or cholera, it’s rather Blindness. A new kind of blindness; it doesn’t feel black as usual; it feels like drowning in white waves of milk. Science couldn’t find any treatment, supplications didn’t work, and governments are useless and languishing in times of need, as usual. Everything you can rely on to save you was falling apart. The epidemic is spreading and nobody knows why or how it’s happening, or when it’s going to end. But saramago imagined that in a world of blindness, things might appear exactly like how they truly are.
That’s the main idea of the Portuguese (and Nobel prize winner at 1998) author José Saramago, The Blindness. The Blindness is considered one of the best literary novels of all time. It was translated to 25 languages according to Wikipedia. And it was made into a movie with the same titled “Blindness”, about unnamed people, about an unrecognized place. Names, titles and places wouldn’t matter anyway; the phenomenon belongs to the humankind regardless of all the masks people hide behind.
At the beginning of the read, saramago’s writing and narrative style wasn’t so familiar to me. He broke the rules of punctuation and spaces between words and sentences. As if this stream of words was created as is; a bulk of words stuck on a white paper wall. That’s when I felt that all rules are worthless, even the writing style itself merged with the Blindness status.
Saramago draw our attention with light narration and heavy sarcasm to some tiny things we took for granted. Yes, you look so you can see, right? Well, he will take this axiom from you too. He‘ll drown you in the white blindness, you and the whole world. Grabbing everybody from the heads to shake their minds then hit them against the wall to twirl around with dizziness until you reveal whatever you hide. Your instincts are clashing with your values and you have everyone to watch; I shouldn’t miss the fact that the audience is blind, too!
Saramago takes your hand to show you how the disease got developed, from being an individual phenomenon, then how the infection spreads from one person to another. Each has their own story, and their own circumstances. Events got heated, but the pace changes, until the explosion. At each step you expect that hell will stop at this point, but saramago surprises you with the fact that it’s not even close, it’s further than you could imagine.
“If you can see, look. If you can look, observe.” This sentence seemed like an incitement to me. It’s not the blindness itself he meant, it’s us!
With the direct phenomena of blindness throughout the novel (which was shocking in terms of our knowledge of ourselves and the world), also as a symbolic case for humanity and history. Saramago discusses many moral and values, he discusses borders and immigration, ethics and instincts, needs and necessities, and what you truly own. What is belonging, even the voice of authority whether it is political or religious, which was represented by a microphone dictating commandments from a distance.
“We are in an impossible case. It’s impossible from the time we enter this place, however we still borne.”
The disintegration of humanity in time of crisis, where nobody sees you and nobody knows you, where social falsity falls. Whoever has real moral values then, it’s his. And whoever wore his pretty fake mask of morals and values just to show people what he doesn’t have; he’s getting completely naked to reveal the filth underneath. Saramago surprises you with what people could do when all the masks fall off. He takes you to the bottom of moral swamp. He didn’t miss describing every single corner around you in a place full of dirt – physical dirt this time – until one almost chokes of the smell of ret. And before you drown in desperation, he stretches out his hand and directs your eyes to small humane actions that might seem weak, in the surface. With a small gesture, as mere honest kindness between two people that wasn’t intended as hypocrisy. A simple word and real happiness from the smallest things, but it remains hope for the future.
Neither Saramago intended to solve the mystery of blindness, nor explained the main character – whom all we know about her name is “doctor’s wife” – why was she the only un-blind person. Many questions were left unanswered, with the only person who could see; like a solitary sighted prophet in a completely blind kingdom.
And the most dangerous flash idea in the novel was Saramago’s vision of the reason of how the disease gradually runs out. When the priest hid the angels’ eyes on the walls of the church, painting them with white.
The priest has committed the worst violation of sanctities of all time and religions; he’s the human of most fairness and radicalism, comes to announce that God the omnipotent doesn’t worth seeing.
Then the doctor’s wife thought that she got blind too, when she saw the sky covered with white obscuring it from the earth, as if the sky got blind now. After people’s desperation begging the sky and the authorities, they converted to believe in themselves and in their humanities. So he opens the way and shed some light, that blindness is not blindness of sight, but rather it’s the blindness of one’s insights and this idea leads to the next complementary novel The Seeing.
The novel is literally a masterpiece, weather you agreed or disagreed with its philosophy. It’s worth reading, understanding, and enjoyment is guaranteed…
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