Sunday, March 11, 2007

BCOO: Blindness, Jose Saramago

Saramago gave me a gift. I felt privileged to read Blindness.

The narration and style of this novel create the perfect tone for this story of a blindness plague. "Blindness" focuses on several unnamed characters, examining their humanity or lack thereof in the midst of inhumane conditions and circumstances. The novels hits you in the gut and tears your heart out, displaying disgusting humans, faithful animals, and regular people in extreme situations.

I'm sorry. I'm trying not to gush. The narrator keeps things interesting (You didn't think a blindness plague would be enough, did you?) with constant intrusions into the story. The voice of the narrator is satirical, sardonic, self-referential, philosophical, and judgemental. It is continually questioning its own logic:

the only difference was in the colour, if black and white can, strictly
speaking, be thought of as colours.

Saramago plays with language constantly, examining the futility of speech in a world with different rules. In a land where no one sees, why would anyone say, suddenly understanding, "Ah, I see." This extends into a metaphor for an uncharted world. When cliches no longer make sense and language is peppered with useless phrases, everything changes. Unconscious gestures, expressions, everything is meaningless in a world where no one can see. This, if you pause to consider it, would be expected. But when language breaks down in addition, all communication stops. The world, in effect, ends.

Well, not exactly. Language, of course, doesn't break down entirely. But the possibility is intriguing and it gives the plot a nice sense of impending destruction.

I can't do this book justice with my little blog entry. If you want the chance to read a gorgeous, self-effacing, original piece of art, read Blindness.
Oh, and thanks to Sharif for letting me know about the musical version of "Blindness" opening in Chicago. It could go either way - I hope it's wonderful.

Next up: Before the Mortgage: Real Stories of Brazen Loves, Broken Leases, and the Perplexing Pursuit of Adulthood, edited by Christina Amini and Rachel Hutton. I know, I'm jumping from Camus to John Irving. But I'm about to go on tour. These essays will be nice fluff for the hotel rooms. It's tongues in cheek and I get to read Sarah Vowell, Davy Rothbart, and Thisbe Nissen.

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