Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reader's Diary #248- Jose Saramago: Blindness (up to p. 131)

One does not have to read far into Blindness before realizing what sort of a book it is. I'm not sure if such books have a label, but it's the ones that are grandiose in focus, that are concerned with issues bigger than those of the characters themselves, and that feel more like a commentary on mankind than a simple story. I'm not sure if I'm getting the feel across. Maybe this will work: it's the type that first year psychology or sociology textbooks will be quoting from in their margins for years to come.

Of course, one of the first things people do when they read such books is look at historical or contemporary references. As people point out Animal Farm's commentary on Stalin, I'm sure people will draw political commentary out of Blindness as well. I could not help but think of concentration camps as I read about the blind being contained in the mental hospital. As the guards barked orders, the blind stumbled along without any clue as to where they were being directed. The confusion in this case is brought on by a lack of sight, but the language barriers in concentration camps must have been a source of inspiration.

And just as such books cause us to look at society, they also make us reflect back to books with similar themes. I've already mentioned Animal Farm. I also found myself thinking of William Golding's Lord Of The Flies. As the blind internees find themselves lawless within the confines of the mental hospital, they quickly realize the importance of organization. Gaining organization and rules is a whole other issue. This of course, was a major theme of Golding's book as the stranded children experimented with self-government.

By drawing out these comparisons, I'm not saying that Blindness is not unique. In fact the writing style and the plot alone, make it different than any other book I've ever read. Plus, as I work through, I might just happen upon more themes that Saramago expands upon or even develops anew. My point is that Blindness belongs up there in the same category as the aforementioned books. So far, I think it deserves the same classic status.


Allison said...

Your posts always make me want to read more, this one especially made me want to read this book, and now.

I always find it interesting reading stories about chaos and seeing how order is formed, or attempted.

I don't think that drawing comparisons makes a story, or novel less unique, quite the opposite in fact. All the books that you've mentioned are books on my list to read again soon. I always resisted Orwell in high school, perhaps I wasn't ready for him, but think more than anything in this climate, books like that need to be revisited.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Classic status. You are not one given to hyperbole, so that is quite a statement.

Blindness is sounding increasingly intriguing. I may go so far as to buy it rather than look for it in the library.

John Mutford said...

You're right Allison, about drawing comparisons. After writing that post I realized that there's a bit of a negative tone overall, despite the fact that I'm obviously enjoying it a great deal. I guess that leads me into what Barbara said about hyperbole. I think I'm trying so hard to avoid it. Not only do I feel like I've perhaps built it up too much for you two, but also for myself. I'm so nervous that if I don't enjoy it the whole way through, I deserve the disappointment! When you two read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts, even if they're bad. Especially if they're bad. Maybe I need some grounding.