Book Review – – BLINDNESS by Jose Saramago

by Roy E. Perry

Although, considered as a whole, Jose Saramago’s Blindness is an intriguing and fascinating read, its ending is disappointing. Several questions are left hanging, unanswered, and several problems with the plot are left unresolved.

I’m not sure how the author could have made the conclusion of his work more satisfying, but it simply ends without providing a sufficient explanation of what caused the epidemic of universal blindness (“universal,” that is, except for one character who, inexplicably, avoids the plague).

Blindness propounds the same thesis as does William Golding’s Lord of the Flies: Scratch away the thin veneer of civilization that we so proudly wear, and underneath you will find a raging savage.

When men, women, and children are exposed to extreme limits of life and death, survival often goes to “the fittest,” that is, to those who descend to the level of brute force, corruption, exploitation, and animality; conventional standards of human decency and morality collapse.

I suspect that Mr. Saramago’s work is a parable of atrocities perpetrated in World War II. As I read this book, I kept thinking of the horrors of the Holocaust–Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Treblinka, and other concentration/death camps, in which millions of innocent people were tortured and murdered.

An ancient Hebrew prophet spoke of “foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear” (Jeremiah 5:21). In other words, “none are so blind as those who will not see”—who deliberately close their eyes to criminal deeds.

I “see” (a pun, if you insist) Blindness as a cautionary tale for present-day readers, lest we forget the horrific lessons of the past. For those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

A dark and depressing work, Blindness contains scenes of brutality, explicit sex, and foul language; it is not recommended as suitable fare for the Puritan, the pious, and the prudent. Its deep symbolism, however, will be a delight to those who appreciate the creative imagination. Blindness is an excellent exhibit of high-quality literary art.

Roy E. Perry of Nolensville, Tennessee was a book reviewer for the ‘Nashville Banner’ and ‘The Tennessean’ for more than thirty years. He is an advertising copywriter at a Nashville publishing house.

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and copywriter.

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