Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blindness, by José Saramago

Barnes & Noble

A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers--among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears--through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. 

I don't know if it would be freakier to listen to this book (which I did) or to read the novel.

I am so disturbed by this story because of how real it seems; knowing that something like this could happen. Maybe not the "white sickness," but how the government reacts; how people treat each other; and how civilized society morphs into a world full of horror.

Now, I love dystopian fiction. 1984. Brave New World. The Hunger Games. The Handmaid's Tale. But this book freaked me out more than any of the others:

  • The story opens with a normal day: driving; walking; going home; seeing the doctor. Within a matter of a week, life has changed across the board. 
  • There are no names, ages, or physical descriptions to define people. It could be you or me or anyone.
  • The actions in Left Side, Ward Three? Horrifying.
  • A sickness so contagious that all you have to do is look at an infected person.

There is some hope, however:

  • The Doctor's Wife, who never loses her sight. Though she does have her own horrors to live through, there is no doubt in my mind that she is the reason that what remains of her group is still functioning at the end. 
  • For every person who takes advantage of the situation to harm people, there are a dozen who do know right from wrong and still try to make their own areas of this new world civilized.
  • People can adapt to new struggles. It's not easy, but it can be done.

This book is going to stay with me for a long time. I'm really glad that I already have a physical copy of this on my bookshelves.

But man, I need something light and fluffy to read now.

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