Genre: Fiction, Chaos

Notes: Book 4/50.  It really doesn’t take much to turn people into animals

Review: This is a novel in which everything turns to shit.  Literally.  There is shit in the streets, shit on the floor, and shit in the houses.  And on your clothes.  And everything smells like shit.  Mmmm, sounds good, right?

Blindness is a story about a city/possibly world struck by an inexplicable blindness epidemic.  It spreads quickly and leaves no one untouched.  Well, almost no one.  For some reason, one woman is left seeing to witness the terrible deterioration of life and becomes the sole caretaker of six blind people who completely rely on her.

When the outbreak began, the government rounded up the people stricken blind and interns them in a mental institution in an effort the quarantine the population.  The conditions in the institution (lacking running water or basic necessities) quickly turns inhumane and disgusting.  People poop in the hallways because, being blind, they can’t find the bathrooms.  And, a sense of anonymity protects them.  They think “well, no one can see me, so who cares?”  As more people in the outside world continue going blind, the institution becomes overcrowded and completely disorganized.  A criminal gang, taking advantage of the disorder, takes over and forces the women to act as prostitutes and subject themselves to rape for food.  Ahh, humanity.

While the book had some striking imagery and horrible details, I had a hard time getting into the writing.  Saramago writes almost completely without punctuation.  There are no quotes to denote who is talking and when, very few paragraph breaks, and a ton of commas.  The style contributes to a lack of identity and difficulty discerning who is speaking which – honestly – makes sense even if it is annoying.  The blind people don’t know their companions’ names so why should the reader?  We enter the same chaotic, confusing, and tangled world they do.

Bottom Line: Apparently a filmmaker adapted this novel to the screen in 2008, but I’ve heard it sucked.  The book is worth the read, I think, because it shows how horrible humanity can be and, at the same time, how good.  We don’t have as much control as we like to believe.