Saturday, September 25, 2010
Format: Harvest Books (1999), Edition: 1, Paperback, 352 pages
Awards: Nobel Prize for Literature
Subject: Man's inhumanity to man
Source: My own shelves
Challenge: Read From my Shelves
Whew! I just finished this astonishing book....it blew me away. I'm not sure I could write any review that would do justice to this Nobel Prize winner. While it is certainly depressing, in the end, I found it uplifting in that humanity survives and it appears that humaneness does not completely die. I'm not sure I could competently or rationally sit down and discuss or analyze all the incredible allegories, metaphors, or other literary devices the author uses.
Essentially it is the story of the world going blind, one person at a time, and the government's attempt to quarantine and control this "epidemic" of blindness. There is only one person, a doctor's wife, who can still see, and her attempts to help the others, without revealing her sightedness to anyone except her husband, are met with frustration, violence and degredating actions by others who are also trying to survive.
I was prepared not to like the unstructured writing style, where Saramago never breaks words into paragraphs, uses commas for sentences, and does not indicate who is speaking. We never actually know who the narrator is, but I did not find any of this a put off. The audio (I listened to parts of it as I drove and swam so I didn't have to 'put the book down') was incredibly done, and only increased the experience of having to use other senses besides sight to grasp the story.
I could see that studying this book and all its complexities could easily take up an entire semester course. The device of not naming the characters but instead describing them (in spite of the blindness meaning no one could "see" that the girl had dark glasses for instance) was very effective in using these characters as representatives of entire groups of humanity while at the same time maintaining their individuality.
I am still trying to decide whether I found the ending of the book a satisfying one. But the book itself is one that will stay with me for a very long time. It certainly is the best book I've read in 2010. It should be read by anyone who considers him or herself a serious reader.