I finally finished Jose Saramago’s Blindness last week. I still haven’t quite put together all my thoughts about it, so this entry may be a bit scattered, but…
Sometimes I read for sheer entertainment value. Blindness isn’t a novel you can do that with, though. The writing style alone made me put in a lot more effort, a lot more careful attention. A vast majority of the sentences are at least half a page long, at least in the edition I read. And the dialogue isn’t separated by quotation marks or by line breaks, only by commas. I originally thought that the disorienting nature of the latter was a deliberate parallel to the blind characters’ disorientation, but I’ve read elsewhere that it’s part of the author’s general writing style. In either case, not easy to sort through at times.
There’s some very strong imagery in this novel, which, compounded with the writing style, made it even harder to read. For example, certain scenes during the main characters’ internment became so vivid in my mind, I couldn’t continue for a time – it’s that intense and overwhelming.
But strangely enough, even though these things and more really bothered me, I still found Blindness to be compelling. For all the breaks I needed to take from it, for all the difficulty I had with it… it’s still an incredible novel, and I’m very glad I persisted and completed it. Not all of the imagery is horrifying; there are also scenes of calm and hope and even joy, and these scenes are every bit as vivid. It’s also beautifully written, probably much more so than the translation can begin to convey.
I just might re-read it some day.