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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

Blindness

Blindness - José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero This book left me speechless (which is a rare occurrence). Please enjoy the pictures to illustrate the plot while I recover my gift of rambling. An unexplained plague of "white blindness" sweeps the unnamed country. Initial attempts to hastily quarantine the blind in an abandoned mental hospital fail to contain the spread. What they succeed at is immediately creating the easy "us versus them" divide between the helpless newly blind and the terrified seeing. Before we know, we are immersed in the horrifying surreal world of hopelessness, filth, violence, and hate, where the true enemy is not their affliction but people themselves, which we can see through the eyes of the only person who appears immune to blindness. “Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.” As the blindness epidemic spreads, we see the disintegration of society just like we witnessed the destruction of humanity in the quarantine area. Excrement covers sidewalks, dogs munch on human corpses, the blind rot in the stores after futile attempts to find food. Even the saints in the churches are blinded. The world is a bleak picture of desolation and destruction.... Lovely, no? .... We don't know why it happened - whether it's a test, a warning, or a punishment. Instead, we get a nagging haunting feeling that the real blindness was there all along - the blindness towards the others, the blindness towards our real selves, and the physical blindness served as a way to unveil it. What was always there but went unseen before because it used to be easy to shrug off. Fear. "Us against them" attitude. Greed. Contempt. Hatred. Selfishness. Love of power. Cowardice. Apathy. Isolation. Filth. Rape. Murder. Theft. Ignorance. Indifference. Blaming the victim. It was all already there, and blindness amplified it. And, as society decays and falls apart, the question of what is means to be human comes up. “I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.” Things that made us human are gone. Faces don't matter. Names don't matter. Homes don't matter. Possessions don't matter. Shame and modesty are gone. Medicine is useless. Government is useless. Morals seem obsolete. Empathy is gone. Is anything left? Anything inside us? “The difficult thing isn't living with other people, it's understanding them.” The vestiges of humanity are the only rays of hope in this bleak world. The girl with the dark glasses taking care of the boy with the squint. The man with the eye patch and his love. And the doctor's wife, the only one who retained her sight. Why? Was it because she was the most human? Or maybe she remained human because she retained her sight? Who knows? She is quiet and caring, leading the blind, washing the raped women, weeping over the dead but killing if she must. She sticks by her morals even if she is forced to violate them. She is the guiding light and the quiet hero in this world of darkness whiteness, keeping her charges from degradation without expecting anything in return. “If we cannot live entirely like human beings, at least let us do everything in our power not to live entirely like animals.” The style of this book may not be for everyone (disclaimer: I loved it!). The pages are filled margin to margin with solid wall of text. There are no dialogue marks, and the seemingly mundane bits of everyday speech are separated only by capital letters. Sometimes you need to almost read the sentences out loud to get a feel for who is speaking (it's very fitting that the book about the blind is better perceived in a non-visual medium). The sentences are long (in a European fashion), run-on, and beautifully punctuated. It is not a book to skim, it requires concentration, and definitely is not a light read. If all of the above does not scare you, you should give this one a try.I will finish this review with the plea in the epigraph for this thought-provoking eye-opening (no pun intended) book: "If you can see, look. If you can look, observe." Please, do. Let's try to look past our own blindness and actually SEE.