Blindness Group Read: Week Two (Spoiler Thread)

Snak75 Books Challenge for 2010

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Blindness Group Read: Week Two (Spoiler Thread)

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sep 19, 2010, 11:46 am

In case people are reading ahead, I'll post the 2nd and final Thread. I hope everyone is enjoying it as much as I am. This might be my favorite of all my Group Reads.

sep 19, 2010, 7:27 pm

I just started the second part today. Thanks!

sep 20, 2010, 8:19 am

Somebody come and hold my hand!
*trembling under blanket, afraid to keep reading... *

sep 20, 2010, 8:20 am

#3: I will if you will pay my airfare! lol

sep 20, 2010, 8:32 am

>4 alcottacre: LOL Thanks! I'll consider it!
Good way for you to get a breath of cool, fresh air too!

sep 20, 2010, 8:37 am

#5: True! We certainly do not have any cool air down here at the moment.

sep 20, 2010, 10:11 pm

All I can say is - it's about time.

sep 21, 2010, 5:25 pm

Did everyone go blind? Or did I?
Where are you?

I finished and feel like I have been in a bad accident.
Somene needs to tell me everything's gonna be ok. Mark?

And explain the ending to me. Seemed too abrupt.
Maybe this is something like what people felt after Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami, the earthquakes.
No, this had to be way worse.

sep 21, 2010, 6:33 pm

I finished the first 160 pages and have been waiting to start the second part of the book while I catch up on some other reads. I'll start the second part tonight (or maybe earlier--sounds like maybe I don't want to read it right before I go to bed)!

sep 21, 2010, 7:40 pm

Claudia- I'll hold you for awhile! It's okay, there, there! I still have about 90 pages left but I am really enjoying this book. I know it can be very dark and disturbing but it's working for me. I hope you end up having positive thoughts on it!

Funny, the first part reminded me of The Plague and the 2nd part reminds me of The Road.

sep 21, 2010, 8:08 pm

The Road was a picnic compared to this! ok... I'll hold on.

sep 21, 2010, 8:18 pm

Oh no! I'm still back on page 160, but if The Road was a picnic compared to this, I'm in trouble. I had to sleep with the light on for weeks after I finished The Road!

sep 21, 2010, 9:19 pm

I finished it today, Claudia.

And wow, what an uncomfortable, unsettling read.

An allegory for man’s inhumanity to man as a result of spiritual blindness? Our inability to see the truths that surround us? A study on just how tenuous our hold on a civil society truly is?

I quickly raced through the second half of this mercifully short book to get to the end of this brilliant, disturbing story.

But I think it will stay with me for a long time.

On the bright side, the dog was an interesting character.

sep 21, 2010, 11:21 pm

Whew! I just finished this astonishing blew me away. 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.

I was prepared not to like the unstructured writing style, but found it did not bother me at all. 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.

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.

sep 22, 2010, 6:19 am

I found the first part of the second half of the book so disturbing that I almost put it down. Thank goodness things improved! I did like the ending of the book, and I loved the dog of the tears. The dog proved their humanity, I thought. I don't know if I could see a movie of this or not.

sep 22, 2010, 9:48 am

OK. Excellent writing. Agreed.
Disturbing - yes.
BUT... I think I am missing the point of it all (if not to merely expound on the depravity of mankind)
Why did the doctor's wife retain her sight?
What was the purpose/cause of the blindness?
Why was sight restored? What did they learn?
What was the hope for the future?

Yes, loved the dog of tears! Fitting companion for the doctor's wife.
She and I both needed that emotional relief!
And the cleansing rain...

So, what was Saramago's message?
In the world of living beings, some are good - some are bad... deal with it?
Even God/saints are not able to help? Every man for himself? Cling to your friends and the small miracles that come into your life?

sep 22, 2010, 10:16 am

I found myself at one point thinking this could almost be a replay of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden....I'm not a biblical scholar, but I seem to remember that A&E were naked but only felt shame when they sinned....sort of like they were blind to everything but the goodness, and only saw the evil when 'the scales fell from their eyes' or something like that..

I think that Saramago's message may be something on the lines of we need to look past the physical that we can see, and search for what is inside ourselves and others. As I said earlier, this one is way way deeper than I can begin to grip in one or two hours here. This book will stay with me for a long time, and I think I will have BFOs (brilliant flashes of the Obvious) for years to come, as my mind grasps some little nugget from this one. I can certainly see how it won the Nobel Prize.

sep 22, 2010, 9:21 pm

When I finished the book I thought perhaps I had missed the point as well. For me the big question was why did the doctor's wife retain her sight? What did she say, do, think that was different?

It seems obvious to me that somehow she was different and that this blindness was a psychology rather than a pathology, so she must have been different somehow. The funny thing is that it has been several years since I read this book and I still have not come to a conclusion about her. It seems to easy to say that she was rewarded for being good, and that doesn't fit because some good people lost their sight. In some ways I saw her as a Christ figure, but that didn't exactly fit either. So I am very puzzled.

In the end why did they get their sight back? I never did find a satisfactory answer.

I am sure that this book is an allegory. But what it is an allegory for is a puzzlement. In short this is a book that I have continued to think about over a period of years. It is very powerful writing and asks the reader to do some deep thinking about his view of life, culture, society, and government.

sep 22, 2010, 9:24 pm

By-the-way, there is a sequel. It is titled Seeing. I have not read it, but keep thinking I should just to see how Saramago plays around with the story. Perhaps he resolves it. And he might do it in a way far different than I.

Redigeret: sep 22, 2010, 9:35 pm

My edition includes the first few pages of Seeing. Apparently it starts four years after Blindness ended.

sep 22, 2010, 9:41 pm

Well, someone will have to read Seeing before I do and let me know if it's safe to go there.

I had a stray thought earlier today about the doctor's wife. Does Saramago possibly see himself in her position as the only one in the world who has a clear view of society? And he is trying to show us the hidden truths about human nature which we are blind to?

This book makes me think of Maslow's hieracrchy of needs - where basic needs for physical survival must be fulfilled before humans can rise to a level of fulfilling the needs for friendship, love, full personal potential.

sep 22, 2010, 10:03 pm

I like that Maslow thought. It fits with alot of what I was thinking about when I read the book.

sep 24, 2010, 11:19 am

Just finished this I'm not sure whether I liked the ending yet or not, and whether it was satisfying or not. It was definitely not the direction I was expecting, though, it turned out more hopeful than I thought it would. I have to sort out some of my thoughts before I can join in this discussion but did want to say that this was a good choice for a GR, thanks Mark!

Redigeret: sep 25, 2010, 1:20 am

Just finished the book now.

I love the writing style - found it really easy to flow my reading along with the story and really only found one section of dialogue near the end where I was rather confused as to who was saying what.

I don't know if anyone else noticed this but there were certain points in the story where I would suddenly have a thought such as 'wait a minute, how are they surviving on almost no food and more importantly, no water, or fluids of any kind being consumed" only to have the book provide an explanation shortly thereafter, as if anticipating my question. That was just a little freaky.

I found the book to be a fascinating hypothetical exploration of the breakdown of society - really, it was well and truly broken by the time the happy news of the blindness lifting was revealed to the reader. The immediate aftermath of Katrina did come to my mind from time to time while reading this story, adding to the unsettling nature of the subject matter as well as providing a sharp reminder how tenuous social structure, social morals and organizational authorities within societies really are unless there is conscious effort maintained to stem the crumbling.

The doctor's wife is an interesting character. The idea of Saramago seeing himself in her position is an interesting one, but the practical person in me sees the doctor's wife as the perfect vehicle to communicate the perceived Armageddon as it was unfolding. To have everything communicated through a omnipotent narrator would have restricted me from connecting with the story on the emotional level that I did.

Not sure how I feel about the ending.... I love the rise of hope but I felt it lacked the strength of writing that had been maintained throughout the story until that point.

I need to mull this all over some more......

Mark, what a fantastic choice for a group read!

sep 25, 2010, 1:17 am

Forgot to add in my post 24 above: As much as I love the book, I could not watch the movie adaptation - especially not the scenes for the last quarter of the book.... I am okay with graphic writing, I don't need the Hollywood visuals to really creep me out!

sep 25, 2010, 6:18 am

I just finished the book. I am not sorry I read it, but on the other hand, I am not sure I am glad I read it either.

sep 25, 2010, 10:27 am

>26 alcottacre: well said, Stasia.

sep 25, 2010, 10:48 am

I am loving all these comments on Blindness. I read it earlier this summer, and I'm still puzzling over it. That, to me, is a characteristic of an outstanding book. I gave it 4.5 stars and placed it with The Road and The Plague to be reread at some point in the distant future.

As far as the doctor's wife goes, my only thought is that she is an excellent grounding device. Through her eyes we can see the see the surrounding chaos without being completely enveloped and overwhelmed by it.

I don't have anything else to add except that I'm glad people shared their different takes on the book so readily. That's what makes a group read meaningful imo. Thank you, Mark, for setting up another "fun" reading experience!

sep 25, 2010, 7:04 pm

I just finished and my thoughts are similar to those of bahzah in #16 and Stasia in #26. I don't get it, I feel very slow. And I don't think I liked it. The scene where he describes the statues in the church with their eyes covered gave me the shivers for some reason.

#18 I'm not sure the doctor's wife being able to see was actually a positive thing for her. There seemed to be a lot of times where she finds the situations they're in harder to bear because she can see the squalor they're living in.

And why did they get their sight back?

Redigeret: sep 26, 2010, 5:05 pm

Souloftherose - Saramago appears to have decided to remain silent as to how everyone got their sight back - probably to leave it up to the individual interpretation of the readers. You are right, the doctor's wife carried an extra burden as the only one still able to see.

Well, I was so impressed with the writing style and the story in Blindness that I picked up a copy of Seeing by Jose Saramago (touchstones couldn't find this one - how odd) yesterday during a jaunt to my favorite independent bookseller of new and used books.

I agree with the other comments posted above - Blindness is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

sep 26, 2010, 5:21 pm

#30 "Saramago appears to have decided to remain silent as to how everyone got their sight back - probably to leave it up to the individual interpretation of the readers."

But I'm one of those readers that wants to know! Gah!

My edition of Blindness had an excerpt from Seeing at the back, it seemed like the dog of tears and the doctor's wife might also be in that book but it was a bit unclear from the short excerpt.

sep 27, 2010, 8:21 pm

I just finished the book. I am so glad I had your comments to read right afterward. This was a good choice for a group read. I definitely need help processing it.

First, I have to say that, on the whole, I think that it was an excellent book. I admire writers who are able to impact me this strongly.

I was surprised by the end. I agree with Claudia up in msg 8 that it felt abrupt. I expected some event, some revelation, might occur that would allow everyone to regain their sight. But why now?

I did find the conversation between the doctor and his wife on the very last page interesting:

"Why did we become blind, I don't know, perhaps one day we'll find out, Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people people who can see, but do not see."

Perhaps that's what we all are. Blind people who can see, but don't. On the back cover of my copy of the book, the book is described as "a magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century." Can the horrors of the twentieth century (or the twenty-first, for that matter) be explained because we are blind? Because we don't fully see what is happen to others? And if that is the case, what can the few seeing people (like the doctor's wife) do about it? I found myself wondering early in the book if the doctor's wife shouldn't have stayed out of the hospital and tried to change the system from the outside. (Idealistic, huh?) Would that have worked? Probably not. In the end, she showed more than her share of compassion to the people in her group. But what about everyone else?

OK, that long rambling paragraph shows that I really need some time to process all this. But I am so glad that I read this book. Thanks, Mark, for organizing the group read.

sep 27, 2010, 9:01 pm

First of all, I did not jump ship! I am a faithful Captain. I was out of town for a long weekend and was so glad so many have finished the book, with varying opinions, of course, which makes it all the more interesting.
I finished it on Friday and I thought it was an outstanding read, possibly my favorite of the year. I agree there were some highly disturbing passages, the mass-rape sequences were horrifying, but the magic of his writing always kept me on course. I'm still processing some of this book too, (and might be for a long while), which adds to it's strange allure.
This was one of my favorite G.R.s, thanks to all of your wonderful, insightful comments! I don't think I'll host another G.R. this year but I'm starting to make a mental list of some other choices for later on. If anyone else has any ideas, PM me!

sep 27, 2010, 9:13 pm

Perhaps that's what we all are. Blind people who can see, but don't. On the back cover of my copy of the book, the book is described as "a magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century." Can the horrors of the twentieth century (or the twenty-first, for that matter) be explained because we are blind? Because we don't fully see what is happening to others?

Amy, I liked this comment and it reminded of something I heard on NPR yesterday with Nicholas Kristoff (sp?), the reporter for the NYT. He was talking about "compassion fatigue" and how they had done studies that showed that people became overwhelmed with how to help other people once it was more than one person they were being asked to help. He was also talking about people who were alive during the time of the holocaust but said they weren't aware of it and comparing it to Darfur which people should have been aware of (it was reported on extensively) but generally ignored. The point was that even if more people were aware of what was going on during the holocaust it probably wouldn't have made any difference.

I think the value of the book is that it does stay with you and makes you think about it. There are no easy answers.

Mark, I also think this was a great GR and thank you for organizing it.

sep 27, 2010, 11:54 pm

This really was a great book for a GR. Thanks again, Mark. It's the kind of story you want to talk about with others.

Somebody mentioned wanting to know why they went blind and why they regained their sight. Although initially I wanted to know why too, now I don't think that that matters at all. The point of the story wasn't that it happened but rather the reaction to the blindness.

I still haven't thrown a rating on it. It'll be somewhere between 4 and 5 stars. Disturbing yes, but in a good makes-you-think way.

I don't think I'll put it on the reread list, however.

sep 28, 2010, 7:12 am

Thanks again everyone! You guys are great! As far as re-reading, I made that decision early on and look forward to getting lost, once again, in that spare but powerful prose.

sep 28, 2010, 11:24 am

I just have to add that Saramago was first and foremost a political writer. After I read this book I did some reading about Saramago, the author. He was a communist, or a the very least a far left socialist in his political beliefs. This made him an enemy of the state in Portugal which was under the rule of Salazar during most off the time that Saramago was writing. Reading this book made me go out and read more books (particularly works of fiction) about Portugal. I believe that reading this book and more about the life of Saramago made books like Night Train to Lisbon and A Small Death in Lisbon more meaningful. Especially Night Train, as this book is about what political repression does to the soul, and how even fighting back costs so much. Saramago lived much of his life in Southern France and Spain, and was living in Spain when he died this summer.

I had forgotten that line about seeing and not seeing, so thanks #32 for calling our attention to that line. Perhaps it is the crux of the book?

This book has stayed with me for a very long time (it has been at least four years since I read it) and I still think about it from time-to-time. I have not re-read it because, like many of you, it was a very intense read, and there were parts of it I didn't like to read, but the beautiful writing and the thinking about it has helped to fade those parts in my mind.

Thanks guys for a great group read. You helped me to see some things I hadn't seen before in this book, and reminded me of others. That is the beauty and strength of a group read.

This is a great book and my thanks to Saramago for having the courage to write it. Writing this book, and others like it, cost him a great deal. I hope that I have learned something useful from it, although I confess that I have no desire to be tested as Saramago, and others of his countrymen, was tested. Saramago deserved every ounce of that Nobel Prize for Literature.

sep 28, 2010, 3:45 pm

You helped me to see some things I hadn't seen ... That is the beauty and strength of a group read.

I heartily agree! Thanks to all!

sep 28, 2010, 7:57 pm

#32 - Pat - "Compassion fatigue" is a perfect description of what I think happens much too often in this world. Without a specific name and face to identify with, it is much too easy to just ignore all of the horrible things that are happening in the world.

#37 - Benita - Thanks for sharing about Saramago's background. I had read that he was a Communist, but I know little else. I'll have to find out more about him.

I picked up Death With Interruptions in the same B& clearance in which I got Blindness. I think I'll wait a bit to read that one.

Redigeret: sep 28, 2010, 9:46 pm

Porch reader: Death with Interruptions is more of a political satire - and downright laugh out loud comical at times! - not the shocking in your face horror that Blindness is. But it is political ;-

sep 30, 2010, 7:58 pm

Just Finished. Not quite sure what to think, yet, but I was not quite as shocked or put off as others seemed to be.

sep 30, 2010, 8:12 pm

Tami- You'll have to come back and share your thoughts! Thanks for joining us!

Redigeret: okt 5, 2010, 12:48 am

Just dropped in to see how the GR went. I thought Blindness was amazing, so I went out and got The Double (an interesting study of identity told through a mystery), The Cave (Plato allegory, rather dry), and two which I haven't yet read The Stone Raft and All the Names. I also picked up Seeing. Has anyone else in the group read it yet? I've got to say that as much as I liked Blindness, I had a hard time getting into Seeing, and have had it on the shelf with a bookmark stuck halfway through for ages. I would be curious to see what other people think.

P.S. In every Saramago book I have read, there has been a significant dog character. I wonder if that holds true for all his books?

Edited to fix touchstones

okt 5, 2010, 7:41 am

>43 labfs39: I was wondering if anyone liked the book. I was not as bothered by the story as some seemed to have been, maybe because I was one of the last ones to finish and knew what to expect by reading everyones comments. Also I think because the reader really does not know the characters, it is harder to care about them. Throughout the book I was wondering how the author came up with this idea and what is the reader meant to learn from it.

Anyone who liked the book or felt drawn in by it, what made you feel that way?

okt 12, 2010, 8:31 pm

After a couple of weeks to let it sink in, my thoughts/feelings about the book are very well summed up in posts #26 and #32. I think porch_reader hits the nail on the head about the crux of the book being the idea of us all being blind, but unable to see. I'm also curious to hear if any of you have read Seeing and your thoughts.