Blindness by José Saramago

Blindness – José Saramago

Intro

Blindness is one of the book selections for this month in our book group, and I am, unfortunately for most, the moderator. I was trusted with the task because almost everyone knows how big a Saramago fan I am. I would say for the umpteenth time that Saramago is like a grandfather to me.

So the old man is dead but his novels are still alive. I can only hope that they will outlive us all. The Nobel laureate was a prolific writer despite starting his literary career way past his prime. But they say that life begins at 40. It never is too late then.

This book has a film adaptation that features the beautiful Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. They seem to be always together, huh? That film, The Kids Are All Right? But let’s not talk about that.

The Rhapsody

Blindness is a dystopian novel that shows us the possible effects if the people of a sound society lose their sense of sight. As much as possible, we don’t want to favor any of our five senses because each has its own importance. But darn it, the sense of sight seems to be the most important. If we don’t have that, we wouldn’t be writing blogs. Right?

Unless the Internet turns to Braille. Anyway, I will try to do this post differently from the rest of the Friday posts. I came up with a series of postulates for the book talk that I was talking about earlier. This is an attempt to somehow keep the thread rolling. But, it somehow died. Maybe because I didn’t give much focus on it, what with the swamping of work and whatnot.

Anyway, let me proceed with those. They are the dominant themes of the book.

1. The fragility of society – the loss of sight of the characters in the novel dismantled the gears of the society. Agree or disagree? – Agree. The opening paragraph describes a taxi driver turning blind while waiting for the traffic lights to go green. No, I don’t intend to point at the gears of the taxi, but think about it. How could society perform its daily tasks if the simple following of traffic rules cannot be done?

2. Human nature – the novel presents humans as selfish beings whose sole instinct is to survive.Agree or disagree? I agree. A lot of novels have already expounded on this, but there can’t seem to be enough of them. Besides, I find these novels really good. Remember Joseph Conrad? And Lord of the Flies? Whether we like it or not, everything that we do boils down to survival. Don’t even try to deny it.

3. Gender relations – gender roles are modified. Although the doctor’s wife continued to lead the group, women are still presented as beings subservient to men as seen in the trading of women for food. Agree or disagree? – Again, I have to agree. How repulsive it is to sell women in exchange of food. An empty stomach fails to recognize the bonds of marriage. And why not sell the men instead of women? Because there were no gay people around?

4. Blindness – we can never be physically blind, but we are blind in a lot of ways. Agree or disagree? – Agree, agree, agree! Not everything is as it seems, says the character of Kirsten Dunst in Mona Lisa Smile. It’s because there is a lot more than what is seen on the surface. Perhaps the reason our eyes are placed directly in front of our brains is to use them together.

5. Memory and history – the loss of sight can affect how the future will be. History is just an unfathomable void if the blindness in the novel continued to spread and did not stop. Agree or disagree? – Hmm, I am not so sure about this, because there are assumptions that Homer the Greek poet is blind. And he wrote the classics Iliad and Odyssey, which are not strictly historical, but I hope you get the drift. So what should I do? Hmm. I guess I will have to abstain for now.

6. The Soul – the eyes are the windows of the soul. Therefore, without our sense of sight, our souls are lost as well. Agree or disagree? – I beg to disagree. I think there is more to the soul than the eyes. Yes, eyes are expressive, but our souls can be bared in a lot of ways. Stretch your imagination!

7. Disease – disease is something that merely causes pain or discomfort. Agree or disagree? – No, no! What of the pain of unrequited love? Is that a disease? And guilt. It causes discomfort, but is it a disease? They can be metaphorical diseases, but let’s just keep the definition of disease here as something that is physical.

5 star - it was amazingFinal Notes

One of the members who read this book said that she needs to recover from the strong feelings that were evoked in her. Yes, the narrative could twist your guts. This is not even gore, but an engrossed reader would not be able to help it.

I cannot imagine a world if I am somehow robbed of my sense of sight. It is just unthinkable. And what of people who were born blind? Well, one cannot really miss what he never had, right?

This book made me see the what-ifs that I’d rather not ponder. Not only the immediate effects of losing your sight, but almost everything. I think I am fawning too much on Saramago, but I can’t help it. The man has a wild imagination. I may be a blind fan of his, but that’s okay. His books are more than worthy of my time.

Gone With The Wind Diaries, II

Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

Day 05: Chapters 10, 11, 12

Gerald O’Hara is supposed to take Scarlett back to Tara, but our Scarlett was able to blackmail him for losing a huge amount of money over a game of poker. Which proves that Scarlett is a cunning woman. Which further proves that she is not as stupid as we give her uhm, discredit for.

And what the F&H! Scarlett is reading Ashley’s letters to Melanie. Which is fine with me because it made me like Ashley so much more.

Which gives me a dilemma. I also like Rhett. The men have similar ideas regarding the war, which baffles our stupid Scarlett, for can a gentleman and a scoundrel share the same thoughts about the war?

And the war is superseding the gender roles and customs that aren’t as immutable as they should be. They are starting to go away with the wind. People are coping with the changes that the war is bringing. Which leads us to a question: should there always be a war to make changes?

Day 06: Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16

I am touched with that prostitute who gives money to Melanie so that she could help the Confederates in their battle against the Yankees. But I am not so sure if the money came from her, uhm, blood and sweat, or if it was plainly given by Rhett. Or it could be both.

And everyone is dying. The Tarleton twins, although not so adorable, are dead, along with other men that were once Scarlett’s beaux. It’s good to hear that Ashley is alive, who came home for Christmas.

And the tramp! Scarlett flirts with Ashley under Melanie’s nose. Which is brought hoity-toity feelings because Ashley returns a kiss, but breaks away as soon as he gets back his better judgment. Well, Melanie is pregnant now, so we could only imagine Scarlett’s indignation at that.

More on Rhett, I think he represents the common sense that the Southerners have greatly overlooked. He does invite trouble as much as he tells the way how things really are without twisting the details to fill any listener’s satisfaction.

Day 07: Chapters 17, 18

Part Three opens with more narrative regarding the war. Everyone is joining the army, old men (senior citizens, anyone?) and boys too young to leave school. Everyone is in panic. Everyone is leaving Atlanta, except for the hardcore fanatics, like the Meades and the Merriwethers. Scarlett wants to leave. She attempts to, but is held back.

By what? By her promise to Ashley that she will take care of the heavily pregnant Melanie. Of course, Melanie can’t leave Atlanta because of her condition, and Aunt Pittypat leaves the two girls for Macon.

It seems like the war is going to reach Atlanta anytime soon. All the retreating led to this. It’s pretty much like the retreating strategy in War and Peace, where Moscow was taken by the French army, which is pretty much like the Yankees in this novel.

Day 08: Chapters 19, 20, 21, 22

I have ambiguous feelings for Scarlett. I don’t like her petulant selfishness. I like her tenacity to stick with her words. I don’t like the motives behind her actions. I like how she can make things work for her.

And it’s hilarious how she reacted when Rhett proposed to her. To be his mistress. What an insult that would be during those times. I can only imagine Scarlett’s indignation.

With the arrival of the Yankees is also the arrival of Melanie’s baby, who almost did not make it thanks to the absence of medical attention. Could we consider Scarlett’s and Prissy’s presence anything close to medical help?

I think Scarlett is growing. This act of assisting a woman in giving birth is, for me, a sign of maturity. Despite her constant whining of wanting to go home, I see that she’s inching bit by bit towards maturity.

Note: Notes originally posted at GoodReads – The Filipino Group, with minor edits and a couple of translations. Still reading this with one of my bookish friends, Atty. Monique. Visit her blog at Bookish Little Me.

The Interrogation – J. M. G. Le Clézio

The Interrogation - J. M. G. Le Clézio
The Interrogation - J. M. G. Le Clézio

Who bought it: Me.

What is it: It is about the philosophical meanderings of a solitary man. If you ask me, it sounds like Albert Camus’s The Stranger.

When: October 22, 2011

Where: Book Sale – Walter Mart Munoz

Why: It’s supposedly the best work of this Nobel laureate. And I have wanted to buy a copy of this book for months now. I’m glad I have not bought it at a regular book store.

How much: Php 145.00

Ulysses – James Joyce

Ulysses - James Joyce
Ulysses - James Joyce

Who bought it: My dearest Huhi! Lest you get it wrong, Huhi is an exclusive term of endearment that I share with one of my closest college friends, Joan Pili David!

What is it: It’s about an ordinary day in the city of Dublin. What is so critical about it? I read somewhere that it boasts of verbosity, obscenity, and allusions to Greek mythology. Should be fun, yes? And hard?

When: October 19, 2011

Where: http://www.BookDepository.com

Why: There is so much acclaim in this novel. It is Modern Library’s top novel in its list. Time Magazine even bothered to make a disclaimer on why it isn’t included in their list of 100 books. You don’t know why? Time Magazine’s list is only inclusive of novels that were published since the magazine was born. Ulysses is a year earlier, I think. Which isn’t so bad because that makes it the 101st book, right?

How much: It’s an early Christmas gift, so I’d rather not put the price. But yes, the receipt is included in the package.

Ship Fever: Stories – Andrea Barrett

Ship Fever: Stories - Andrea Barrett
Ship Fever: Stories - Andrea Barrett

Who bought it: Me.

What is it: A collection of short stories about the science of love and the love of science. Ship Fever is the carrier single, I mean story. The cover looks nice. Yes, I have started on this habit of quasi-judging books by their covers.

When: October 18, 2011

Where: Book Sale – Makati Square

Why: Another National Book Award winner. I haven’t failed at seeing one in every Book Sale branch since I started collecting these books.

How much: Php 45.00

(Image courtesy of Tower.com)