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.
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.
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.