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Blindness :: José Saramago


internation symbol of blindessA long long time ago, in another part of the country, under a different name, I read my first Saramago novel, Blindness. I will always like Saramago not only for his ability to create a world that operates under the same laws as ours and mercilessly break it down, but also for his block writing. Very few paragraph breaks litter the page. Saramago likes how words look. Words as opposed to spaces and emptiness, sounds and drawings, images and video. Saramago loves words, and why shouldn’t he? Words have given him everything. As I read Blindness, sometimes at home, sometimes on the beach, sometimes in a bookstore or bar, I was aware of the filth involved in a world where everyone has suddenly gone blind. Saramago didn’t shy away from describing the rapid decline of hygiene, the savage conflict for food rations, and the overall desperation involved when such a plague sweeps across the land. But he does this using only words. There are no gruesome images, videos, or sounds, just words. Words, words, and words. That is all. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say his words are gruesome. While it is true that he is a writer who is unwilling to sacrifice accuracy for watered-down stories, Saramago has enough in his arsenal of prose to accomplish this without resorting to vulgarities. In this way, Blindness is a book I would recommend to anyone who likes to read other than little kids who still make use of the children’s section at the bookstore. I say this without reservation. But Blindness, Fernando Meirelles’s movie based on Saramago’s novel, is an entirely different story. The truth is, movies resemble reality too much. Words will always be words on the page, detached from the world of images, but movies are pretty much the real world. I know people walked in their own feces in Blindness. I know there was stentorian rape and murder in Blindness. To be honest, I know there was even worse. But reading about the feces, reading about the rape and murder, is entirely different, and, I’ll argue, much more wholesome, than watching it on the big screen, where everything is just too close to home, too sullied and graphic. I did not like the movie. I didn’t like it one bit. On the other hand, I liked the novel. I liked it enough to read more from Saramago’s opus. The movie, however, was embarrassing to watch with the people I invited over to watch it with. The movie made me avert my eyes more than once. The movie was harsh and gratuitous. The novel, a masterpiece.

November 26, 2009 12:33 pm

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