January 11, 2011


Blindness by Jose Saramago is the best book I have ever read.

I feel very strange making that statement. My best friend and bull-shit detector called me on the statement when I said it to him.

"That's like saying the best drink ever, or the best sex ever, or the best ice-cream ever."

Yes. Yes. Yes.

This is the best book I have ever read. Ever.

It may be the best book I will ever read in my life.

It has changed how I view all the books that have come before this one and I am afraid that it will impact my reading for years to come.

It is the first book that I have ever finished and then immediately begun reading again from page one.

This is the first time I have EVER read the ending of a book before I got to the end. I had to. I had to know if what I was going through while reading this book was going to be worth it. I had to know if the emotional highs and lows I was experiencing had an ending I could deal with. And knowing the ending did not change the experience of the book at all.

I said to the same friend that "knowing the ending of War and Peace and what happens to Prince Andre would have changed the experience of that book for me." Knowing the ending of Blindness only allowed me to go on.

What is Blindness? Simply, it is a story of individuals and collective society losing their sight. More deeply, it is a story of people and collective society losing their vision.

The Boston Globe said this book is "A shattering work by a literary master."

Shattering is the word I was searching for as I read this novel.

It is brilliant. It is dazzling. It is staggering. It is shattering.

This is the first time, at least that I can remember, that I felt a physical reaction to written words on a page. I felt pain. I cried. I was emotionally drained. While I was reading, I had people stop me and ask if everything was o.k. They could see the terror and agony and heartbreak on my face. I was shattered.

I must explain that this was not a horror movie terror. This was a visceral terror. A vision of our society at its worst.

Yet, I could find - and it is what kept me going - a shimmer of hope and a crumb of humanity. For this is also a vision of people at their best.

But I don't know if you should read Blindness. There are very few people I would recommend this book too. I know few people who could handle the emotions I endured. Or better said ... there are few people I know who would want to handle the emotions I endured for a book.

Read Blindness only if you are willing to admit what you cannot see.

Many, many thanks to Myla Goldberg and NPR for introducing me to this book through their series "You Must Read This."

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. I thought it was amazing. Horrifying. Beautiful.

    I've also seen the film adaptation, and it's quite faithful and certainly just as brutal, though I found the book more powerful (no surprise).

    At first I thought the lack of character names (ala The Road) and lack of normal formatting (paragraphs, quotes on the dialogue) would make it difficult. And it did, but it pulled me into the story.

    There's evidently a sequel, but I'm not sure I want to delve into that world again, though I could definitely read this one again.

    How did you find the book? I think I saw the movie preview and looked it up, but I'm just curious how anybody else found it.

    (BTW, I reviewed it and had it as my favorite novel of 2009 - http://seth.heasley.net/blog/2009/08/wordful-wednesday-blindness/)