|Genre||Novel (294 pp.)|
|Keywords||Abandonment, Blindness, Caregivers, Catastrophe, Disability, Epidemics, Human Worth, Institutionalization, Loneliness, Love, Society, Suffering, Survival|
A sudden epidemic of blindness spreads throughout an unidentified country. When those who have lost their sight are examined, however, no evidence of pathology or damage can be found. The afflicted all describe "seeing" not darkness but rather a dense, impenetrable whiteness.
Because the government believes the disease is contagious, those people initially affected are quickly quarantined in a former mental hospital that is guarded by soldiers. There, the blind are treated like lepers and live like animals. Enigmatically, the wife of a sightless ophthalmologist has been spared from going blind. She functions as both protector and caregiver of a small group of blind people. They escape their imprisonment only when their captors (and presumably everyone except the ophthalmologist's wife) lose their sight.
Life is reduced to a constant search for food. As the situation grows even more grisly, vision is not only abruptly restored but perhaps with a clarity greater than ever before. When crowds of people rejoice "I can see," the reader wonders whether their earlier loss of sight was genuine or maybe some form of psychic blindness or spiritual malaise.
Blindness is a powerful and disturbing allegory illustrating what might happen if society loses sight of what is truly meaningful. In this novel, humanity is in peril of vanishing both literally and figuratively. In the nightmarish portrayal of an entire country mysteriously blinded, images of rotting corpses, spreading putrescence, and repulsive acts of behavior mirror the decomposition of human nature.
Why is it that two of the best qualities of human nature--generosity and altruism--are often the first to disappear in the face of crisis? How is it that joy and sorrow often go hand in hand? Why do terrible things happen? The author reminds us that there are many forms of blindness and multiple ways of being blinded (by love, lust, fear, and greed).
The novel has much to teach us about the cost of human dignity, the value of life, the intricacies of relationships, and the healing ability of love. The ophthalmologist makes this interesting observation: "Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are." In the catastrophic world of Blindness, to live each fragile day is the greatest miracle of all.
|Place Published||New York|
|Miscellaneous||Translated from the Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero. First published: 1995 (Portugal)|
|Annotated by||Miksanek, Tony|
|Date of Entry||10/27/99|