Blindness by Jose SaramagoBlindness by Jose Saramago


byJose Saramago

Paperback | October 15, 1999

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A stunningly powerful novel of man's will to survive against all odds, by the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature.

This is a shattering work by a literary master."- The Boston Globe

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year
A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers-among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears-through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses-and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit."
JOSE SARAMAGO (1922-2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Title:BlindnessFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.94 inPublished:October 15, 1999Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0156007754

ISBN - 13:9780156007757

Appropriate for ages: 14

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Rated 1 out of 5 by from hard to read Interesting plot but this novel is difficult to read. There is no dialogue in this book and very few paragraphs. I have no desire to read the next book in this series.
Date published: 2018-06-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not at all disturbing, not at all compelling and not at all interesting. The movie based on this book is fantastic, and a beautiful example of the potential of science fiction to tell unique, deeply moving stories. And the book won the Nobel Prize for literature. So reading this is a no brainer, right? I wish that were so. Oh how I wish it. What a terrible, wooden, stilted turd of a book. Apparently all it takes to win a Nobel Prize is not using punctuation and hammering home your metaphors with all the subtly of a rusty crowbar to the face. The reason the movie was so great is that it left out all of the commentary on the depths of human depravity that Mr. Saramago shoehorned in left and right, or at least had the decency to have a character actually say it instead of just having the narrator tell you exactly what to think about what is happening. I only got a third of the way through the book before I gave up out of disgust. I rarely say this (Children of Men notwithstanding) but I will say it now (though it pains me). See the movie. Do not read the book.
Date published: 2018-01-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great concept and story but a tough read The story and the concept are fantastic but the way the book is written is not for me. Long paragraphs that seem to drone on and on make it difficult to get invested in and the characters at times are very one dimensional. Plus the ending was kind of blah. Still, I can't say I hated the book.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read! First time reading Saramago and I don't think it'll be my last. Themes of resiliency, resourcefulness, mob-mentality, power, love, etc...
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read First time reading Saramago and I don't think it'll be my last. Themes of resiliency, resourcefulness, mob-mentality, power, love, etc...
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Blindness I love the story although it was a slightly difficult read, maybe because it was not originally written in English? It's on my list to be read again eventually.
Date published: 2017-06-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great I love the concept but the book lost me at some points
Date published: 2017-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from makes you see This book is a hard read at times, but it goes to show you how people can stick together in rough times, and the resilience that humanity can have in hard times. highly recommend this read. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read! This is a book that you must read! It is a story by Jose Saramago translated from Portuguese into English. I don't know if it was in the translation, or the original style of his writing, but the way it is written in long paragraphs with little punctuation, makes it an interesting read in itself. But the story of blindness coming upon a city, victims being isolated and forgotten, warehoused in an old psychiatric hospital, and what unfolds is a story worth reading!
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a terrifying parable about the frailty of the social contract
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect One of the best novels ever written. The style is different; there is a lack of punctuation and speech marks, so everything blends together which some people find annoying. I particularly loved the themes; the fragility of society and the inability of governments to deal with crises. There are also some very disturbing scenes involving rape and bodily functions. I would recommend this if you enjoy reading books written in an unconventional style, and you aren't afraid to read about tough subjects.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I couldn't put it down This book grabs you and doesn't let you go. It quickly found a place as one of my all time favourite books.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Reading With Your Eyes Closed While most people will find disturbing the lack of punctuation and quotations marks, this is used by Saramago to blind us a bit. As we read, we lose all our visual references; there is no point where you can return easily. Saramango did an incredible job making the reader as powerless as the blind were in this book. It’s a deep story about a society that loses their humanity returning to primal instinct. Other than the ending that left me a bit unsatisfied, the book was a hit for me; I would definitely recommend it to anybody willing to get passed the lack of spaces.
Date published: 2012-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow This was a very interesting book. I felt like it was somewhat the adult version of Lord of the Flies. For me, the style of writing was a bit confusing at times but it wasn't difficult.
Date published: 2011-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Blindness Blindness is a novel about a community that slowly starts to go blind, except for one person. After the city discovers that the blindness is contagious they start to quarantine all the blind people inside an abandoned mental hospital. Eventually human nature sets in. The fight for power, food, and water slowly creates chaos within the hospital. A small group of people manage to escape and soon realize that the whole city has gone blind. Blindness then becomes a story about kindness, friendship, and determination in order to survive against all odds. Jose Saramago provides a unique read for everyone to enjoy.
Date published: 2011-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind-blowing. The crazy chaotic pace and structure takes some getting used to, but when you do, you get sucked in. I personally think the non-structure was a masterful choice. A brilliant crooked mirror of our society.
Date published: 2010-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Piece of Work The concept of this novel is very interesting. A society goes blind( except for one person). When the blindness is found to be contagious, the city starts to quarantine everyone..then human nature sets in. Greed, lust, dominance rear their ugly heads in this novel in a way that will make you have to put the book down to regroup. Not all is bad though ,because kindness, passion and solidarity also surface. This novel made me think and want to discuss many things about the human psyche. Upon starting this book, I wondered "is this poor editing?" or ' did they overlook punctuation in the translation?'.Why don't the characters have names? Well, this style is what will make Jose Saramago a very memorable author . His style is untouched. While this will be different read from what most are used to. It is a tough read but give it a chance.!
Date published: 2009-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Perspective I really enjoyed this novel. The most appealing aspect of Saramago's writing was the absence of character names. Undefined speech was also very interesting. These two things definitely influenced how I connected to each character and their situation. Every emotion was touched on as well ... It leads the reader to really think about what it must be like to be blind, but have a sense of awareness (thought the level of awareness is different with each character). You're completely drawn into the story ... I can't wait to read seeing which takes place after the end of this book. As a side note, the movie was not a very good representation of the novel. If you want to see it - watch it BEFORE you read the book.
Date published: 2009-08-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not bad, but not great I often find that certain books that achieve critical acclaim are not for me. This makes me question my "tastes" as a reader. Blindness has won critical acclaim internationally. It is, as many know, a story about a sudden world epidemic of blindness that affects the world - and tells the tale from the view of seven strangers who, all but one, are blind. The book highlights the bad and good that all humans possess. While the ideas and theories about humanity it portrays are thought provoking and riveting, the book is difficult to read. Written in a manner without any grammar, virtually no paragraphs, and identifiers of who is speaking - it becomes too distracting for the reader to contemplate what the author is trying to convey. For that reason, I felt the book was more of a struggle than in ought to have been. I don't mind books that are written "differently", but I cannot find enjoyment in a book that makes me so annoyed and frustrated, I start to sweat.
Date published: 2009-04-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from In a word, FRUSTRATING Blindness was my first encounter with Jose Saramago, and between being beaten over the head with his allegorical commentary, struggling through the lack of punctuation and quotations, and experiencing some of the most horrifying and disturbing scenes I’ve ever read, I am almost at a loss for words. I can only assume that some of the story was lost in translation, or at least I hope so, because even upon reading and re-reading page-long paragraphs, I still didn’t have a clear picture of some of the finer nuances within this daunting narrative. As I gather, this is a statement on the fragility of society, and the weakness of the human condition. It points an accusatory finger at government and authority, and its inability to provide for its citizens in a time of crisis. This of course is brutally honest when considering the disastrous outcome of tragedies like Hurricane Katrina. Its nameless characters are reduced to animal instinct, and as such, spend every waking hour in survival mode, forging for food and water, seeking shelter and protecting their precious lives from others, also just looking to survive, all of this while completely blind. In this regard, Saramago shows us that we are just one small step away from complete and utter chaos, in a world where we rely so heavily on technology and the systems which it has created. Although the main cast of characters are rather one dimensional, they do provide hope that humans can remain civil and loving, even in the most desperate of situations, at least in small groups. Overall, this wasn’t a bad novel, and you do eventually get used to the style in which it was written, but I definitely expected more from it, and find that it was slightly overrated. The plot was gripping, and Saramago’s mind is quite creative, but in the end I just found myself wishing that someone with a different style had produced it.
Date published: 2009-01-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hard read but worth it - soon to be a movie! I didn't love this book as much as the people who recommended it to me, but it was definitely a worth while read that I would recommend to others. The author doesn't use a lot of punctuation, with long run on sentences and no quotation marks which can make it challenging. Plus some of the content is challenging as well. A city is struck with white blindness. People are quarantined and then that doesn't work when everyone falls blind. The people are trapped in the quarantine under the threat of being shot but what goes down behind the closed doors may be worse than being shot. It was definitely a book that made you think. It will either be a great movie or a simply horrible one!
Date published: 2008-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic read! Blindness tells the story of an unnamed city during an unnamed time hit by an epidemic of 'white blindness'. When disaster hits the unnamed city a disturbing portrait of human nature is painted. Although not all bad most characters revert to a state of dependence and lose their ability to look after themselves.The authour takes you through what is a very vivid and believable example of what an epidemic of blindness would be like. The writing is fantastic and I really enjoyed that the characters remained nameless throughout the novel, except for titles given to them by the circumstances they went blind, or by physical features seen only by the doctors wife. Each character is extremely well developed and their stories are told over the course of the book. The final chapters are beautifully written and cap off the story well. This is a great example of human strength and weakness, loyalty and betrayal, and how we take our senses for granted. I was made aware of this book after seeing the recent movie I Am Legend and see the similarities between the two stories. Having read through and thoroughly enjoyed this novel I would highly recommend it as it is obvious why the authour, Jose Saramago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
Date published: 2008-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome This book was truly disturbing and amazing at the same time. It gave me nightmares but it gave me hope and insight as well. Really a very thought provoking book. A unique concept that really stops you in your tracks. A must read!
Date published: 2008-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from truly unbelievable!! This is the one book that everyone should read. It should change your perspective on the simpliest of things that we take for granted. It is amazing to think what would occur with a pandemic of this proportion. It makes you thankful for a glass of water. Highly recommend--it will consume you.
Date published: 2008-02-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant. Incredible 'insight' -amazingly written..a beautiful work. Captures the deepest human vulnerabilities and unravels a fluid nightmare.
Date published: 2008-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This is one of my favourite books. It completely challenges you and Saramago paints absolutely horrifying pictures in your mind but it doesn't ignore the good parts of humanity. It's a heavy but fast-paced and amazing read. I suggest something light afterwards though.
Date published: 2008-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A book everyone must read before they die! Any one should read this book if they want to know what could happen to any human when faced with the most basic and carnal desire to survive in a world that they can no longer see. Faced with only a white blindess the citizens of an unnamed city are thrown together and abandoned by the people whom they trusted. Alone in their blindness the most intimate of human desires surface and take over, a must read for any one who liked Lord of the Flies, while this book takes it to the limit.
Date published: 2008-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good but confusing like it says: good but confusing. (it's confusing b/c there are no quotation marks and it's hard to follow who is talking)
Date published: 2008-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Flores por los Muertos Contemplating just how Saramago's sensational novel will translate into an upcoming film is an unsettling experience. The bleakness he confronts in human nature, and which is so vividly rendered in the physical landscape of his work, may well overshadow the transcendence of our finer qualities that quite mystically uplifts the closing movement of his novel. This is not a work for the faint of heart. The effort required of the reader to affirm a Blakeian higher innocence is daunting. But, if you can withstand the sensory and moral assault, there is philosophical heft , fascinating narrative and great style here.
Date published: 2007-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What if an entire city was struck blind? A disturbing look at a city that has been taken over by a white blindness; how they are treated and how they treat one another. The further you read, the more unnerving the story gets.
Date published: 2007-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Amazing it's one of the best books i've ever read in my life! If you are interested in Sociology or Group Behaviour, you would definitely find it interesting. Some parts are very dark, but truly powerful!
Date published: 2007-05-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Lesser Day Of The Triffids I've throughly examined this book and broke it apart and wrote tonnes of notes to myself on it, and have decided that it is, in the final analysis, really just a knock-off of a few other works. Mostly, the concept of mass blindness is lifted from the science fiction classic Day Of The Triffids, and a lot of the situations explored there, are explored here. But not to the same effect, as the actions of the characters in Blindess are often illogical and half-baked. It becomes a very abstracted meditation on the human condition which is unconvincing and ultimately pretentious. But, because it hits the right politically correct buttons, it was obviously destined to win some awards from the people who decide some of these things, at the expense of better work which is less derivative and not lifting ideas from the various sources this one does (and there are several places to point that are pretty blatant). Clearly the "judges" who gave it a prize don't read anything but "important" books, and a guffaw like this happened. A real shame, because there is a lot out there better than this.
Date published: 2006-10-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Study in Human Nature In Blindness, Saramago paints a disturbing portrait of human nature when faced with a disaster. In the novel, an epidemic of white blindness results in anarchy and fear throughout the affected city. The situation brings out the best and worst in the characters of the book. Some resort to theft, rape and violence. The protagonists try to remain true to the rules of civilization while still surviving. This book is definitely not a light read but rather causes you to think about what truly defines humanity and how we ourselves would react in a situation such as the one in the book. It was eerie to see the devastation and anarchy in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina paralleling the events in the novel. The city and the characters names are never used, which reduces the characters to "everyman". They could be our neighbours, our relatives, our friends. I would definitely recommend this book as it causes you to think, and it tells a good story. I wouldn't recommend this book though if you're looking for a fun, happy book to bring with you to the beach. :)
Date published: 2006-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from beautiful story This book made me want to read more of the author's books, It was such a great, interesting story. I couldn't stop reading. The action's of the characters were so true to life, shocking and then beautiful.
Date published: 2006-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great book This book is possibly one of the finest I have ever read.
Date published: 2006-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a must read the title says it all - this book will haunt you for years
Date published: 2006-05-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from To Each Their Own I really, really did NOT enjoy this book. I heard such great reviews about it but found it to be very dark and depressing. I didn't find that the story flowed well at all. It took me 2 months to finally get through it because I dreaded picking it up. The only reason I finished it was because I was hoping it would get better ... but it never did. On a positive note, it's a great solution to insomnia!
Date published: 2006-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Icky Existentialism Blindness seems to provide a lot of opportunity to explore existential questions. I suppose that's because the sighted rely so heavily on their eyes to understand the world that the loss of sight is a perfect metaphor for the existentialist view that our world is fundamentally unknowable. What we think we know, we only assume... and are probably wrong. In Blindness, Saramago gets at the core of this uneasiness and exploits it to tremendous effect. Other reviewers have covered the plot pretty well, so I won't go into any detail there. Saramago begins with a character going blind behind the wheel of his car at a stop light. A good samaritan helps him home, only to rob him. In the tradition of poetic justice the thief is the second character to go blind. Gradually everyone within the realm of the city (and one presumes a good chunk of the world since no outside help is proffered) contracts this epidemic blindness save for one woman, who finds herself guiding a band of not-so-merry blindfolk. At the outbreak of the disease, the government carts off the newly-blind to be quarantined leave them neglected and unsupported, without enough food for all the inmates. Anyone trying to escape is killed by snipers. No one will enter the building for fear of contracting the blindness. In Lord of the Flies fashion a form of tribalism takes over with one group of male goons ruling with iron fists over the others, extorting sex and money in exchange for food. Saramago carries us through the gradual descent into anarchy as everything that keeps society functioning dissembles. If hell is other people as Sartre supposed, there's no question that hell is infinitely worse when basic hygiene practices have been abandoned. There are passages in the book with such vivid descriptions that I could literally smell and taste the squalor in the air around me. Eventually, our clan of blindfolk make their way back to the city and proceed to simply do what it takes to survive in this new world. Saramago may have existentialist questions, but if Blindness is any indication he is confident in humanity's ability to survive anything. If you like Blindness, I'd recommend Joseph Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late for a different treatment of a similar situation. In How Late... , the main character wakes up on the side of the road to discover that a drunken row with a policeman has left him blind. In both books, the very bureaucracy that is supposed to help those in need is their biggest obstacle. In both cases, the blind character(s) are left to their own devices to exist in a world that won't accommodate them. Both books are raw, and unabashed about the unpleasant elements of human behaviour, but Blindness is more hopeful than How Late... At the end of Blindness, we are confident society will be able to rebuild. Kelman leaves us no such comfort.
Date published: 2005-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant Blindness This was one of the most powerful and original books that I have read in a long time. Select individuals struck by a highly contagious 'disease' become quarantined and are forced to fend for themselves.
Date published: 2001-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Definitely one of my top ten reads... One of the most outstanding works that I have ever read. This novel provides a chillingly realistic look at man's inhumanity to one another, particularly at times of stress and uncertainty. The writing style is unusual, but it's ambiguity provides the reader with a taste of the blindness that the novel's characters are experiencing. Quite a remarkable feat for a written work. Truly a must read, but don't look to this book for a 'quick pick me up'
Date published: 2000-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Blindness This novel provides the reader with a brutally honest and harsh view of humanity. It was refreshing to see an author step back and objectively analyze humanity rather than boast of humanity's dominance. I enjoyed the novel due to both the author's honesty and the author's writing style. This novel is written as a person would think. Slightly unorganized and cluttered. The ending is slightly too convenient, but this novel is very reflective of humanity's strengths and weaknesses. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2000-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from EXCELLENT READ! Saramago's book is so perfect that I have recommended it to nearly every person that I have come across. This is my favourite book, and I hope that you will enjoy it as I have! Besides being an unpredictable read, it is a great study of society: how people treat each other. READ IT!
Date published: 2000-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from BLIND THAT CAN SEE Saramago creates a fascinating atmosphere full of metaphors and similes in order to build up the perfect alegory of contemporary humankind: blinded by selfishness, by its thirst for power, by its perverse instincts, by desparation; but ther´s also a blind love between an old man and a young, confused woman. So, perhaps the best and the worst things of humanity are sightless, or shall we better agree with the ofthalmologist´s wife that we all are blind, but blind that can see.
Date published: 1999-10-22

Read from the Book

The amber light came on. Two of the cars ahead accelerated before the red light appeared. At the pedestrian crossing the sign of a green man lit up. The people who were waiting began to cross the road, stepping on the white stripes painted on the black surface of the asphalt, there is nothing less like a zebra, however, that is what it is called. The motorists kept an impatient foot on the clutch, leaving their cars at the ready, advancing, retreating like nervous horses that can sense the whiplash about to be inflicted. The pedestrians have just finished crossing but the sign allowing the cars to go will be delayed for some seconds, some people maintain that this delay, while apparently so insignificant, has only to be multiplied by the thousands of traffic lights that exist in the city and by the successive changes of their three colours to produce one of the most serious causes of traffic jams or bottlenecks, to use the more current term. The green light came on at last, the cars moved off briskly, but then it became clear that not all of them were equally quick off the mark. The car at the head of the middle lane has stopped, there must be some mechanical fault, a loose accelerator pedal, a gear lever that has stuck, problem with the suspension, jammed brakes, breakdown in the electric circuit, unless he has simply run out of gas, it would not be the first time such a thing has happened. The next group of pedestrians to gather at the crossing see the driver of the stationary car wave his arms behind the windshield, while the cars behind him frantically sound their horns. Some drivers have already got out of their cars, prepared to push the stranded vehicle to a spot where it will not hold up the traffic, they beat furiously on the closed windows, the man inside turns his head in their direction, first to one side then the other, he is clearly shouting something, to judge by the movements of his mouth he appears to be repeating some words, not one word but three, as turns out to be the case when someone finally manages to open the door, I am blind. Who would have believed it. Seen merely at a glance, the man's eyes seem healthy, the iris looks bright, luminous, the sclera white, as compact as porcelain. The eyes wide open, the wrinkled skin of the face, his eyebrows suddenly screwed up, all this, as anyone can see, signifies that he is distraught with anguish. With a rapid movement, what was in sight has disappeared behind the man's clenched fists, as if he were still trying to retain inside his mind the final image captured, a round red light at the traffic lights. I am blind, I am blind, he repeated in despair as they helped him to get out of the car, and the tears welling up made those eyes which he claimed were dead, shine even more. These things happen, it will pass you'll see, sometimes it's nerves, said a woman. The lights had already changed again, some inquisitive passersby had gathered around the group, and the drivers further back who did not know what was going on, protested at what they thought was some common accident, a smashed headlight, a dented fender, nothing to justify this upheaval, Call the police, they shouted and get that old wreck out of the way. The blind man pleaded, Please, will someone take me home. The woman who had suggested a case of nerves was of the opinion that an ambulance should be summoned to transport the poor man to the hospital, but the blind man refused to hear of it, quite unnecessary, all he wanted was that someone might accompany him to the entrance of the building where he lived. It's close by and you could do me no greater favour. And what about the car, asked someone. Another voice replied, The key is in the ignition, drive the car on to the pavement. No need, intervened a third voice, I'll take charge of the car and accompany this man home. There were murmurs of approval. The blind man felt himself being taken by the arm, Come, come with me, the same voice was saying to him. They eased him into the front passenger seat, and secured the safety belt. I can't see, I can't see, he murmured, still weeping. Tell me where you live, the man asked him. Through the car windows voracious faces spied, avid for some news. The blind man raised his hands to his eyes and gestured, Nothing, it's as if I were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea. But blindness isn't like that, said the other fellow, they say that blindness is black, Well I see everything white, That little woman was probably right, it could be a matter of nerves, nerves are the very devil, No need to talk to me about it, it's a disaster, yes a disaster, Tell me where you live please, and at the same time the engine started up. Faltering, as if his lack of sight had weakened his memory, the blind man gave his address, then he said, I have no words to thank you, and the other replied, Now then, don't give it another thought, today it's your turn, tomorrow it will be mine, we never know what might lie in store for us, You're right, who would have thought, when I left the house this morning, that something as dreadful as this was about to happen. He was puzzled that they should still be at a standstill, Why aren't we moving, he asked, The light is on red, replied the other. From now on he would no longer know when the light was red. As the blind man had said, his home was nearby. But the pavements were crammed with vehicles, they could not find a space to park and were obliged to look for a spot in one of the side streets. There, because of the narrowness of the pavement, the door on the passenger's side would have been little more than a hand's-breadth from the wall, so in order to avoid the discomfort of dragging himself from one seat to the other with the brake and steering wheel in the way, the blind man had to get out before the car was parked. Abandoned in the middle of the road, feeling the ground shifting under his feet, he tried to suppress the sense of panic that welled up inside him. He waved his hands in front of his face, nervously, as if he were swimming in what he had described as a milky sea, but his mouth was already opening to let out a cry for help when at the last minute he felt the other's hand gently touch him on the arm, Calm down, I've got you. They proceeded very slowly, afraid of falling, the blind man dragged his feet, but this caused him to stumble on the uneven pavement, Be patient, we're almost there, the other murmured, and a little further ahead, he asked, Is there anyone at home to look after you, and the blind man replied, I don't know, my wife won't be back from work yet, today it so happened that I left earlier only to have this hit me. You'll see, it isn't anything serious, I've never heard of anyone suddenly going blind, And to think I used to boast that I didn't even need glasses, Well it just goes to show. They had arrived at the entrance to the building, two women from the neighbourhood looked on inquisitively at the sight of their neighbour being led by the arm but neither of them thought of asking, Have you got something in your eye, it never occurred to them nor would he have been able to reply, Yes, a milky sea. Once inside the building, the blind man said, Many thanks, I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused you, I can manage on my own now, No need to apologise, I'll come up with you, I wouldn't be easy in my mind if I were to leave you here. They got into the narrow elevator with some difficulty, What floor do you live on, On the third, you cannot imagine how grateful I am, Don't thank me, today it's you, Yes, you're right, tomorrow it might be you. The elevator came to a halt, they stepped out on to the landing, Would you like me to help you open the door, Thanks, that's something I think I can do for myself. He took from his pocket a small bunch of keys, felt them one by one along the serrated edge, and said, It must be this one, and feeling for the keyhole with the fingertips of his left hand, he tried to open the door. It isn't this one, Let me have a look, I'll help you. The door opened at the third attempt. Then the blind man called inside, Are you there, no one replied, and he remarked, Just as I was saying, she still hasn't come back. Stretching out his hands, he groped his way along the corridor, then he came back cautiously, turning his head in the direction where he calculated the other fellow would be, How can I thank you, he said, It was the least I could do, said the good Samaritan, no need to thank me, and added, Do you want me to help you to get settled and keep you company until your wife arrives. This zeal suddenly struck the blind man as being suspect, obviously he would not invite a complete stranger to come in who, after all, might well be plotting at that very moment how to overcome, tie up and gag the poor defenceless blind man, and then lay hands on anything of value. There's no need, please don't bother, he said, I'm fine, and as he slowly began closing the door, he repeated, There's no need, there's no need. Hearing the sound of the elevator descending he gave a sigh of relief. With a mechanical gesture, forgetting the state in which he found himself, he drew back the lid of the peep-hole and looked outside. It was as if there were a white wall on the other side. He could feel the contact of the metallic frame on his eyebrow, his eyelashes brushed against the tiny lens, but he could not see out, an impenetrable whiteness covered everything. He knew he was in his own home, he recognised the smell, the atmosphere, the silence, he could make out the items of furniture and objects simply by touching them, lightly running his fingers over them, but at the same time it was as if all of this were already dissolving into a kind of strange dimension, without direction or reference points, with neither north nor south, below nor above. Like most people, he had often played as a child at pretending to be blind, and, after keeping his eyes closed for five minutes, he had reached the conclusion that blindness, undoubtedly a terrible affliction, might still be relatively bearable if the unfortunate victim had retained sufficient memory, not just of the colours, but also of forms and planes, surfaces and shapes, assuming of course, that this one was not born blind. He had even reached the point of thinking that the darkness in which the blind live was nothing other than the simple absence of light, that what we call blindness was something that simply covered the appearance of beings and things, leaving them intact behind their black veil. Now, on the contrary, here he was, plunged into a whiteness so luminous, so total, that it swallowed up rather than absorbed, not just the colours, but the very things and beings, thus making them twice as invisible.   Copyright © José Saramago and Editorial Caminho, 1995 English translation copyright © Professor Juan Sager, 1997 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

From Our Editors

An epidemic of "white blindness" hits up the metropolis, sparing few whilst indiscriminately attacking the populous. Panic-maddened, citizens take to shelter only to be knocked around by seedier types that are themselves preoccupied with staying safe. From the ruins sways a procession of seven strangers, each totally unique in their background. Together they wade through the aftermath of the city to witness firsthand the harrowing surroundings. Blindness won the Nobel Prize for Literature for its powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses, and the exhilarating spirit that rises beyond them.

Editorial Reviews

This is a shattering work by a literary master."- The Boston Globe "This is an important book, one that is unafraid to face all of the horrors of the century."- The Washington Post "Symphonic . . . [There is] a clear-eyed and compassionate acknowledgment of things as they are, a quality that can only honestly be termed wisdom. We should be grateful when it is handed to us in such generous measure."- The New York Times Book Review "Saramago's surreal allegory explores the ability of the human spirit to prevail in even the most absurdly unjust of conditions, yet he reinvents this familiar struggle with the stylistic eccentricity of a master."- The New Yorker "Extraordinarily nuanced and evocative . . . This year's most propulsive, and most profound, thriller."- The Village Voice "Like Jonathan Swift, Saramago uses airily matter-of-fact detail to frame a bitter parable; unlike Swift he pierces the parable with a dart of steely tenderness . . . out of leisurely prose, the ferocity and tenderness shoot suddenly: arrows set alight. . . . Enchanting, sinuous dialogue."- The Los Angeles Times " Blindness may be as revolutionary in its own way and time as were, say, The Trial and The Plague in theirs. Another masterpiece."- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"