Tuesday, January 31, 2006

PTN Book Club: Guest Post

Marc Reiner on Blindness:

Saramago's book reminded me of Kubrick's 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket, based on the division of the book into two distinct parts. The internment in the ward, like Basic Training, and then the prisoners off on their own into a state of chaos.

Before the characters meet, we get a basic glimpse into their lives, and then as the first man goes blind, a steady succession of events occur that culminate into their imprisonment. Saramago paints the characters in great detail, but we never learn their names. This balance of personal quirks but no names was very odd. I suppose it had something to do with imagery of us being blind to certain attributes. This is similar to how I had to reread the dialogue to make sure I knew who was talking, which became difficult at various points.

The prison basically functioned as a Hobbesian state of war. Most people looked out for themselves, even to the point of horrific sexual gratification, and discarded any semblance of humanity. The city basically forgot about the prisoners, and soon there became no difference. Even the soldiers joked that the "blinds" should all be shot, and when a colonel did infact become blind and shot himself, they further joked that at least he's consistent. That scene, coupled with the drawn out mass rape, showed utter depravity.

The doctor's wife was the sole voice of reason, as she used her sight as an obligation for her to retain her humanity and do all she could; cleaning the dead, asking for food, even killing a rapist. But even one person's sight and humanity was no match for the moral and literal blindness of the masses.

The second half of the book was a major letdown. I just didn't find them foraging through the town for food, and the realization that everyone was afflicted as being all that interesting.

Overall, the book could have come down with the fire that ended the prison. Everything else seemed superfluous and no new points were made other than wrapping up the plot, quite unsatisfactorily.
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