Project Reread, Book #1: Blindness

by david

Well, this is a surprise. A Facebook friend asked if anybody wanted to read Jose Saramago’s Blindness with her, and a bunch of people said yes, and one of those people was me. And so I’m starting Project Reread (please suggest a better name) with a book not on the list. It’s a book I loved the first time through. It’s not my favorite Saramago book. That would be All the Names, but I can’t read that for this project because it’s one of the only books I’ve ever reread already, and so I remember it much, much better than most other books.

What do I remember about Blindness that isn’t a spoiler? I remember the opening scene reasonably well, in abstract. A man comes home after a fender bender. I don’t remember the particulars of the accident, but one participant had suddenly lost his vision. The man’s wife helps him find his way to a chair. Rapidly, people associated with the accident begin losing their vision, as what appears to be a highly infectious disease passes through the city (I believe an imaginary city, but let’s say Lisbon) causing complete, sudden blindness in almost everybody. The government responds with a quarantine, and that’s where I stop recounting because a) it’ll get spoilery and b) I’m horrified by the darkness of what I’m about to reread but also impressed with myself that I do remember quite a bit of detail.

He eventually published a sequel, Seeing, which I read, and that may be part of the reason I recall Blindness so well. Seeing was much more recent, and not even remotely as good of a novel. Blindness, I think, if memory serves, is not a critique of a particular government or ideology, and Seeing definitely is. Blindness is a book that I remember well because it’s so unflattering and honest a look at real people. Seeing was less a novel than a sculpture made from the splinters thrown off a well-ground axe.

It’s been at least four or five years since I read any Saramago, but I’ve read at least seven of his books, and though I remember his style, I expect it’ll be slower going than I’m prepared for. His page counts are slim, but it takes a lot to work through a page. If you’re unsure why, check out a Google or Amazon preview of any page of any of his novels: nobody’s sentences and paragraphs look quite like his.

I said I’d get started after FringeNYC. Well, FringeNYC ended yesterday. I guess it’s time to jump in. Project Reread is a go. Oh god.