"Why a classic portuguese novel should be on your to-read list"
By Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika (Via OZI.COM) - 26/11/2017
A presente critica literária pode ser consultada e recuperada aqui
"We’re starting a new feature at OZY Books: the building of a global bookshelf. Every other month, our book section editor will pick a selection we think you might enjoy. It might be one you’ve never heard of, or perhaps about a place you’ve never visited. We start with a classic: Blindness, by José Saramago, has stood the test of time. There’s something for everyone — plot, philosophy, allegory, passion, despair and triumph.
SO WHAT’S THE STORY?
A plague of blindness descends on an unnamed city. Within hours, internment camps are erected to keep the blind and contaminated away from the rest of the population. Chaos ensues both inside and outside the camps as more people turn blind. Only one person doesn’t go blind, and she is both witness to the atrocities and guide to her small group of friends. Her words become the group’s maxim: “If we cannot live entirely like human beings, at least let us do everything in our power not to live entirely like animals.” This is a story about power, greed and courage and how individuals and governments respond to crisis. It is, at its core, about what makes us human.
WHO WROTE IT?
Saramago, the grandson of pig farmers, was born in 1922 into a peasant family. A curious fact about his birth: The village clerk, possibly drunk when filling out the birth certificate, wrote “Saramago” instead of the true family name, de Sousa. Saramago means “wild radish” in Portuguese, which in retrospect seems apt for someone who came from a poor peasant background, published his first book only in his fifties and then went on to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Perhaps the wild radish also says something about the sharpness of Saramago’s character — he was known as a prickly personality, a staunch atheist and a lifelong member of the Portuguese Communist party.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
First, some readers of Blindness claim the book is insensitive to blind people, portraying them as a metaphor for moral depravity. Others (including the author when he was alive) refute this critique, saying that it’s about a population that fears the blindness and what happens in the chaos that ensues. There’s also a problem of punctuation or, rather, the lack thereof in the book. Punctuation to Saramago was like traffic signs: “Too much of it distracted you from the road on which you traveled.” To which some critics have wondered, Sure, but too little and you wind up hopelessly lost.
THE CHAOTIC AND POSTAPOCALYPTIC WORLD
THAT IS CURRENTLY BEING PORTRAYED IN
MANY BOOKS AND TV SERIES IS WHAT SARAMAGO
GOT RIGHT MANY YEARS EARLIER.
The world may not have witnessed a plague of blindness, but illnesses such as Ebola and Zika have triggered panic reactions akin to those described in Blindness. The chaotic and postapocalyptic world that is currently being portrayed in many books and TV series is what Saramago got right many years earlier. Blindness speaks to our world today, in which societies realign themselves and rules are dramatically changing. And the blindness referred to in this novel is not just a physical one. As one of the characters remarks: “I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.” Issues pertaining to the abuse of power, whether in the political realm or otherwise, are as pertinent today as they always have been. Whether in Los Angeles or Lagos, we still turn a blind eye to predatory and misogynistic behavior; we still see (and don’t see) the use of sexual assault and rape as weapons of war; and we still pretend not to see, all around us, the glaring injustices that are hiding in plain sight. This is a book that tackles tough subjects and gives us complicated and flawed characters that defy simplistic right and wrong, bad and good, judgments."
“Blind. The apprentice thought, ‘We are blind,’ and he sat down and wrote Blindness to remind those who might read it that we pervert reason when we humiliate life, that human dignity is insulted every day by the powerful of our world, that the universal lie has replaced the plural truths, that man stopped respecting himself when he lost the respect due to his fellow creatures.”
José Saramago in his Nobel Lecture, 1998