Blindness - Jose Saramago
I read this on the recommendation of a fellow resident, a third-year now with enough free time to start a book club. I was sure I'd never finish anything on time, but luckily I have been able to read on the commuter bus. Saramago won a Nobel Prize for this book, and it's easy to understand why. It is immaculately crafted, inventing its own stylistic conventions (such as putting dialogue all in one big paragraph without ever using quotation marks) and developing the characters so subtly you almost forget that you have never learned any of their names. The story line is this: one by one, everyone goes blind, in the pattern of a contagious illness. When it is just a few people, they are institutionalized in hopes of halting the spread. The captives gain their freedom only when their captors lose their own sight. But what a freedom to gain - society has broken down on every level, and possessing only four of their five senses has reduced people to the most feral of animals. On the large scale of crowds and governments, Saramago paints humanity at its worst - cruel, self-serving, unforgiving. On the small scale of individuals, the spirit of man (or, more often, woman) is depicted at its most lofty, and they who lose their lives for the sake of others do find them. I cannot say I enjoyed reading this book, it is much too disturbing for that. Do I recommend it? Only if you're going to read it in short bites and you get to do something redemptive with the rest of your day. If that is the case, then by all means enter the world of the nameless and sightless, and see where you yourself might land.