Saturday, April 04, 2009

90 (2009 #15). Blindness

by Jose Saramago,
read by Jonathan Davis

I listened to this audiobook because my long-distance book club back in Washington state was reading it earlier this year. I think the book was chosen because Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, three years after this novel was first published in Portuguese in 1995.

This is a horrific novel about the dystopia that ensues after an epidemic of inexplicable blindness. At one point, the events that occur are so disgusting and disheartening (gang rapes, among other things) that I simply had to stop listening to the audiobook and switch to a different book. I picked up a paper copy of the book at my university library and skipped ahead to the end. That was encouraging so I did go back and listen to the rest of this audiobook.

The audiobook is definitely the preferred format. Saramago uses little punctuation, apparently in all of his novels. Sentences run on for entire paragraphs, paragraphs go on for pages. The original translator died before his work was completed and another completed the revisions, and the translation comes across as word-for-word rather than edited. Being an allegory, the location and characters are all unnamed - the latter are referred to as "the doctor," "the doctor's wife," "the man with the eye patch," "the girl with the dark glasses," "the boy with the squint," and so on. Attempting to read the dialogue can be very confusing, as it's not clear who is speaking. The narrator, actor Jonathan Davis, does an excellent job using slight variations in voice to make each character unique - AND he pauses appropriately in this (too-)wordy book, making it easier to follow the story.

I used the cover from the print edition I used for this post, rather than less-interesting cover from the audiobook, which is a tie-in to the 2008 movie starring Julianne Moore. She's one of my favorite actresses, but I have no desire to see this movie. I'm glad I finished the book, but this is not one that I would re-read, nor would I recommend it to others.

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