This is not a cheery book, but it is an excellent one for discussion. For instance, how long does it take for human beings to go feral? Jose Saramago doesn’t think it will take long. Let’s hope none of us ever find out.
In an unnamed city, unnamed people go blind for an unknown reason. It starts with “the first blind man” and rapidly engulfs everyone, except “the doctor’s wife.” She is the witness to the collapse of society, as more and more victims enter a resplendent, milky-white blindness, rather than ordinary darkness. The government effects an ineffective quarantine that lands a pod of patients from the doctor’s waiting room in a ward of a previously abandoned mental hospital. 15-commandments are repeated from loudspeakers every day, the fifth of which, the only one that is a recommendation and not an order, turns out to be critical – internees should organize themselves. That never effectively happens and a might-makes-right organization takes over, leading to dreadful consequences for the interred blind, particularly the women.
As the internees make their way into larger blinded society, the reader is shown how society is reliant on the individual performing their specialized role. Each of us can’t do it all, especially with our eyes closed.
There many details worth analyzing, e.g., can society reorganize, were the doctor’s wife’s decisions the correct ones, the dignity of the women vs. the men, the old man with the eye patch’s monstrous wish, the blindfolded saints, why did the doctor and the girl with the dark glasses get busy, the use of old adages, etc…, but the writer saves the big question for the last page – are we all blind people who can see? Very good discussion book.