Sunday, 11 January 2009
BLINDNESS by JOSE SARAMAGO
Jose Saramago wrote BLINDNESS much before SEEING, but one who has read both these mesmerizing works can identify them as political parables of ingenuity. Call them parables, fables, allegories written in the vein of magical realism, they are of immense value to the times we live in.
A man is struck blind at the traffic signals as suddenly as lightening. Several others, in fact the whole city is plunged into this epidemic of blindness, except for one. The first batch of the blind are negotiated into a mental asylum. Truly biblical in its parameters, the story unfolds on the unimaginably brutal life that awaits the blind. Saramago, at one point tells you how this must have been like the times when life began at the beginning of time. That must be the time when scrapings of civilization must have dawned on human beings. Saramago takes you to a world ruled by jungle laws. The blind rule the blind, it is the blind themselves who obliterate the lives of others, and it is the blind themselves who fight their way through this chaos.
Each paragraph abounds in maxims, some well worn, some twisted by Saramago in wily humor, but we must finally agree that yes the world is such a place. There is burning fatalism at every stage, yet the parable does not contain a single word that could take you out of the narrative for a breath of air. It is dark, it is BLINDNESS.
I always knew women were the stronger of the two, but Saramago seems to revel in capturing women at the zenith of their strength. Paradoxically, it is also the women who provide the reader with the much needed respite as well the bouts of scathingly dark comedy. From the highest point of evolution, men whimper back to the stone age while women wait and bide for their time. Women wait patiently to strike at the right time.
Among these two scorching novels, I preferred SEEING, since the scope of SEEING is much larger compared to BLINDNESS. But there is no doubt as to the strength of BLINDNESS, because it gives a garrulous glimpse of the beginning of time and takes you right into the dark corners of times beyond civilization. When this happens right in earnest amongst us, who pride themselves as being civilized, it has that brutal edge to it that we deny feebly.
Though New Year began with a tiny mishap, reading has put me back on track. When there are authors like Saramago, who can transport you to the unlit corners of one’s mind, there is not a second to be wasted crying, however dark the painted world might be.
So if you can see – Look. If you can look – Observe. We might come to learn that perhaps we are blind people after all who can just about see, but prefer not to.
The above pix was clicked at the time I joined the Chinmaya Mission College as a Junior Lecture in English after completing my Post Graduation. One of colleagues pictured here was the HOD of the Dept. of History and the other was my Senior in the Dept. of English.