Blind to Protest Film Adaption of Jose Saramago’s Blindness

Blind plan to protest the Oct 3rd US Release of Blindness

Blindness Movie Poster

The chairman of the commission for the blind Marc Maurer is planning on staging a protest for the film adaptation of the 1998 Novel Blindness by Portuguese Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago.

To be blunt this seems silly. And I wonder if the chairman has read this novel, or any of Saramago’s other novels. But the protest will most likely help the film’s opening night attendance.

The quote I remember most from Blindness when I read it in 2000 was:

Bury your dead without ceremony in the yard, do not approach the fence and you will not be harmed.

Blindness the novel demonstrates the heights and depths of human existence. The metaphor of blindness, like all of Saramago’s novels has an almost mystical alternate reality aesthetic. In the eighties the term was coined as magical realism. Other authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez (whom my son Gabriel is named for), were known for using mystical and non-traditional narrative techniques to create allegorical stories, or in some cases new testament style parables out of unreal events. The greatest example of this genre is probably One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude is the story of the Buendias family and the creation, destruction and rebirth of their society in the Columbian jungle. Let’s just say it all starts with an ice maker in the late 19th century in the jungle and leave it at that. I’ve heard many a complaint about the confusion over which Buendias did what, but it’s a fantastic novel.

In his other novels he uses fantastic circumstances to draw characters together into both conflict and co-operation. The Stone Raft, for example uses the highly imaginative event of the Iberian peninsula breaking off from mainland Europe to create conflict and tension. The peninsula spends the novel cruising around the Atlantic. All the characters are forced together for better or worse. Or in The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, the poet Fernando Pessoa dies, and his invented heteronymic poet character Ricardo Reis returns from Brazilian exile to haunt Lisbon for a year being visited by his creator’s ghost during the rise of fascist Salazar. In the History of the Seige of Lisbon, a timid copy editor changes the course of history by changing a single word in a book he is editing from did not, to did.

With these other texts in play, the idea that a sudden plague of Blindness might strike an entire country to draw characters together, and create societal tension doesn’t seem so out of place.

I may never see the film because the novel is so firmly entrenched in my minds eye. However my feeling is that all good Novels are probably worthy of protest. What good is it to be a writer if you don’t provoke a little controversy. Otherwise you’re really not trying to stimulate the mind, push the borders of our existence out a little, see what’s behind the door. Blindness does this more so than any other book than I have read and I think will most likely stand as Saramago’s finest achievement.

This 2007 interview from the New York times will probably do nothing to settle the debate as Saramago’s atheist, communist beliefs have never been popular.

One thing that has struck me as particularly remarkable is the banned author’s list. Ever have a look? All I can say is, I would rather be in the fine company on that list, than the New York Times Bestseller list. Though the two might intersect from time to time.

For those with more time to kill, I also wrote an essay for the defunct lit-mag on Saramago on Myth.