9. Blindness (My favorite books in 2020)

Blindness, by José Saramago (1995)

2020 was a most befitting year to read Blindness, a novel by the great José Saramago. A pandemic of blindness sweeps across the globe, leaving everyone in darkness. The unholy and most nefarious instincts of humans pushed to the brink of agonizing extinction are explored with mastery in this book, one whose oppressiveness may feel on occasions just too real. You will not be blamed if you stop reading it in shock halfway through.

An apocalypse induced by a pandemic of blindness is different from other catastrophes that you could imagine. A meteorite that is about to strike the Earth may be a catalyst for cooperation. But when you go blind, and everyone around you goes blind, you have a strange juxtaposition of the end of times and loneliness.

Confined in our bedrooms for months, waiting for a miraculous vaccine to be crafted, and with human contact almost forbidden by law, we experience that loneliness, that cold detachment from others while carrying on the best we can. My friends – my dear friends – have been struck by tragedy during these terrible times, and I could not hold them, or console them. All I could offer them was a voice message in WhatsApp. Collective disaster and loneliness is the material of Blindness and is the material of our own lives. What will we find about ourselves as we keep marching down this road of sorrow?

“Inside us, there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.”

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