Saramago’s Blindness is being made into a movie. If it captures a tenth of the horror of the book, it will be difficult to watch. One of the things that seemed to make the events of the book bearable for me was the fact that at least most of the characters couldn’t see the conditions to which they had been reduced (ironic of course because they had only been reduced to such conditions because they couldn’t see).
One evening in June, the Portuguese novelist José Saramago was addressing a small gathering at a book party in Lisbon. The occasion was the reissue of a volume of his poems originally published in 1975. Saramago, who is 84, is an austere man, extremely tall and so lean that he is practically concave. The night was hot, but he was wearing, as usual, a dark suit and tie. An outspoken atheist, Saramago maintains that religion is to blame for most of the world’s violence. Yet in his old age he resembles nothing so much as a steely churchman from a Renaissance altarpiece, a St. Jerome in the desert.