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Journal of No. 118


May 2nd, 2016

Blindness, by Jose Saramago (feat. Blow-Up by Antonioni) @ 04:37 pm

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Saramago won the Nobel Prize for literature a couple years after Blindness was published. A mysterious infectious ailment causes people to go blind. The book focuses on this first group of afflicted people, who are first interned in an asylum, as more and more blind people join them in their new community. Saramago considers himself a pessimist, so things go south pretty rapidly. The strong prey on the weak, the men on the women, and so on and so forth. A few glimpses of human beings behaving humanely glimmer here and there to relieve the awfulness.

Saramago is also something a verbal sadist: none of the characters is named, he eschews quotation marks, and tends to go on long comma splices of dialogue that can be hard to follow. Not too fond of paragraph breaks either -- many's the time you face two unbroken columns of text on the pages. This is particularly bad because I tend to have a mental memory of where on the page I left off -- but not if there are no little typographical details for memory to seize on. These idiosyncrasies may be literary, or they may just be irritating. I tend toward the latter. I didn't care for the ending, and the whole is kind of like a gruesome novelization of a Twilight Zone episode. I don't mean this to demean a Nobel laureate, but to raise up Twilight Zone as also shining a light on ugly aspects of humanity through speculative fiction.

Saw Blow-Up recently. Certainly a great time capsule of authentic Austin Powers-y swinging 1960s London, but I'm not sure I liked it. I guess Antonioni was doing something right if I can't tell for certain whether I was bored or not. It helps that models take off their clothes from time to time. But the most interesting detail was seeing the cameo by the Yardbirds, filmed during the brief period when both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were part of the lineup.
 
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Journal of No. 118