LITERATURE: Blindness – About Writing

There is an interesting passage about the ability to continue writing while blind. The group has stopped at the first blind man's home to find a writer living there with his family–the blind are moving around like gypsies drawn by food and shelter and settle in where they can, the writer's family having had their own home taken over while they were away. The interesting part is both the physical adaptation and the mental need to write. Here, the writer starts the conversation with the first blind man (Note that capitalization indicates change of character speaking):

I'd like you to tell me how you lived during the quarantine, Why, I am a writer, You would have to have been there, A writer is just like anyone else, he cannot know everything, nor can he experience everything, he must ask and imagine, One day I may tell you what it was like, then you can write a book, Yes, I am writing it, How, if you are blind, The blind too can write,…(p. 292)

Saramago is telling us that a writer bases story on reality, experienced directly or indirectly through conversation, and allows his own imagination to elaborate or fill in to create a narrative. The writer in this story then goes on to explain how he is able to write even though he is blind:

He got up from his chair, left the room and after a minute returned, he was holding a sheet of paper in his hand and a ball-point pen, this is the last complete page I have written, We cannot see it, said the wife of the first blind man, Nor I, said the writer, Then how can you write, asked the doctor's wife, (…) By touch, the writer answered smiling, it is easy, you place the sheet over a soft surface (…) A ball-point pen is an excellent tool for blind writers, it does not permit them to read what they have written, but it tells them where they have written, they only have to follow with the fingers the impression left by the last written line, … (p. 292)

Of course! Though we may seem out of touch with our keyboards where our fingers know the letters and there is no need to oversee them with our eyes, an old typewriter or paper and pen serve well in the case of disaster.

There may be a thought here to the spirit that survives, not only in the desire of the writer to continue on as before, but in the desire of all men to seek a means of continuing on with what they know, what they can do. This appears to be the second move towards a future; the first being the cleaning of clothes and bodies soiled by time spent in the concern of just survival.

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