LITERATURE: Blindness – Verisimilitude

Very odd, when you think about it, that we even use such a term and seek it in the fiction we read. Fiction, after all, should allow for anything the imagination can dream up.

In setting up a storyworld, however, the author must be wary of letting in something that seems out of place within whatever bounds his world. For that one little detail will halt the reader, bring him up short with an incredulous look on his face. He will accept the Silverback Gorilla that wears suits and speaks with a French accent, but he will frown at the thought of him drinking a highball when clearly a Beaujolais would be in character.

I've gotten an itchy feeling with Blindness, when the afflicted–six to start (though one is faking)–are gathered and dropped off at an unused mental hospital in wards. While I accept the need for confinement and keeping them away from the populace until the it's discovered what causes the blindness and if it is indeed contagious, I don't accept the conditions as outlined in the book. They are given no medical help or supplies and a list of rules are blared at them over a loudspeaker. One of the instructions is that "second, leaving the building without authorization will mean instant death"'; another, "twelfth, in the case of death, whatever the cause, the internees will bury the corpse in the yard without any formalities."

At this point I admittedly went to the front of the book to find out when this story was first published. It sounded so much like the horror movies from the fifties and early sixties and just didn't fit in with my ideas of how the situation might be handled today, or hopefully, in the future.

Unless there is something that Saramago isn't telling us, it seems too planned and inhumane for the first six people to be treated in this manner, quarantine and threats notwithstanding.

But Octavio Paz taught me one thing: Believe everything you read…in a work of fiction.

This entry was posted in LITERATURE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.