Portuguese author and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, whose chilling Ensaio sobre a cegueira was published in English as Blindness, and later made into the movie of the same name, died today at his home in the Canary Islands. Usually, his stories analyzed human behavior in the face of incredible circumstances, such as the plague of sudden “white blindness” that hits an unnamed city in Blindness. Saramago outlined the disintegration of society as both the inability to see and the accompanying wave of uncertainty sweeps through the population, with the book being much more disturbing and graphic than the film (i.e. read the damn book, slackers!).
The movie version, released in 2008 with Julianne Moore and Danny Glover, was filmed mostly in São Paulo because of the city’s relative lack of distinguishable landmarks (for most people outside of Brazil), which supports an atmosphere of urban placelessness that is the reason for Saramago’s omission of proper nouns in the novel; the events portrayed could essentially happen anywhere.
Like Gabriel García Márquez, Saramago was a master of magical realism, making fantasy tangible in the lives of his protagonists, but unlike Gabo’s fanciful Caribbean dreamscapes, Saramago danced around the fringes of nightmare and sometimes crossed over into the darkness. Get thee to a library and get lifted!