The 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Jose Saramago’s Blindness is a novel that opens the curtains to the change and transformation of social life, and in the curtains it opens, it is a novel that leads the reader to thoughts. Saramago, who deals with a very different subject, reflects the issues he deals with in a dystopian way, but when we look at today’s social events, we see that this dystopian area is not imaginary at all.
Our novel begins with the presence of a man who doesn’t go when the light turns green and annoys other drivers. After a long series of honking horns, a driver finally opens the car door and is startled by the man’s words, “I’m blind.” In fact, this is the beginning of everything and the process of “Blindness” that gives the book its name.
When the blind man reaches home with the help of one of the passengers and then goes to the doctor with his wife, he learns that everything is normal and that there is nothing to be blind about. Because his pupils are transparent and bright. The doctors cannot make sense of this and send the blind man and his wife home. But the situation has gotten out of hand. The man who helped the blind man in traffic, the doctor and the doctor’s assistant also became blind. When this incomprehensible situation mobilizes the ministry, there is only one question on their minds: Is blindness contagious?
Thinking about the social and political implications of the process, the ministry immediately takes action, rounding up everyone who is blind and keeping a record of everyone who comes into contact with them. Thus, one half of a walled mental hospital is reserved for the blind and the other half for those suspected of blindness. So the blind man and everyone who comes into contact with him is put between these four walls. Not wanting to leave the blind man alone, his wife tricks the authorities and enters this safe zone. Because the only person who is not blind is the blind man’s wife. So the reader sees everything that happens inside through the eyes of the blind man’s wife. Another interesting point of the book is that no name is used in the book. So much so that in our novel, the people who enter are listed as follows: The man in the car, then the thief who stole his car, the young girl with dark glasses, the cross-eyed boy. But for the authorities, the fear has come true. Blindness has become an epidemic and the number of people entering the four walls is increasing every day. The violence and indifference of the authorities, who treat the patients, who were initially told that their care and needs would be provided in a controlled manner, as animals, increases over time. Thus, a consensus is reached by some among the patients inside and the following words are uttered:
“If we can’t live fully as human beings, let’s at least do our best not to live fully as animals (p.123).”
Due to the general deterioration of the mood, the government constantly changing its strategy because it is not getting the desired results, and the fact that the cause of the disease cannot be solved, families are told to keep their blind people at home and not to let them out on the streets. But events move so fast that places such as closed gymnasiums and abandoned factories are urgently put to use.
Although blindness affects their health, the lives and other needs of the thousands of blind people who stay together continue. In this place where eyes cannot see, a social construction starts from the very beginning and concepts such as morality, right, wrong and truth are reconstructed. So much so that an immoral blind ward is created and illegal profits are made from it. A new social process takes shape inside.
However, as a result of the complete loss of control and the number of blind people outnumbering the number of sighted people, all blind people leave the buildings they are in. They ransack markets, shops, in short, the whole city in order to find food, bread, clothes and water to meet their needs. But will these people ever see again? Actually, the question lies in these words:
“I don’t know why we became blind, I don’t know, maybe one day we’ll find out why, Shall I tell you what I think, Tell me, I don’t think we became blind, we were already blind, The blind who can see, The blind who can see but can’t see (p. 330).”
Although the book has many symbolic meanings, it has a dystopian content. However, due to the pandemic happening in the world today, this blindness reminds me of this book with a different effect. People under surveillance for control, constantly changing policies, social norms reshaped by the disease…
So, can our processes as sighted blind people be considered dystopian?