"Blindness" by Jose Saramago (1997)
"...we'll all be contaminated, there cannot be a single person who has not been within sight of a blind man, If a blind man cannot see, I ask myself, how can he transmit this disease through his sight, General, this must be the most logical illness in the world, the eye that is blind transmits the blindness to the eye that sees, what could be simpler, We have a colonel here who believes the solution would be to shoot the blind as soon as they appear, Corpses instead of blind men would scarcely improve the situation, To be blind is not the same as being dead, Yes, but to be dead is to be blind, So there are going to be about two hundred of them, Yes, And what shall we do with the lorry-drivers, Put them inside as well. That same day, in the late afternoon, the Ministry of Defence contacted the Ministry of Health, Would you like to hear the latest news, that colonel we mentioned earlier has gone blind, It'll be interesting to see what he thinks of that bright idea of his now, He already thought, he shot himself in the head, Now that's what I call a consistent attitude, The army is always ready to show an example."
"Blindness" was written in Portuguese in 1995. The English translation appeared two years later. The author, now deceased, received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
In an unidentified town in an unidentified country, a plague of blindness strikes everyone indiscriminately. It begins with a driver at a local intersection, and spreads outward to engulf the country and possibly also the world. The government, sent into a panic, places several of the first victims into an abandoned insane asylum, and the victims' story of survival comprises the remainder of the book.
"Blindness" is the most unrelentingly depressing book I have ever read. It starts with people going blind in the streets, and goes downhill quickly from there. Some of the episodes in the insane asylum are truly stomach-churning, and throughout the internee's confinement there is no hope of a cure.
It's a good book, if a bit repetitive. I also had trouble believing that one of the inmates could develop gangrene from a stabbing with a shoe in less than two days. It made me wonder at the tenacity with which EVERYONE in the book clings to life. I'm sure that in the midst of such despair, someone would be ready to give up, call it a day, go to their great reward, etc. Particularly disturbing is the group rape scene about 3/4 through the book - I know that scene wasn't in the movie!
I would recommend this book, but reading it will ruin your day. After a few pages you'll be thinking about death, and blindness, and the futility of just about everything, and I wouldn't want that for you. Perhaps we are all blind to some extent, but I would rather think of this blindness as a blessing.