I discovered José Saramago

Saturday, 27 May 2006 10:30

I discovered José Saramago, to my shame, only a few months ago. Now I can’t believe I lived without his humane voice in my head. Blindness was the first book of his that I came across, and it remains for me the best so far.

In a city that could be anywhere a man goes blind. His wife takes him to the doctor and subsequently the doctor goes blind. He seems to have been ‘infected’ with blindness. The epidemic spreads through every person the blind man comes in contact with, including the man who pretended to help him but actually stole his car. In the end, the country panics and begins to incarcerate all the blind people in a disused hospital.

The hospital is a kind of proto-society, and were it not for the single characteristic that all but one of the inhabitants are blind, it would be a classic test-case for a Utopian vision, something like Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, Jill Paton-Walsh’s Knowledge of Angels, Orwell’s 1984, or indeed Huxley’s Brave New World. But blindness is what binds the society together. In the society of the spectacle, all bets are off!

This is a critique of capitalism that seems to me to be premised on The Situationist International analysis of modern society, which is that spectacle is the essence of our human existence. It is devastating, profound, moving and ultimately liberating.

In All The Books, Saramago looks at society as archive, surveillance, the information society and the function of memory. The Gospel According To Jesus Christ is an interesting take on Christianity, and as a religious friend of mine remarked, revolutionary even in its title! I have yet to read The Cave, and so on.


INFORMATION ON THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE AND THE SITUATIONISTS


Link to The Society Of The Spectacle


Link to texts relating to The Situationist International