Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, November 10, 2008

Listening to the sounds of Blindness

With so many new,old and upcoming books to read,I thought it might be time to tackle one of the more high tech approaches to catching up on my To Be Read pile. No,it's not the Kindle(that fancy little gizmo is too rich for my blood at the moment),audio books are going to be my brave new literary venture instead.

I decided that ,for my first audio book review,I would take on an author whose work I haven't read before. That way,I could judge the merit of the medium better,without any preconceived notions about how the book should "sound". So,I picked Blindness by Jose Saramago,which has been recently adapted as a film starring Julianne Moore.

The story takes place in a fictional city in an unnamed country,where a mysterious epidemic is breaking out that causes the government to intern a number of the affected in an abandoned mental hospital,as a means of controlling the spread of the ailment.

Out of the blue,people are suddenly stricken by a "white" blindness(their vision is obscured by a bright fog instead of darkness)and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to who becomes afflicted and who doesn't. The first known victim is a man who loses his sight while driving and is helped to his home by a seemingly Good Samaritan:

That helpful stranger winds up stealing the blind man's car and losing his vision as well. Both of those men meet up in the mental hospital,along with an eye doctor who was the first to examine the original white blind man and some of his patients.

Amongst the growing number of white blind residents is the eye doctor's wife who still has her sight. She pretended to be blind in order to stay with her husband and struggles to keep her ability to see a secret in fear of being taken from him.

It soon turns out that there's worse things to be afraid of. The white blinded folk are simply shut into the hospital,with no one to care for their needs or help them get around. The soldiers who keep watch outside are so terrified of becoming blind by any direct contact with the internees that several deadly shootings occur.

Soon enough,order breaks down amongst the captive white blinded,with food hoarding and other kinds of sickness(due to the lack of clean water and medicine) running wild. Lawlessness takes over,forcing the doctor's wife to try and save the few she can from being sucked under into the ever growing frenzy surrounding them all.

The book is written in a rather formal at times tone,some of which is no doubt due to it's translation(Blindness was first published in Portuguese in 1995 and came out in English by 1997)but the plot is nonetheless compelling and the characters acting all too human in such a dire set of circumstances.

The narrator for this unabridged edition is Jonathan Davis,a seasoned voice actor whose steady verbal tones enliven the passages and is adept at suggesting the different voices of the characters(who are not given proper names in the book and are known by general descriptive titles such as Doctor's Wife,Girl with Dark Glasses,etc)in a distinctive and yet non distracting way.

Listening to this story unfold is the audio equivalent of opening a can of Pringles chips;you can't hear just one disc without instantly craving more and more. I'm very glad that this audio book is available in it's entirety ,to edit any of this amazing tale would be a great loss to the audience.

I don't know if the film is as good as the book,but after listening to Blindness,the visual version of this intense allegorical narrative has a lot to live up to. Either way,Saramago's artistic vision seems to be coming thru,loud and clear:


Ladytink_534 said...

I use audio books sometimes, I just have to get the book too and let them read to me or I'll start tuning the audio out. The newer ones are really great because a lot of them have little extras (sometimes interviews) to listen to at the end.

I'll have to see this movie!

Michael said...

I'm always interested in the idea of listening to the audiobook vs seeing the movie or reading the book. I'll have to try both someday. m