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Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Blindness" Is About Seeing Clearly

I've just finished reading "Blindness" by Jose Saramago, the Nobel Prize for Literature awardee. It was through my most revered professor that I first heard about Saramago, almost ten years ago.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through a shelf at Powerbooks-Greenbelt 3 that offered a line up of writers I thought I couldn't find in any Philippine bookstore. Amazing how Powerbooks does it. They must have very good literary consultants there. There were simply a dozen titles I wanted to take home. However, thinking about the holidays and what I recently stumbled upon - a book given by my former boss with this written quote from her:

"Book reading is a solitary and sedentary pursuit and those who do are cautioned that a book should be used as an integral part of a well-rounded life, including a daily regimen of rigorous physical exercise, rewarding personal relationships, and sensible low-fat diet. A book should not be used as a substitute or an excuse." (The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor)

I decided not to buy any book for the holidays. A good book is a distraction.

But on December 27 at Powerbooks-Festival Mall while I was checking out possible gifts for some friends (I am usually the last to give gifts. I don't subscribe to pre-Christmas shopping), a book stood out, a book that shouldn't have been where it was, a book I remember from PB's G3 branch. I couldn't help saying, "Oh, it's you again." "You have to get me and read me," it was telling me. Fine. Without a moment's hesitation, I took it and bought it.

"Blindness" offered itself to me twice, this book ought to be so good. Ought to be better than most books I've read in recent months. And it had some great competitions. Recently I've read "Love in the Time of Cholera," I Know This Much Is True," "Things Fall Apart (a second reading; this time non-academic), and a host of other notable books.

And lo! It turns out to be better than GG Marquez's "Cholera"! And Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" is only slightly better. But of course, "Things Fall Apart" is from another dimension.

"Blindness" is a modern parable, too straightforward, too raw, too crude you'd think it came from the Old Testament. It doesn't say, "Excuse me, the next scenes are too gory, they're almost real. Please, skip the pages." It is about humanity stripped of television. It is about humanity in the highest level of undress. It is like "The Lord of the Flies" adult version.

"One day, when we realize that we can no longer do anything good and useful we ought to have the courage simply to leave this world." Page 378. And you are bound to realize and know it is true that your life is not about you. That you live for others and others live for you and because of you.

Today is the second day of the year and I have already read the one book I needed to read for 2011.

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