Latest Reading: “Essay on Blindness” by Jose Saramago

I finished reading over the holiday break this book by 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, Jose Saramago. Saramago is from Portugal, and this 1995 novel is about a mysterious plague that turns everyone blind instantly. The book focuses on the group of people who first contracted the disease which causes people to lose their sight and see only a bright, white, light. The ensuing chaos is horrific and you can imagine how this affects society. Without electricity and water, things go bad in a hurry in a big city. The heroine of the book is the only person who does not go blind and leads her husband and a small group out of quarantine and out into the city.

I liked the book in two ways. First, I love post apocalypse, wasteland stories (Stephen King’s The Stand, 28 Days Later, etc). It is a great adventure story of survival. the other meaning of the book is a bit deeper. It made me think about how fragile our society is and what a small thing can happen and chaos and the worst of human nature comes out. I told the story to my family in the car and we had a good discussion about it. I thought it would make a good movie, and it was already done in 2008. I also want to read his book, “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ,” which is a fictional, alternative account of the life of Jesus. He was an atheist and in a strongly Catholic Portugal, he left because of official government criticism of his works. He recently died at the age of 87. In reading his biography, he came a long way, from landless peasant to Nobel laureate. He didn’t become famous until age 60.

Ivo Andric Museum

Note- Any of my Serbian readers can translate what is on the page above?

Yesterday I went to the Ivo Andric Museum located near the Parliment building in downtown Belgrade. He was a true Yugoslav, being born and raised in Bosnia and having homes in Croatia and Serbia. He ended spending the majority of his life in his later years in Belgrade. The Ivo Andric Foundation made a museum out of his apartment. It was a modest apartment, and typical from a man that material things did not mean much. He was a man of principles. 

 

Andric's 1961 Nobel Prize

It was interesting to see his small cerca 1976 apartment. The photo above is from his desk. It was also the first time I saw a Nobel Prize medal. He won the 1961 Nobel Prize for literature for his book, Bridge Over the River Drina. I was a chaperone with the grade 11 students from the ISB High School. We stopped at the Hotel Moscow for a cup of coffee before visiting the museum. Andric used to spend a lot of time there and the cafe there was THE place to be in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. All the celebrities, intellectuals, and visiting dignataries made a stop there. The morning gave me a glimpse of how it was back in the time of Tito and Yugoslavia. Sad that they couldn’t keep the federation together – I think everyone would be much better off if they did. 

I asked the tour guide if Andric had any living relatives and she said no close ones. There is a group of people that manage the foundation. I wonder what Andric would have thought about Višegrad today. It is the scene of his book and it is much different after the Yugoslav Civil Wars. He probably understood Bosnia better than anyone. 

The View of Andric's Apartment Building From Pioneer Park