Interactive Fiction: Saramago’s Blindness

December 13th, 2008 by Susan


I'm obviously affected by my work with hypertext and find that in straight-reading for the past few years I'm noticing the connections where links would be appropriate or where a narrative would be prime for hypertext mode.

On Spinning I'm reading and reviewing Jose Saramago's Blindness and it strikes me that this story is perfect for application of IF. Six people suddenly go blind and in fear of an epidemic, are confined within a large, empty mental institution building that is separated by wards and hallways and courtyards and gates. What more perfect environment for IF?

I discovered this as I was reading this:

Finally they realised (sic) they could not stay there and, struggling to find the door by which they had entered, they ventured forth into the unknown. (p. 67)

More and more people are struck by the sudden white blindness and here they are put into an overfilled ward so must seek out other rooms in which to settle. Up to this point, there is one woman, a doctor's wife, who has been faking blindness in order to remain with her husband, so she alone (along with the reader) sees what is happening (which just fired up another thought on reading–would the story be able to be told without that single seeing character?). Through her eyes we can locate the other victims, the doorways, the beds, and the limited arena of the story world.

Just as I was about to draw up a little map for myself of the building according to the clues I'd been given by the doctor's wife, she comes up with the idea of tying strips of sheets together into a rope and with one end tied to the knob of the door of their room, tie the other to whoever chooses or has reason to wander down the halls for something (the bathroom, the food bucket, the kitchen). So much better and necessary when finding their way back to safety.

So despite my best intentions to forget about hypertext and IF and all that stuff, once explored, there will always be in my mind the directions: Go north.

2 Responses to “Interactive Fiction: Saramago’s Blindness

  1. Chris Says:

    Hunh, how coincidental — I’ve been reading it too, but I’ve hit a part which feels very hopeless to me; I can appreciate how masterfully Saramago has built that but at the same time, I haven’t had much motivation to keep going. The friend who lent me the book says I should keep with it… but I agree, I see parallels as well.

    (The devil in me says: ugh, how much time it would take to implement blindness in IF, how you would have to offer affordances for all kinds of unusual physical maneuvers.)

  2. susan Says:

    I don’t exactly see Nobel Prizewinning writing in this book–though this isn’t the book he got it for, I guess.

    It’d be an interesting project to IF it though. There’s a certain amount of ‘blindness’ in the reader of an IF piece, and trial and error as well as memory are the keys to the maneuvering.

    Keep at it. Just so I can’t nyah-nyah-I-finished-it-and-you-didn’t.

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