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Posts Tagged ‘allegory’

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Blindness is quite an astonishing book, unusually written, and not always easy to read, but well worth the time. It feels almost as difficult to review, so bear with me!

An epidemic sweeps an unnamed city, and there is just one symptom – blindness. It starts with just one man sitting in his car, but before long everyone he has been in contact with  – and everyone that they have been in contact with – are blind. In an effort to contain the illness, the authorities put all of the blind people into a disused hospital, but it is all in vain, as soon everybody is blind. Or almost everybody; one woman never loses her sight, for reasons unknown. However, she pretends to be blind so that she can accompany her husband in quarantine at the hospital.

As the amount of internees grows, the sense of community disintegrates. Before long, there are blind thugs controlling the food that the others receive, and demanding payment in the forms of valuables and sex with the women. The blindness truly brings out the worst in some people and the best in others.

The writing style is highly unusual and is part of the reason that I put off reading this book for so long. It’s written almost as a stream of consciousness, with long, long sentences. There are no speech marks, and dialogue between the characters (almost every conversation is between just two people, a fact I only realised after I had finished reading) is written in the same way – often as one long sentence, and the only clue that it’s now a different speaker is the capitalisation at the beginning of their speech. It helps to read the speech parts out loud.

Saramago pulls no punches with his descriptions – the women in the hospital are gang raped, and society disintegrates into crime and squalor, the sheer mess of faeces all over the floors, dogs eating carcasses of dead people – and it’s not a pleasant read. It really does make you think “what if” though. None of the characters’ names are given, and it’s not important. They are everyone, they are telling everyone’s tale.

So as I say, an extraordinary book, and often a difficult one. But if you are into dystopian or speculative fiction, I highly highly recommend it.

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Roy Hobbs is a baseball player who comes almost out of nowhere in the 1930s, to join the New York Knights, who are going through a losing streak.  Nobody has ever heard of Hobbs, who has never played professionally, but his talent for the game is undeniable, despite him being nearer retirement age for the sport, than a youthful rookie.  As the film shows, his career was halted for a while by an unforeseen tragedy, but that doesn’t stop his determination to be the best baseball player in history.

This is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted film, with an air of magic about it.  Robert Redford, at nearly 50 years of age, may have been slightly too old to play Hobbs, but it doesn’t matter at all – partly because he looks so youthful, and partly because he embodies the role so completely.  Glenn Close is Iris, the sweet woman from his past, and Kim Basinger is Memo, the avaricious girl who dates him after he becomes famous.

This is certainly a baseball movie, but you do not have to be a fan of the sport to appreciate and enjoy the film (although personally speaking, Baseball is about the only sport which I can enjoy watching).  In fact, the sport scenes are very enjoyable, and I could feel the excitement and tension of the players and the crowd.

I loved Redford as the gruff but brutally honest Hobbs, and Close as the young lady he almost left behind.  Basinger was great in an extremely unsympathetic role, and Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth gave excellent support as Pop Fisher and Red Blow, the manager and co-owner of the NY Knights, and his assistant.  The always superb Robert Duvall also makes the most of his role as Max Mercy, an unscrupulous sports journalist.

Not just a sports movie, but an allegory for life, this film was unexpectedly delightful and moving.  As a Redford fan, I was bound to enjoy it, but it exceeded my expectations, and I would certainly recommend it.

Year of release: 1984

Director: Barry Levinson

Producers: Philip M. Breen, Roger Towne, Mark Johnson, Robert F. Colesberry

Writers: Bernard Malamud (novel), Roger Towne, Phil Dusenberry

Main cast: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth

 

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Animal Farm is George Orwell’s famous allegorical tale; a satirical tale about communism and the Russian Revolution.

After the animals on Manor Farm revolt and chase away their tyrannical master, Jones, they decide that from  now on, they will work for themselves, and won’t serve any human master.  All animals are deemed equal, and each will work according to his capacity, for a just reward.  The animals are led by the pig Napoleon (who represents Joseph Stalin), and all are initially happy with their new lives.  However, it is not long before the power goes to Napoleon’s head, and things go awry.

It’s a classic for good reason – this book is just brilliant.  It’s funny, but carries a stark message about how power can corrupt.  It can be read simply as a story about a group of animals who try to take control of their lives, but Orwell’s intent and meaning is very clear for all to read.  It also warns of the danger of a lack of education and understanding, and the inability to perceive what is happening.

This book comes in at less than 100 pages, and only takes a couple of hours to read. And it is definitely worth a couple of hours of anyone’s life.  Just brilliant, and one of those rare books which I would recommend to everybody.

 

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