Blindness by Jose Saramago
1998's Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Jose Saramaga, has, with his superb novel Blindness, written one of the finest European novels of the last few years. Portugal's best known writer - but like many Nobel winners hardly a household name - Saramaga has created a formidable and beautiful body of work deserving (and receiving) the very highest recognition. From the sublime, humanistic, perspicacious The Gospel According to Jesus Christ to the intelligence and metaphysics of The Cave Saramaga challenges, warns, argues but also - and this is of fundamental importance - entertains and enlivens through the truth of his transcendent and highly-cultured fictions.
Suddenly, whilst stopped at a red light in his car, a man goes blind. A 'white evil' obliterates his vision plunging him into light as fathomless and impenetrable as the darkest night. A crowd gathers and one man is kind enough to see him home. It is not long, however, until an epidemic of the new blindness causes the government to act in the most authoritarian and fearful of ways, throwing many of the recently disabled into a mental asylum, guarded by scared, trigger-happy soldiers, left to fend for themselves...
Whilst Lord of the Flies might seem an immediately similar reference (morality tale where civilised group degenerate to state of nature), Saramago's work has both more craft and more acuity than Golding's nasty little tale. Blindness is a luminous piece, and a wonderful starting point for readers seeking a scrupulous and wise guide to these injudicious and myopic times.