Magazine article Insight on the News

A Nobelist's Blind Allegory of the Human Condition

Magazine article Insight on the News

A Nobelist's Blind Allegory of the Human Condition

Article excerpt

Critics have emphasized "the soft spot for the common man" displayed by Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago, the newest Nobel Prize winner in literature. Indeed, readers might expect this from a writer who was a metalworker and who remains an unrepentant, even defiant, communist.

Nevertheless, Blindness (Harcourt Brace, 294 pp), Saramago's most recent novel translated into English, is hardly sentimental. For one thing, there's Saramago's peculiar style: Punctuation is at a premium in his prose, and his sentences are downright labyrinthine.

More daunting than the writer's style is his choice of genre. Blindness is unabashedly an allegory. Few modern writers have tackled allegories, although one attempt that stands out is Albert Camus' The Plague. The French existentialist's 1947 novel looms over Saramago's new one, and not merely because both concern the terrifying progression of disease through a city and the effect it has on the inhabitants. Like Camus before him, Saramago sets out to explore nothing less than the human condition itself. …

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