The better writers across the world realize that they, through their writing, can be agents of change. Portuguese writer Jose Saramago was precisely this. But better not to overtly rail against the established order; better to cast parables, simple but profoundly incisive metaphors, as a way of allowing readers to see the world anew. It’s not the writer’s task to say “Do it this way,” you see, but they can manipulate the manner in which the reader sees the world. Thus the reader – not the writer – gains a vision of what might be and is able to act, to make that vision real.
Saramago, in Blindness, accomplishes such a goal by slowly making the people of his world go blind. How do they cope? In many perhaps trivial ways. But the effect of limiting the human condition in this way allows both his characters and his readers to see the dross of the world, to allow it to be swept away, and for the true essence of life to emerge phoenix-like.
The skillful writer can, as Saramago does here, also limit his writing style to its essence to underscore the text’s impact. Saramago’s writing is almost exclusively in narrative, even drastically limited in punctuation. To write in this way takes paramount skill and understanding of the use of words, and Saramago’s gifts in this regard will surely reach far beyond his years on earth.