Don DeLillo’s The Names is a dense meditation on American culture, language and philosophy which masquerades as a thriller about a cult performing ritual murders in and around Greece. The narrative follows an itinerant political analyst who, along with some of his equally displaced fellow Americans, gets slowly drawn into understanding a series of bizarre murders. DeLillo’s prose, as I’ve come to expect, is quite stunning but I found his characters quite unlikeable (smug and myopic in a similar fashion to say Ian McEwan’s often are) and the myriad of musings and ruminations occasionally overwhelming. Excellent just not quite as refined as some of his other works.
Blindness by Portuguese writer Jose Saramago is an excoriating, rather harrowing novel about an epidemic of blindness which cripples society and reveals the baser sides of human nature. At the start of the unprecedented, seemingly incurable outbreak an ophthalmologist and his still sighted wife are quarantined in a dilapidated mental hospital but are soon joined by increasing numbers of sufferers. Largely abandoned by the panic stricken authorities things turn seriously ugly once supplies run dry and desperation sets in. Saramago’s crisp, clean prose gives these grim events an extra punch yet he somehow balances them with intermittent glimmers of humanity and some wonderfully poetic and poignant turns of phrase. Not for the faint of heart but heads and shoulders above most apocalyptic fiction.