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Seeing Paperback – April 9, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Nobel Prize–winner Saramogo's best known novel, Blindness, an unnamed capital city experiences a devastating (although transient) epidemic of blindness that mysteriously spares one woman, an eye doctor's wife, who helps a blinded group survive until their sight returns. His new novel, set in the same capital city four years later, depicts a legal "revolution," when 83% of its citizens cast blank ballots in a national election. The president declares a state of siege, but even though soldiers cordon off the city, nothing affects the city's maddening cheerfulness. The president receives an anonymous letter revealing the case of the eye doctor's wife (she and the group she helped had kept her support secret), and the minister in charge of internal security sends undercover policemen to investigate her connection to the "blank" revolution. The allegorical blindness/sight framework is weak and obvious, and Saramago's capital city sometimes reminds one of Dr. Seuss's Whoville. Yet it works: as the novel establishes its figures (the pompous president, tremulous ministers and pantomime detectives), it acquires the momentum of a bedroom (here, cabinet) farce, baldly sending up EU politicos and major media editorialists. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Saramago's sombre masterpiece "Blindness" had an almost mythic power, whereas his latest novel, a political satire set in the same nameless capital city, opens with more wit and less heart. When Election Day coincides with a terrible rainstorm, the government worries that no one will venture out to vote. This fear is unfounded, but the election results are even more alarming: seventy per cent of the city's voters have cast a blank ballot. Saramago has enormous fun imagining the official acrobatics precipitated by this apparent vote of no confidence, and, as the political hypocrisies and bureaucratic absurdities multiply, the narrative hums with correspondences to current events. Initially, readers may miss the previous novel's intensity of feeling, but this one's lightness proves deceptive: for Saramago's beleaguered citizens, even thoughts never uttered can be fatal, and everyone is guilty until otherwise notified.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (April 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156032732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156032735
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Stroll on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed "Seeing," Saramago's latest novel to be translated into English. This is a first-rate addition to the upper tier of his works.

*** Spoiler alert: the following paragraphs reveal a few elements of the plot. ***

In the Nov. 8, 2004, issue of "The American Conservative" magazine, the managing editor, Kara Hopkins, advocated not voting in the pending presidential election. "Silence is a profound expression," she argued, "and enough unraised voices eventually turn even the most partisan heads." "Elections," she contended, "maintain the illusion of opposing parties exchanging ideas rather than political animals competing for power. Selling voting as the ultimate expression of citizenship . . . legitimizes the process that keeps them in control and makes the public docile by enforcing the notion that we rule ourselves."

Whether or not one agrees with Hopkins, she offers a perspective that Saramago might endorse, to judge by "Seeing." In "Seeing," some 70 percent of the residents of the capital of an unnamed country turn in blank ballots in an election, refusing to vote for the Party of the Right, the Party of the Center, or the Party of the Left. The government, dominated by unsavory and unprincipled authoritarians, is horrified that the rituals of democracy have generated a challenge to the government's legitimacy and orders the election to be reheld. But the percentage of blank votes is higher than before.

The government's reaction, though often fumbling, is vicious and lethal. It uses various Orwellian techniques and, as it deems necessary, violence to punish the capital's residents and try to get them to appear to respect the available choices, regardless of their true feelings about the three parties.

This is a fable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this sequel to Saramago's Nobel winning book "Blindness" the reader is presented with an almost opposite situation. Saramago's books, are political metaphors and commentaries which look deeply into the human spirit and soul.

In his first book, the author helps the reader understand how a world would look if all social stability and government broke down and the populace was left blind and helpless. The picture is very ugly and very painful. Yet, it has a realism that can not be ignored.

"Seeing" asks an instrumental operative question: "Are those who see, less blind than those who don't?" Here Saramago again creates a sociological and political microcosm to illustrate his points. There are many points he makes, but one of his central ones is that citizens can be recognized by "standing up and refusing to be counted." This act seems to those in control as a giant insurrection. Additionally, when people spontaneously choose to make such a statement; what should the government do about it? And they can make it unilaterally, without a movement or a leader, per se.

Saramago also gives the reader an interesting and experimental writing style. He dispenses with much normal grammar, yet rarely does this impede the reader's ability to glean complete understanding, or close to it, of what is happening in the story. Novelistically, the book is extremely well written and engaging.

In many senses, Saramago conveys his feeling that people, events and beliefs can be manipulated. But they can only be manipulated so far. If Saramago is speaking of any specific country, he takes care not to reveal it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the unnamed capital city of an unidentified democratic country, election day morning is marred by torrential rains. Voter turnout is disturbingly low, but the weather breaks by midafternoon and the population heads en masse to their voting stations. The government's relief is short-lived, however, when vote counting reveals that over 70% of the ballots cast in the capital have been left blank. Baffled by this apparent civic lapse, the government gives the citizenry a chance to make amends just one week later with another election day. The results are worse: now 83% of the ballots are blank. The two major political parties - the ruling party of the right (p.o.t.r.) and their chief adversary, the party of the middle (p.o.t.m.) - are in a panic, while the haplessly marginalized party of the left (p.o.t.l.) produces an analysis claiming that the blank ballots are essentially a vote for their progressive agenda. Is this an organized conspiracy to overthrow not just the ruling government but the entire democratic system? If so, who is behind it, and how did they manage to organize hundreds of thousands of people into such subversion without being noticed? When asked how they voted, ordinary citizens simply respond that such information is private, and besides, is not leaving the ballot blank their right?

Thus begins Jose Saramago's brilliant new book, SEEING. The setting is the same unnamed country where, four years earlier, a plague of contagious but temporary "white blindness" afflicted first the capital city, then spread throughout the country.
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