Books in Translation Nobel Prize

Seeing – Jose Saramago

Blindness is one of my favourite books, so I was intrigued by its sequel, Seeing.

Seeing is set in the city that was affected by the blindness epidemic four year ago. The city holds an election, but when the votes are counted 70% of them are blank. They hold another election the following week and this time 80% of the votes are blank. For some bizarre reason (that I couldn’t grasp) the authorities panic, declare a state of emergency and all hell breaks loose.

It pains me to say this about an author I love, but I’m afraid I couldn’t finish Seeing. It started off reasonably well as I’m already used to Saramago’s unique writing style, lacking in punctuation.

…but we are dealing here with humans beings, and human beings are known universally as the only animals capable of lying, and while it is true that they sometimes lie out of fear and sometimes out of self-interest, they occasionally lie because they realise, just in time, that this is the only means available to them of defending the truth.

The book described the elections which were held on atmospheric rainy days, but as you may know I’m not a fan of politics and I think the political satire in this book just went over my head. I didn’t understand why a low turn out in an election led to the events and the lack of a central character meant that I didn’t really care what happened. We view the city almost from above and so the personal emotion that made Blindness so powerful was lacking.

The plot was meandering and had almost disappeared entirely by the 150 page mark. I started to skim read and found that nothing was happening many pages later. I looked up a few online reviews and discovered that other people had a similar problem – there was no plot in the second half of the book. The effort required to read it was too much and so I decided to give up.

Recommended to those who enjoy political satire.


Have you enjoyed any of Saramago’s lesser known works?

Or had similar problems with them?


17 replies on “Seeing – Jose Saramago”

Jackie: I had noticed Seeing on your TBR pile and had read some of your earlier comments about Seeing but I decided not to comment until you had posted your review. I’m having the same problem with Seeing. I got the book early last year and I’ve tried several times to complete it but could not. So I moved on to Death with Interruptions, Saramago’s latest novel to be translated into English, and that I loved.

I don’t know what went wrong with Seeing. And I enjoy a political satire. I agree with everything that you’ve written. Saramago’s appeal for me is not just his wacky plots but also his characters – they are so interesting. Especially in his earlier works- before Blindness. But in Seeing, there is nothing to anchor the book; no enjoyable plot no interesting character. Frankly, he should not have written the book! I find it curious – this implosion in Seeing.
About his lesser known works – With the exception of Blindness, I’ve enjoyed his lesser known works more. The Double, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Balthasar and Blimunda, The Stone Raft, they are all good, all quintessential Saramago. You know that he wrote Seeing because of the punctuation, it looks like a Saramago book. But that where it ends. It is just plain wrong. Thank goodness he came back to us in Death with Interruptions!

Kinna, I’m so pleased to hear that I’m not alone in having trouble with Seeing and (more importantly!) that his other books are all much better. I enjoyed The Double, but haven’t tried any of his others yet.

I’m not sure I understand the point of Seeing – it was all so waffly and weak in comparison to his other thought-provoking, tense books. I hope someone can come along and explain why he wrote it!

It’s the danger of finding and loving a book whose author is new to you, their other works may not live up that one wonderful experience (the same reason that I am reluctant to read anything by Daphne Du Maurier other than Rebecca, although I will at some stage).

Blindness will be read soon!

Claire, It is always dangerous to have such high expectations for an author. Hopefully I’ve got his worst book out of the way now and all the rest will be wonderful!

Bummer! Sorry this one didn’t work out for you. I have to admit, I haven’t even attempted Blindness (though I own it) because the lack of punctuation makes me jittery. I need to get over it since sooo many people whom I admire have loved it.

Andi, I found that I got used to the lack of punctuation very quickly – I hope you decide to give Blindness a try sometime soon – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

I have never read anything by Jose Saramago, I’m embarrassed to say. But I know how dissappointed you must feel when a writer whose work you love creates something you can’t even bring yourself to finihs. I think it happens to the best of the writers.

Too bad this one was a disapointement. That’s unfortunate. I’ve had Blindness on my radar for some time now, but it sounds like the sequel just didn’t live up to the first one. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts.

Oh, rats! I’m bummed to hear this wasn’t a success for you. The Double and Blindness and the only Saramagos I’ve read, and I adored them both. I still have this out from the library, and I’m hoping to give it a try before I have to return it, but I’m lowering my expectations.

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