Seeing

Seeing

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Overview


On election day in the capital, it is raining so hard that no one has bothered to come out to vote. The politicians are growing jittery. Should they reschedule the elections for another day? Around three o’clock, the rain finally stops. Promptly at four, voters rush to the polling stations, as if they had been ordered to appear.

But when the ballots are counted, more than 70 percent are blank. The citizens are rebellious. A state of emergency is declared. But are the authorities acting too precipitously? Or even blindly? The word evokes terrible memories of the plague of blindness that hit the city four years before, and of the one woman who kept her sight. Could she be behind the blank ballots? A police superintendent is put on the case.

What begins as a satire on governments and the sometimes dubious efficacy of the democratic system turns into something far more sinister.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156032735
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/09/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 273,097
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

JOSÉ SARAMAGO (1922–2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


MARGARET JULL COSTA has established herself as the premier translator of Portuguese literature into English today.

Read an Excerpt


terrible voting weather, remarked the presiding officer of polling station fourteen as he snapped shut his soaked umbrella and took off the raincoat that had proved of little use to him during the breathless forty-meter dash from the place where he had parked his car to the door through which, heart pounding, he had just appeared. I hope I’m not the last, he said to the secretary, who was standing slightly away from the door, safe from the sheets of rain which, caught by the wind, were drenching the floor. Your deputy hasn’t arrived yet, but we’ve still got plenty of time, said the secretary soothingly, With rain like this, it’ll be a feat in itself if we all manage to get here, said the presiding officer as they went into the room where the voting would take place. He greeted, first, the poll clerks who would act as scrutineers and then the party representatives and their deputies. He was careful to address exactly the same words to all of them, not allowing his face or tone of voice to betray any political and ideological leanings of his own. A presiding officer, even of an ordinary polling station like this, should, in all circumstances, be guided by the strictest sense of independence, he should, in short, always observe decorum.

As well as the general dampness, which made an already oppressive atmosphere still muggier, for the room had only two narrow windows that looked out onto a courtyard which was gloomy even on sunny days, there was a sense of unease which, to use the vernacu­lar expression, you could have cut with a knife. They should have postponed the elections, said the representative of the party in the middle, or the p.i.t.m., I mean, it’s been raining non-stop since yesterday, there are landslips and floods everywhere, the abstention rate this time around will go sky-high. The representative from the party on the right, or the p.o.t.r., nodded in agreement, but felt that his contribution to the conversation should be couched in the form of a cautious comment, Obviously, I wouldn’t want to underestimate the risk of that, but I do feel that our fellow citizens’ high sense of civic duty, which they have demonstrated before on so many occasions, is deserving of our every confidence, they are aware, indeed, acutely so, of the vital importance of these municipal elections for the future of the capital. Having each said their piece, the representative of the p.i.t.m. and the representative of the p.o.t.r. turned, with a half-sceptical, half-ironic air, to the representative of the party on the left, the p.o.t.l., curious to know what opinion he would come up with. At that precise moment, however, the presiding officer’s deputy burst into the room, dripping water everywhere, and, as one might expect, now that the cast of polling station officers was complete, the welcome he received was more than just cordial, it was positively enthusiastic. We therefore never heard the viewpoint of the representative of the p.o.t.l., although, on the basis of a few known antecedents, one can assume that he would, without fail, have taken a line of bright historical optimism, something like, The people who vote for my party are not the sort to let themselves be put off by a minor obstacle like this, they’re not the kind to stay at home just because of a few miserable drops of rain falling from the skies. It was not, however, a matter of a few miserable drops of rain, there were bucketfuls, jugfuls, whole niles, iguaçús and yangtses of the stuff, but faith, may it be eternally blessed, as well as removing mountains from the path of those who benefit from its influence, is capable of plunging into the most torrential of waters and emerging from them bone-dry.
With the table now complete, with each officer in his or her allotted place, the presiding officer signed the official edict and asked the secretary to affix it, as required by law, outside the building, but the secretary, demonstrating a degree of basic common sense, pointed out that the piece of paper would not last even one minute on the wall outside, in two ticks the ink would have run and in three the wind would have carried it off. Put it inside, then, out of the rain, the law doesn’t say what to do in these circumstances, the main thing is that the edict should be pinned up where it can be seen. He asked his colleagues if they were in agreement, and they all said they were, with the proviso on the part of the representative of the p.o.t.r. that this decision should be recorded in the minutes in case they were ever challenged on the matter. When the secretary returned from his damp mission, the presiding officer asked him what it was like out there, and he replied with a wry shrug, Just the same, rain, rain, rain, Any voters out there, Not a sign. The presiding officer stood up and invited the poll clerks and the three party representatives to follow him into the voting chamber, which was found to be free of anything that might sully the purity of the political choices to be made there during the day. This formality completed, they returned to their places to examine the electoral roll, which they found to be equally free of irregularities, lacunae or anything else of a suspicious nature. The solemn moment had arrived when the presiding officer uncovers and displays the ballot box to the voters so that they can certify that it is empty, and tomorrow, if necessary, bear witness to the fact that no criminal act has introduced into it, at dead of night, the false votes that would corrupt the free and sovereign political will of the people, and so that there would be no electoral shenanigans, as they’re so picturesquely known, and which, let us not forget, can be committed before, during or after the act, depending on the ­efficiency of the perpetrators and their accomplices and the opportunities available to them. The ballot box was empty, pure, ­immaculate, but there was not a single voter in the room to whom it could be shown. Perhaps one of them is lost out there, battling with the torrents, enduring the whipping winds, clutching to his bosom the document that proves he is a fully enfranchised citizen, but, judging by the look of the sky right now, he’ll be a long time coming, if, that is, he doesn’t end up simply going home and leaving the fate of the city to those with a black car to drop them off at the door and pick them up again once the person in the back seat has fulfilled his or her civic duty.

Copyright © José Saramago and Editorial Caminho SA, Lisbon, 2004
English translation copyright © 2006 by Margaret Jull Costa

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Seeing 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
BJPBW More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book more than his first, Blindness, (although I did enjoy it except for the ending; kind of a let down after the build-up of the story). However, after reading Blindness, my curiosity made me want to read Seeing, and I'm glad I did. I think Saramago has a very ingenious style of writing, not to mention his unique story plots and characters. His stories are different and a nice read. I'm suggesting it for our next book club since we have already read Blindness. However, you do not need to read the first book to understand this story.
deebee1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a sequel to the more popularly known Blindness. I liked the earlier book of course, but I think Seeing is much more witty and intelligent, and the satire inherent in all Saramago works is brought out fully in this book. The story begins with the citizens of the capital of the same unnamed country (who have recovered from the mysterious blindness episode) going to the polls. At the end of the day, the results showed that majority of the votes was blank. This puts the national government in a dilemma. They hold another round of voting. The outcome was even worse this time around. To deal with this catastrophe (for the government in question and all parties of the political spectrum) the government sets off a series of measures, from the benign to the most absurd and frightening that resembles Big Brother, which ends in the city being held "in siege." The authorities try to pin down the source of this silent and bewildering (and for them, almost malevolent) defiance. The same characters we follow in Blindness reappear. They are identified by the authorities as "suspects" in this silent revolt, it could only be them, especially THAT woman, they say. Seeing has less "mythical" power than Blindness but i find it more frightening because it is more realistic. We see how institutions of democracy could be perverted to serve the narrow interests of the political elite. Isn't that something we all recognize? While the story overall is less visceral than Blindness, the punch happens at the very end, and it is even more shocking and memorable than what happens in Blindness where normality returns.Blindness was unputdownable, but I liked Seeing even better.
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just like "Blindness" (one of his recent books), this book by Jose Saramago is another masterpiece. Long (up to a page!) sentences, no name for characters, but so compelling that you just cannot put it down. There are references to "Blindness" in this book, the events are happening in the same town.
janemarieprice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved [Blindness] and so was looking forward to this semi-sequel. Unfortunately it was a disappointment. The language is just as beautiful:"The second voter took another ten minutes to appear, but from then on, albeit unenthusiastically, one by one, like autumn leaves slowly detaching themselves from the boughs of a tree, the ballot papers dropped into the ballot box."And the premise is intriguing ¿ that of an election where the majority of people submit blank ballots in the capital city, the government abandons the place, and political maneuverings follow in which the characters of [Blindness] become suspects. Somehow, though, it just didn¿t hold my interest in the same way. I found the pacing extremely slow and kept setting it down for long periods. I find the narration of both books fascinating. Sometimes it interjects as in this excerpt: "or if it simply had to happen because that was its destiny, from which would spring soon-to-be-revealed consequences, forcing the narrator to set aside the story he was intending to write and to follow the new course that had suddenly appeared on his navigation chart. It is difficult to give such an either-or question an answer likely to satisfy such a reader totally. Unless, of course, the narrator wwere to be unusually frank and confess that he had never been quite sure how to bring to a successful conclusion this extraordinary tale of a city which, en masse, decided to return blank ballot papers"Another interesting bit is the unnamed characters. everyone is referred to in some way in which they are known ¿ their job, something that happened to them etc. ¿ except the dog which does have a name. Curious.
ocgreg34 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On election day in an unnamed capital city, rain pours down beginning in the early morning hours and continues well into the afternoon, a cause of concern for those working at the polls. Will anyone bother to show up during the deluge? Should the election be postponed? Under the orders of the government, the polls remain open, and finally, toward late afternoon, hundreds of people throng to the polling stations and cast their ballots. The government should be happy with the unprecedented show of national pride, but when the ballots are counted, more than 70% are blank.In their bewilderment, the government does everything it can to figure out what's happening: sending spies out among the citizens, questioning and imprisoning those who case blank ballots, declaring a state of siege, imposing a curfew. When nothing seems to work, the government pulls up stakes and flees the city.But in their determination to lay blame on someone for this show of rebellion, the prime minister learns of a woman who, during a mysterious bout of blindness which affected the entire country, somehow managed not to suffer the same blindness. She must be behind the mass blank balloting, and the prime minister sets out to discredit her.--When I first picked up this sequel to José Saramago's "Blindness", I wondered if it was necessary to have read "Blindness" in order to follow along in "Seeing". The story in the latter took place four years after the plague of white blindness, but only vague references were made to that first story. Yet, about two-thirds through, the main group of characters -- the survivors -- all appear, switching the focus of the story. But, surprisingly, I didn't think it necessary to have read the first book. The majority of characters in Seeing who may have been present during the blindness of the first book, don't know what happened to the group of survivors, and this "blindness" of sorts allows the reader understand the government's motives a bit more.At it's most effective, "Seeing" tells a tale of how humans react to change. On one end of the spectrum, Saramago provides a satirical view of a government taking things to the extreme, of overreacting to a possible change of public opinion rather than attempting to understand what caused the change. The fear of losing control overrides logic, as in the case of the prime minister who needs to find a single person to blame for something out of his control -- in this case, resulting in very dire circumstances. At the opposite end, those remaining in the capital go on with their lives. A strike by the street cleaners is thwarted by the many housewives who take to the street with brooms to clean their own patches of the city. When those who didn't cast blank ballots are forced into returning to the capital, believing that their apartments and omes have been looted (thanks to government broadcasts), they are welcomed back by those who remained in the city and shown that everything is as they left it. Two very different reactions and outcomes to the same events: fear on the one hand, which doesn't allow for moving forward, and acceptance on the other.I've now read three novels by Nobel laureate José Saramago, and two things stand out in each of them. First, one paragraph may last for four to five pages, mixing dialogue from more than two people and throwing in the author's own commentary. Surprisingly, it sounds more daunting than it actually is. I did find myself paying closer attention to the words in order to determine who was speaking, but looking back, I remember more of the story. Maybe it's just me....Second, something mysterious seems to spark the story into action, and the origins are never explained. In "Blindness" -- the novel preceeding Seeing -- the entire country develops a strange white blindness; in "The Stone Raft", the Iberian Peninsula mysteriously separates from the rest of Europe and floats away. for those two novels, the mysterous works because those events aren't the
goddamn_phony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gave this my usual 100 pages before passing judgement. The narrative style was grating and the political satire was ham-handed and uninspiring, so I put it aside. I've heard Blindness is a great read: maybe I'll give it a crack before reattempting this one.
Cygnus555 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another outstanding book by Jose Saramago. I'm slowly working my way through all of his books - his writing style makes it so I can make it through one... but then must stop to catch a breath with other books. Seeing was a bit more whimsical than his others... I found myself smiling and laughing from time to time. As always, his sentence constructions are entrancing.I have to say, I would never read Blindness again - that book depressed me to no end. But you must read that one before this.
SirRoger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bald satire of governmental bodies and their wild, erroneous inefficiency, Seeing is in turns funny, inspiring, mystical, and a bit devastating. Without any prior organization, 87% of the voters of the fictional country (Portugal) cast a blank vote at the presidential election. The government, convinced there must be a conspiracy, removes itself from the city, leaving the citizens (traitors? conspirators? insurgents? ingrates?) to fend for themselves under a state of siege. An awkward series of events follows as the various government ministers attempt to solve the problem, (as they see it) while only bringing more pain and suffering upon the people, who all the while act calmly and normally. The absence of paragraph breaks for dialogue and the frequent use of commas where periods are expected make the text run on and on in a way that takes some getting used to. It does not, strangely enough, hinder the storytelling, but in fact propels it onward. Every now and then I had to double check to see who was speaking, but on the whole, I felt that this strange method of punctuation actually helped me as a reader to experience the story swath by swath instead of line by line, or word by word. Nevertheless, I still felt that the story was unnecessarily disjointed. It didn't seem to know for sure where it was going, and it seemed to allude too much to the earlier book, Blindness. An interesting read, but I can't give it more than 3 stars.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The object of satire in Seeing hit a little too close to home to be fun. Seeing takes place in the same location as Blindness, four years after the epidemic. But now there's a new disruption of social order, more insidious than the blindness: voters at the capital turn up dutifully on election day to cast mostly blank ballots.But the story, rather than following through on this apparent act of dissent and its causes, instead follows the politicians and their panicked ineptitude in the wake of election day. This focus didn't work for me at all; real politics are filled enough with incompetence and blame-shifting that I don't want need it extended into my novels as well. Seeing's story line gets tied definitely to Blindness about 2/3 of the way through, when the doctor's wife becomes the scapegoat for the entire crisis, simply because it's beyond the politicians to deal with multiple state problems without conflating them all.Despite being the sequel to Blindness, which was an extraordinary book, Seeing is not equally irresistible. The satire was too often just depressing. So I guess it was effective? Just not a lot of fun.
roblong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was fascinated by the premise and the first half of the book was very enjoyable - really funny and droll. As it went on, however, I had two problems. Firstly, although I probably should have, I hadn't realised that this is a sequel to his novel Blindness, which I haven't read. It's not too bad, but a couple of recurring characters and a link to the previous book mean it would be worth reading the previous work first. Secondly, and more seriously, while the latter part of the book is often funny, Saramago's view of government is very one-dimensional, and so the spirit of the ending is clear for a long time, and not at all interesting.On the whole worth a read, but the first half vastly outshines the second.
Voise15 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Biting satire on our obsession with democracy at all costs. Unique prose style makes it a hard work to engage, but satisfying if you stick with it.
Ebba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I did not realize at first that this book is a continuation of ¿Blindness¿ which I have not yet read. ¿Seeing¿ is a book about how the majority of citizens in the Capital city cast blank votes in an election. The ministers of the government are searching for a reason for this ¿revolt¿ and will not stop until they find one.The ministers decide to put the capital under siege and move the government officials, police force and military out of the capital and let the citizens fend for themselves, hoping for chaos. The objective is to get the citizens to beg for the government to come back to them in return of casting proper votes in the next election. The book leaves you with an eerie feeling about politicians. Who can you trust? I also found it quite humorous from time to time. One of the first chapters starts like this:¿To the Minister of Defense, a civilian who had never even done his military service, the declaration of a state of emergency seemed pretty small beer, he had wanted a proper, full-blooded state of siege,¿..¿
adamallen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Seeing was a good book but certainly not up to the standards set by Saramago over the course of his illustrious writing career. As the sequel to Blindness, I was very surpised to find that it took Saramago 150 pages to tie this novel into its predecessor. This is especially true since I cannot imagine the book being particularly good, or even making a great deal of sense, if the reader has not read Blindness.It seems that the real purpose of Seeing was to give our author the opportunity to make a political statement about the current state of democracy and all of the control that the government wields behind the scenes. He does this with some success and does make the reader pause to consider what his/her government is up to.In the end, the book is simply good - not great. It flows along well enough but seems to take a long time to get to its point. I felt that this would have been better suited to the novella or short story form. Nonetheless, all of the Saramago style traits are there - long punctuation-free commentary, eloquently selected phrases, etc. If you're a fan of this author, he doesn't let you down, he just doesn't inspire you as he normally does.**SPOILER ALERT (Highlight)**The book is the story of a nation's capitol city (the country is never specified) and a recent "epidemic" of blank votes which were cast (twice) in a recent election. This blank vote epidemic occurred only in the capitol city where almost 90% of all votes cast were left intentionally blank. In the name of protecting democracy, the city is placed in a state of siege (how ironic...) The government leaves, the police are removed, and the military surrounds the city to prevent departures. The government takes control of the television and all but two of the newspapers so as to communicate the punishment being handed down to the residents.Mysteriously, a letter is sent to the president and prime minister which names the only person (the woman from Blindness) who did not lose her sight during the epidemic of blindness which occurred in the same city four years prior. The author of the letter (the first blind man from Blindness) suggests that he believes she may somehow be responsible for this new "epidemic". As a result of this letter, three police officers are assigned to the case and sent into the city undercover. The superintendent in charge of this assignment meets the woman and is compelled to protect her as he is certain that she has no involvement. Because the government officials recognize their mistakes in handling this crisis, the interior minister is determined to pin the entire problem on this woman and he makes this known to the superintendent.In the end, the superintendent's conscience and his desire to protect this innocent woman, creates in him the need to turn against his own government and he shares the real story (of the set-up) with one of the two independent newspapers.While his bravery sets the record straight with the poplace, it does not manage to save his life, nor does it save the life of the woman he aims to protect.
Karlus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a loser for me and I have discarded it from my library.Mr. Saramago can certainly write finely honed satiric pages of commentary on modern-day political and media processes. Carefully read they are admirable in their satiric accuracy -- and even their literal accuracy -- and they are a pleasure to read. In fact, his style of nearly unending sentences need not diminish the joy because they are so spot on. However, in this story -- told in unrelenting third-person narrative style, and without a human being or a human interest angle any place in sight early on -- even Saramago's implacable and unrelenting political posture quickly palls and begins to sound like one has heard it all before. The images that quickly crossed my mind were of endless Op-Ed pieces and canned journalistic news analyses. The Nobel Prize -- presumably for Saramago's literary merit, rather than political merit -- is of course not to be ignored, but this book was simply not for me. I bailed out early because I get my fill of endless political spouting in the news, day in and day out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A sequel of sorts to his novel "Blindness", this story takes place four years later. Well written and entertaining. ~*~LEB~*~
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