Jose Saramago – Seeing

*The following information applies to the English softcover edition (the novel was originally published in Portuguese in 2004).*
  Author: Jose Saramago
Title: Seeing
 Published: April 2007

Publisher: Harcourt
Length: 307 pages
Genre: Fiction
Why I picked it up: Favourite author
Rating: 4 stars
Buy:  IndieBound Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

I read Blindness, the book that this one is a sequel (or perhaps the better term would be spiritual successor? It’s somewhere inbetween) to, over a year ago. I haven’t read any Saramago since then, and I’ve just realized I’ve only read four of his books. I must get on that! So, this book has been on my TBR list for awhile/ I was very delighted to find a good copy in the discount section at the only indie bookstore in my city a few weeks ago, as I’d seen copies at Chapters but they weren’t in very good condition (read: pristine, because I like my new books to be perfectly crisp). Seeing is technically a sequel to Blindness, the second half of the novel involves characters from Blindness and is sort of connected to events in Blindness (Seeing is set in the same city, four years later, and is about the relationship between government and people, a relationship that played a large role in Blindness). Seeeing, however, is a very different book from Blindness – it is clearly a political satire and not nearly as dark.
I think Seeing would translate well into a film or perhaps even a play. The dialogue is great, it flows like poetry (actually, all the prose flows like a poem, which is how Saramago can get away with his sentence structure, I believe). While it may be more long-winded than most dialogue, it stills feel sharp and cutting when necessary. I was pulled into many exchanges, such as the exchange between the captain and the Prime Minister (so intense!!) or the dialogue between the interior minister and the leader of city council re: the bombing (oh so snappy!!). I would love to see such dialogue played out by a great group of actors (the actors would be key in bringing this to life in order to capture the flow, in my opinion). A performance of the novel would definitely have a different feel but I think it would be interesting nonetheless (think A Series of Unfortunate film vs book :P).

I made a lot of little notes on this one, just notes without thoughts really: There wasn’t an obvious link to Blindness until one of the ministers, or somebody, blatantly compares the blank ballots to the time when everyone went blind, and his comparison causes a stir. I noticed one reference to a country, with a capital (!), and that was Portugal. It’s always been pretty clearly implied (to me, at least, so I’m not sure how much the text actually does imply this) that the story is set in Lisbon, but this was the first instance I could recall between either novel of a reference to the country (though it has been awhile since I read Blindness). The increased significance of periods in a novel where commas rule (ex. pg 114 near the bottom). Passages I liked: The interrogation pg. 37 and 38 and the how it was handled follow-up pg. 46), the PM’s plan as described on pg 66. Lines I liked:

The hour of departure, which would be simultaneous, that is, the same for everyone, was three o’clock in the morning, a time when only the seriously insomniac are still tossing and turning in their beds and saying prayers to the god hypnos, the son of night and twin brother of thanatos, to help them in their affliction by dropping on their poor, bruised, eyelids the sweet balm of the poppy. (pg 70)

…it would be as well to explain that the use of the word blanker a few lines earlier was neither accidental nor fortuitous, nor was it a slip of the fingers on the computer keyboard, and it certainly isn’t a neologism that the narrator has hastily invented in order to fill a gap. (pg 106)

You kept your sight when everyone else was blind (pg. 218, pointedly gets the message of the novel across, I thought).

 The ending felt like a wake-up slap in the face, even though I was expecting something like it. I was pretty shaken up. I took a little bit after I finished the book to process what Saramago might have been trying to say, what might have happened after the book finished. (This paragraph is purposefully ambiguous to avoid spoilers..haha as if I need to worry about spoiling this for someone). And. Blah. I’m sleepy. This has been a lazy ‘review’…Time for bed now.