Blindness and Seeing by Jose Saramago

I've been on a Saramago roll lately! His writing style intrigues me; and his allegorical-philosophical discourses - while they can get me a little bogged down - never fail to surprise me with his insights into human nature, even the worst of it.

After passing over Seeing many times as it happens always to be on the shelves... finally a  few months ago, I saw Blindness. All I knew is that I'd need to read Blindness before Seeing.

The books in one sentence each:
  • Blindness: A city is inexplicably hit by blindness - save for one woman - the blind are confined to a mental hospital where man's worst appetites rear its ugly head. 
  • Seeing: Majority cast blank votes in the election; government strives to deal with this "revolt," and pinpoints that the "seeing woman" is behind this plot.  


My thoughts

I've always been intrigued by dystopian literature, though it can be a little of a downer for me so I always make sure to stagger read it. 

Blindness is a depressing read yet shows what goodness, forgiveness and strength of character can do to rise above depravity and anarchy. The scenario is simple - in an entire city of blind people, one woman remains able to see. Why? What does she do?

This enigmatic phenomenon starts off with a man who is strangely struck by blindness. He goes to his ophthalmologist to find out why ... and instead he starts off a strange epidemic of blindness in other patient, including the very doctor who seeks to cure them.

The blind are quarantined in an old mental hospital. The doctor's wife, who remains able to see, refuses to leave her husband's side and feigns blindness to be able to do so. The hospital leaves the blind to basically left to fend for themselves ... and anarchy takes over in the fight for survival. The doctor's wife arises as a natural leader.

The characters are an interesting lot and lend various perspectives to this unusual story. There is the "girl with the dark glasses" - a prostitute who turns motherly to a young boy separated from his parents. Then there is the "man with the black eye patch," who unlike everyone else, takes his blindness calmly and matter-of-a-factly and sees it as an opportunity to learn a much-needed lesson. There is also the tyrannical "Ward 3 leader," who when supplies run low and modes of payment are non-existing, demands women in exchange.

I watched the movie (Julianne Moore?!?) and decided that this story is something best left as a book. It is much too graphic and depressing to have to watch - instead of being fodder for thought.

* * * 

Seeing is the sequel to Blindness post-blindness. Sight is miraculously restored and election time has swung around. The whole day, very few come around to vote, explained away as a heavy rain falls. But right after the skies clear up at around 4:00 pm, people are inexplicably at the polls and extensive lines start up. And to everyone's shock, the majority of the votes cast are blank.

Government investigates, viewing this sudden surge of voters at 4:00 pm and the resulting blank ballots as a plot to overthrow the government. In the increasingly oppressive nature of this Government, there is widespread discontent yet the fear of the repercussions of communicating this. Government keeps up a semblance of normality through what is regarded as highly suspicious propaganda. Meanwhile people are questioned and are start disappearing - and what results is an interesting yet precarious balance between the ruled and the rulers.

The "seeing" woman again figures in this story. She is pinpointed as the one responsible for orchestrating the casting of bank votes by mere virtue of her retaining her sight during the inexplicable blindness. A Superintendent is assigned to investigate who is responsible for this "revolution." The Superintendent, in the course of his investigations comes to see the human side of the situation, and he  becomes a dissenting voice in this silent city.

Verdict: Both must-reads! Blindness focuses on the individual at his best and worst. Seeing focuses on the government at its worst. 


  1. Visiting from Crazy-for-books Blog Hop!
    Great to meet you!

    Gina ~ Hott Books

  2. I plan to read Blindness this year as well :)

  3. hi gina! thanks for coming over :P

    blooey, just don't watch the movie! i am warning you!


© guiltless readingMaira Gall