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Seeing is not necessarily believing

Andrew Fersch
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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Sequels tend to be hit or miss. Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn’t be the last action hero if it weren’t for Terminator 2. On the other hand, I might still respect Keanu Reeves (and to a lesser extent, Alex Winter) if Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey had never seen the light of day. The difference is these sequels followed films that were menially enjoyable and garnered little respect for their cinematic genius. Jose Saramago’s “Blindness,” on the other hand, led him to a Nobel Prize for literature, so obviously, more is expected from his follow-up.

“Seeing” begins four years after the conclusion of “Blindness,” where the contagious blindness epidemic that struck the city disappeared without explanation and without the government learning any lessons, either. Instead of writing a book that immediately jumps into the citizens’ outrage over the government’s lackluster (and at times horrific) response to the epidemic, Saramago opts to take an entirely different route with his writing and his characters.

What was at once a political novel and social commentary, “Blindness” differed greatly from “Seeing” in that its subject and issues are much clearer, much more black and white. In “Seeing” there is a feeling that Saramago is always just about to reach that point of clarity, but then confusion strikes when he delves deeper into the minute thought processes of governmental leaders. This is not to say that Saramago does not make his points clear; on the contrary, the novel focuses around the idea that a government, faced with the fear of being considered obsolete by the populace, would react harshly, viciously, and without forethought.

It is this summation of government that carries the book through points of confusion and it is also this focus on government which summarily changes the style one might have grown accustomed to in “Blindness.” Fantasy turns to theory, theory based quite clearly on Saramago’s younger years.

Growing up in Portugal, Saramago claims that for “political reasons” he became unemployed after working for the Social Welfare Service. There is a sense that this disillusionment with the government, and probably a good deal of watching similar absurdities in real life, led Saramago to write “Seeing” as more of a manifesto detailing the wrongs governments commit, rather than an entertaining novel.

Clearly, Saramago is a spellbinding author. Aside from run-on sentences (which abound) and sub-par translation at times, the writing draws the reader in.

In all, the greatest difference between the two books is how Saramago decided to conclude “Seeing.” Since the publication of “Blindness” in 1998, Saramago has clearly undergone changes in his writing style, though he has not lost the luster that made him very deserving of a Nobel Prize. It may be clear to see why “Blindness” is a masterpiece but if you look closely though, it’s easy to see that “Seeing” is one, too.


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