Blind Folly

By Gray, John | New Statesman (1996), June 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

Blind Folly


Gray, John, New Statesman (1996)


Seeing

Jose Saramago

Harvill Secker, 307pp, [pounds sterling]11.99

Perhaps the greatest of the novels of Jose Saramago is The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1984). Set in Lisbon in 1936, when the country was moving towards civil war, it tells of a middleaged doctor who has returned after many years abroad to a half-life of long walks and desultory love affairs, rising late and spending days alone in his hotel room. Ricardo Reis was one of the "heteronyms" of Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), the incomparable Portuguese poet and novelist who wrote under dozens of different aliases, and in a beautifully crafted episode Reis is visited by Pessoa's shade, who tells him with a smile that he "dreamed that I was alive. An interesting illusion."

Unlike Saramago, a lifelong communist, Pessoa oscillated between a quirky conservatism and apolitical detachment, and never had any hopes of the future. If The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis has a moral, it is that this attitude of detachment cannot be sustained when the world is falling apart. But Saramago's novels are rarely straightforward parables, and his most recent is not easily decoded. First published in Portuguese in 2004, Seeing is a successor to Blindness (1995), in which an epidemic of blindness sweeps through an unnamed city and the victims are quarantined in an asylum. In Blindness, Saramago left open the question of whether the victims of the plague were better off for being unsighted in an ugly world. In Seeing, he plays with the metaphor of vision in a similarly ambiguous fashion.

The novel begins with an election in the same city that suffered the epidemic of blindness. Mysteriously, more than 70 per cent of the voters leave blank votes. Rather than failing to vote or spoiling the ballot papers, they have actively rejected the democratic process. In the crisis that follows, the government declares a state of emergency, sealing off the city and faking a terrorist attack. The population remains peaceful but disaffected, and the government receives a letter suggesting that the one person who remained sighted during the plague of blindness--a woman who managed to work as a doctor in the asylum by feigning loss of sight--may be behind the current malaise. At this point the book shifts gear. The rather cipher-like politicians and officials of the earlier sections are replaced by more humanly recognisable figures--plain-clothes policemen who are sent to investigate the causes of the outbreak of democratic passive resistance and the possible role of the doctor in it. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Blind Folly
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.