I have just finished reading  a novel which is a disturbing parable, a dark prophecy. Copywritten in 2004 it is the work of Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago of Portugal. The title, “Seeing”.

A torrential downpour frustrates the turnout for a municipal election in the un-named capital city of an un-named Western nation. Oddly there are no proper names in the entire book. The Prime Minister. The Cabinet Ministers, The Minister of the Interior. The Superintendent of Special Investigation. The Wife of a local eye doctor. Her loyal dog.

It is decided that the election will be re-run after seven days. The turnout is then more respectable. But to the Government’s surprise 83% of the ballots are blank. Traitorously white. The President’s staff formulate a scathing rebuke as to threats to “their beloved democracy, hardly earned by forefathers.” He promises to remove all official personnel to a neutral spot outside, and to allow the constituents, like rebellious children, to stew in  their own juices.

Surprisingly the City continues to function, and without the overwhelming lawlessness suspected by the Government inner circle.

Had someone provoked this mass statement as to the redundancy of the “public service”? The culprit or conspirators must be brought to justice!

On the day of government departure a total of 27 avenues of withdrawal are selected so as to minimize the impact of any outburst at the passing convoys. No citizens come outside. No public outcry in the early light of day. But household lights mostly turned on to better view and to assist the exodus of the policy makers. Yep, begone: no great loss. Again “whiteness”.

From the outside of the barb-wired City the Minister of the Interior begins to feel increasingly ridiculous. He orchestrates an explosion to pump up the theory of an unidentified anarchist and villain. Secret arrests and interrogations abound under the cloak of “state of siege”. The News media will do his bidding.

He appoints a task force of three to “break back into the City” and to locate a person whom he now suspects, for scanty reasons, to be the root of this horrible uprising. The scapegoat, a heroic and little known woman who was spared the plague of blindness in the City four years prior. The Superintendent is humiliated by the prospect of a wild goose chase with a foregone conclusion. Safe houses; communication code-names. A veritable spy farce. But he gets to meet the Woman and her circle of loyal friends, and finds no fault in them.

Crisis of conscience.

The final episode of “whiteness” is a storm of citizens’ pamphlets intended to reverse the harm spread by a soul-less and sold-out journalism including photographs of our heroine and followers. Will she come out of it unscathed? Will the Superintendent? Will his underlings who suspect the rest of the story?

Not gonna tell. And who orchestrated the whiteness of the “blankers”, or did anyone? And what about that massive epidemic of debilitating blindness in the recent past? White blindness.

Doug Blair, Waterloo, Ontario

And just one more disturbing book review. Please.



3 thoughts on “Whiteness

  1. Anthony gomez says:

    Sounds intriguing.

  2. Understand AG I do not intend to get into book reviewing here, but this book was the oddest and most captivating read that I have experienced in a long time. Its suggestion that democracy is drawing closer to the trash heap was frighteningly plausible. Just look around and listen to the sound bites, and tell me what your local rep really gets to do for you anymore.

  3. Anthony gomez says:

    I watched a play by a group of students based on this book, it was quite enlightening.

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