Tuesday, 13 July 2010

José Saramago died on 18 June 2010

and most of the necrologues tell mainly about his political statements, which, as I have noted in this blog in 2008, could sometimes be too emotional, in addition to often being too dogmatic, even bordering on a certain kind of blindness.

But these observations should not be allowed to detract from what is far more important. It is a gross understatement, in my view, to label Saramago, as the greatest of Portuguese writers. His courage, passion, imagination and uncompromising will to examine human existence to its most painful depths make him one of the greatest writers of all time. Here is one of his blog entries, which it is as easy to agree with as some of what Camus would have entered, had he been able to blog:

Aceitemos então que estamos sozinhos e, a partir daí, façamos a nova descoberta de que estamos acompanhados – uns pelos outros. Quando pusermos os olhos no céu estrelado, com a furiosa vontade de lá chegar, mesmo que seja para encontrar o que não é para nós, mesmo que tenhamos de resignar-nos à humilde certeza de que, em muitos casos, uma vida não bastará para fazer a viagem – quando pusermos os olhos no céu, repito, não esqueçamos que os pés assentam na terra e que é sobre esta terra que o destino do homem (esse nó misterioso que queremos desatar) tem de cumprir-se. Por uma simples questão de humanidade.

So let us accept that we are alone and from there, let us make the new discovery that we are accompanied - by each other. When we lift our eyes to the starry sky, desperately wanting to get there, even if it is to meet that which is not for us, even if we have to resign to the humble certainty that in many cases a life does not suffice for that journey, when we lift our eyes to the sky, I repeat, then let us not forget that our feet are on the earth and that it is on this earth that the destiny of man (this mysterious knot that we want to untie) must be accomplished. For a simple question of humanity.

- and here is a quote from the book, which I would like to make compulsory reading in high schools around the world "The Gospel according to Jesus Christ", something which Camus could not and Dostoievsky - for all the affinities - would not have written , and for which Saramago is (is or was?) hated by some people, who refuse to see:

"...The slaves live to serve us, perhaps we should open them to know if they carry slaves inside, and after that open a king to see if he has another king in the stomach, and look, if we met the Devil and he allowed us to open him, perhaps we would have the surprise to see God jump out from the inside. Before, we talked about the clashes of ideas and convictions between Jesus and Shepherd (Pastor), and this is an example. But Jesus had learnt, over time, that the best response was not to be caught by the provocations, even if they were brutal, like this one, and here he was even lucky, it could have been much worse, imagine the scandal, if Shepherd had gotten the idea of opening God to see if the Devil was inside..."

This is just meant as a morsel.

There is much more in that book, not least one of the finest hymns to love between woman and man (Maria and Jesus in Magdala, of course), I have ever known.