Sunday, October 19th, 2014
"Be quiet the doctor's wife said gently, let's all keep quiet, there are times when words serve no purpose, if only I, too, could weep, say everything with tears, not have to speak in order to be understood."
-- Blindness, Jose Saramago
"Doc tried calling her name but of course words out here were only words."
-- Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon
Monday, December 13th, 2010
At Making Light, Teresa posts lyrics to a Swedish carol for this opening night of the Christmas season, along with descriptions of customs around Europe for observing the feast day. Marissa Lingen also has her annual Santa Lucia post.
Update: Fantastic! Saint Lucy, the patron saint of the blind, is the woman in the Blindness church scene, who "did not have her eyes covered, because she carried her gouged-out eyes on a silver tray."
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Another Saramago epigraph from El libro de los consejos -- at the front of his Small Memories is the line, "Déjate llevar por el niño que fuiste/(roughly) Allow the child you were to carry you." The first time I've been able to find a lead suggesting affirmatively that these quotations are actual quotations from somewhere else, not invented by Saramago -- this line takes me to Juan Pedro Villa-Isaza's blog
Casi un objeto, which gives some context for it:
Mientras no alcances la verdad, no podrás corregirla. Pero si no la corriges, no la alcanzarás. Mientras tanto, no te resignes.*
Déjate llevar por el niño que fuiste.
As long as you do not know the truth, you will not be able to alter it. But if you do not alter it, you will never be able to reach it. Still, do not resign yourself.
Allow the child you were to carry you.
(Also, Googling for the original Portuguese rendering of this quote "Deixa-te levar pela criança que foste" leads me to a 2006 interview with Saramago, where he talks about his life and his writing process.)
..."llevar/levar" can also mean "to lead" -- indeed that appears to be the primary meaning in Portuguese; a better rendering of this line might be "Let yourself be led by the child you were."
*... and now I am remembering that this line is the epigraph for The History of the Siege of Lisbon... and am back to thinking the whole thing is Saramago's invention.
Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
Saramago (in Pontiero's translation):
The blind man had categorically stated that he could see, if you'll excuse that verb again, a thick, uniform white color, as if he had plunged his eyes into a milky sea. A white amaurosis, apart from being etymologically a contradiction, would also be a neurological possibility, since the brain, which would be unable to perceive the images, forms, and colors of reality, would likewise be incapable, in a manner of speaking, of being covered in white, a continuous white, like a white painting without tonalities, the colors, forms and images which reality itself might present to someone with normal vision, however difficult it may be to speak, with any accuracy, of normal vision.
Borges (and guess how excited I am to find the Seven Nights lectures online! At least one of them...):
...People picture the blind man enclosed in a world of black. There is a verse of Shakespeare's which would justify this impression: Looking on darkness which the blind do see; if we understand "darkness" to mean "black," this verse of Shakespeare's is mistaken.
One of the colors which the blind (in any case this blind man) are strangers to is black; another is red. "Le rouge et le noir" are colors we miss. For me, who was used to sleeping in total darkness, it was a great deal of trouble trying to sleep in this world of fog, a greenish fog or blue, vaguely luminous, which is the world of blindness.
Saturday, May 29th, 2010
At UCLA in 2002, Saramago reads from some of his work:
Thanks to education blog Teach Our Children for the link.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
The epigraph to The History of the Siege of Lisbon cites the same source as the epigraph to Blindness -- what is this source? The Portuguese wiki page on the novel states that it is the Book of Exhortations of El-Rei Dom Duarte, who is King Edward the Eloquent of Portugal. Other sites state that the epigraphs come from Deuteronomy, or from a fictional Book of Exhortations. I like the Portuguese wiki page's idea -- does not appear to be any transcription of Dom Duarte's book online for me to check however. (An edition of it was published in 1982, is all I've been able to find.) I'm pretty sure the Deuteronomy idea is wrong -- the two epigraphs do not sound biblical. The idea that the source is fictional is certainly possible -- it's what I had been leaning towards -- but would not be as interesting.
|Until you attain the truth,|
you will not be able to amend it.
But if you do not amend it,
you will not attain it. Meanwhile,
do not resign yourself.
- from The Book of Exhortations
|Enquanto não alcançares a verdade,|
não poderes corrigi-la.
Porém, se a não corrigires,
não a alcançarás. Entretanto,
não te resignes.
Friday, March 6th, 2009
I got in touch with the friend to whom I loaned Blindness; she sent me the authorized translation of the epigraph I've been wondering about for the past few days.
If you can see, look.
If you can look, observe.
This is just right -- "If you can see" makes much better sense as an opening phrase than "If you can look"; and then on the second line, "If you can look" reads alright because you already have the structure set up to understand it in.
Saramago attributes this line to the "Book of Exhortations", which if I'm understanding right is Deuteronomy. It would be interesting to find out where it is in that book and see how e.g. the King James translation renders it. ...Looking further, it seems like "Book of Exhortations" is a pretty generic term -- it can refer to a lot of different prophetic writings. I wonder what Saramago's source for this line is.Update: Further investigation of the source here.
Tuesday, March third, 2009
Saramago is looking back on writing the epigraph for Blindness:
Si puedes mirar, ve.
Si puedes ver, repara.
I wrote this for Blindness, already a good couple of years ago. Now, when the film based on this novel is making its debut in Spain, I've encountered the phrase printed on the bags of the 8½ bookstore and on the inside front cover of Fernando Meirelles' making-of book, which this same bookstore's publishing arm has edited with skill. At times I have said that by reading the epigraph of any of my novels, one will already know the whole thing. Today, I don't know why, seeing this, I too felt a sudden impulse, felt the urgency of repairing, of fighting against the blindness. [links are my additions -- J]
I'm curious about how to translate that epigraph. (And surprised that I don't remember this epigraph from when I read Blindness, and annoyed that I cannot go check how Pontiero translated it, because I lent it to a friend...) The sense of it is, "If you can see, see. If you can see, repair." -- Obviously this does not sound good in English because the distinction between mirar and ver is missing, and the transitive structure is lost. The literal translation of the first sentence would be "If you can look, see" -- but I'm guessing the sense of Si puedes mirar is something more like "if you are able to see", i.e. if you are not blind. It seems like ve has a more transitive sense, "see something, some injustice" (although the object is omitted, as it is with repara) -- where mirar is intransitive.
(There is an important misreading in this post, as regards the verb reparar -- see later post for the correction.)
Friday, July 25th, 2008
It is not worth describing what Cipriano Algor thought about because he had thought it on so many other occasions and we have supplied more than enough information on the subject already. The only new thing here is that he allowed a few painful tears to run down his cheeks, tears that had been dammed up for a long, long time, always just about to be shed, but, as it turned out, they were being reserved for this sad hour, for this moonless night, for this solitude that has not yet resigned itself to being solitude. What was truly not a novelty, because it had happened before in the history of fables and in the history of the marvels of the canine race, was that Found went over to Cipriano Algor to lick his tears, a gesture of supreme consolation which, however touching it might seem to us, capable of touching hearts normally not given to displays of emotion, should not make us forget the crude reality that the salty taste of tears is greatly appreciated by most dogs. One thing, however, does not detract from the other, were we to ask Found if it was because of the salt that he licked Cipriano Algor's face, he would probably have replied that we do not deserve the bread that we eat, that we are incapable of seeing beyond the end of our own nose.
A dog licking tears from the face of a crying human is a central image in Saramago's work, as much as I've read of it so far anyway. And it is touching -- the other times I've read sequences like this, they have touched me as symbolizing the depth of connection between the dog and his master. But another way of looking at it that is occurring to me now, is how painfully lonely, to be weeping in a place where there is no other person present.
(The clause after "truly not a novelty" strikes me as funny in a sort of self-referential way -- it could be rendered, "What was truly not a novelty, because it had happened before in books I have written,...")
Friday, May 16th, 2008
Looks from this article like the movie Blindness is going to be really dreadful. That's so disappointing! The book could absolutely be made into an excellent movie -- it is "cinematic", visual detail is such a key part of it. But Dargis' description gives me a sense of exactly how Blindness should not have been made into a movie -- with overt concentration on the allegorical aspects of the story. Saramago really played this down, except for the cathedral scene and a couple of spots while the characters were interned, and of course the very end -- but the end should be surprising, should take your breath away. If Meirelles is using blinding light effects throughout the movie, I can't imagine the end is going to feel meaningful at all.
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