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The alternatives are not placid servitude on the one hand and revolt against servitude on the other. There is a third way, chosen by thousands and millions of people every day. It is the way of quietism, of willed obscurity, of inner emigration.

J.M. Coetzee

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Wednesday, September second, 2009

🦋 Notebook hiatus

Saramago is hanging up his blogging hat for the time being. The good news is, he needs the time to work on a new novel he will be publishing this winter, Cain, about sibling rivalry in Genesis. And he leaves the option open -- "If sometime I should feel the need to comment or opine about something, I'll knock on the door of the Notebook, the place where I like best to express myself."

posted evening of September second, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Saramago's Notebook

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

🦋 East of Eden

It might seem peculiar to go to Saramago seeking reverence -- he is rather famously atheistic, maybe even intemperately so; he was notoriously denounced by the Catholic church heirarchy after publication of his final novel, Caín, when he said humanity would be better off without the Holy Bible. (And who am I, no Christian myself, to be seeking or discussing reverence? We'll leave that question by the side for now.) But: I found The Gospel According to Jesus Christ to be a superlatively reverent book, that quality was one of my favorite things about the book; and I am hoping as I start Caín that it will share that quality.

Things are looking a little dodgy starting with the epigraph -- Saramago quotes chapter 11, verse 4 of St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews, and attributes it to the Libro de los disparates, roughly the "Book of Nonsense". I agree with Rafael Rodríguez Hernández that this is a lousy opening: it seems to me like Saramago ought to treat his source text with more respect...

Be that as it may, I'm enjoying the first few chapters. Eve and Adam are coming through nicely as characters, Saramago seems really to be interested in their humanity and their hardships. It looks like it will be a fun game to figure out which of Saramago's details are canonical and which are not -- for instance he has only a single Cherub guarding the gates of Eden, whom he identifies as Azael*; tradition assigns this role to two angels, Metatron and Melchisadec. But I will probably spend less time on this kind of thing as I get deeper into the story. Eve's flirtation with and implicit seduction of Azael is very strongly non-canonical/blasphemous, but it is rendered so lovingly that I am going to go along with it -- it is one of the high points of the first few chapters.

*Gustav Davidson's Dictionary of Angels identifies Azael as "one of 2 fallen angels (Aza is the other) who cohabited with Naamah, Lamech's daughter, and sired the sedim, Assyrian guardian spirits." Cool! I knew vaguely (based on Genesis 6:1-2) that there was angel-human cohabitation in the Abrahamic tradition but did not have any specifics.

posted afternoon of February 12th, 2011: Respond
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