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A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.

John Milton


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Monday, October 31st, 2011

The Book of Exhortations

I was wondering a while ago, where I could find source material for O livro dos conselhos, the mediæval text from which José Saramago took several of his epigraphs. Turns out I was looking for the wrong title -- the primary title of the book is O leal conselheiro and several editions of it are available through Amazon in case you read (mediæval) Portuguese. Not finding any Spanish translation which I would have expected to be available... The text does not seem to be available online AOTW; but there is a Leal Conselheiro Project being pursued in collaboration between João Dionísio of Universidade de Lisboa and Paloma Celis-Carbajal of Madison, which aims to have a digitization of the sole extant manuscript copy of O leal conselheiro online by the end of next year.

Update: Hmm, seems I spoke too soon. Márcio Ricardo Coelho Muniz of the UEFS has a paper online on "The Faithful Advisor and the Book of Exhortations" which makes clear that the Livro dos conselhos is a separate, lesser-known work of Edward's.

posted afternoon of October 31st, 2011: 3 responses
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Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

More exhortations

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.

posted evening of November 9th, 2010: 2 responses
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Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

O Livro dos Conselhos

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.
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.

posted evening of June 23rd, 2009: Respond
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Friday, March 6th, 2009

Giovanni Pontiero's Epigraph

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.

posted morning of March 6th, 2009: 2 responses
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Tuesday, March third, 2009

Si puedes mirar, ve

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.)

posted evening of March third, 2009: 4 responses
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