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R. Hitchcock

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Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

🦋 Liberty

Today's post at Saramago's Other Notebooks quotes one of his oldest novels.

La libertad no es mujer que ande por los caminos, no se sienta en una piedra esperando que la inviten a cenar o a dormir en nuestra cama el resto de la vida.

-- Levantado del suelo, Alfaguara, 2003, p. 422

Liberty is not a woman walking the streets, she is not sitting on a bench outside waiting for an invitation to dinner, to come sleep in our bed for the rest of her life.

-- Raised up from the soil, 1980

posted evening of October 26th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about José Saramago

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

🦋 Notebooks

On my birthday last month, the Saramago Foundation started updating the man's blog a few times a week with quotations from his work, from his books and his articles and his speeches. I'm not sure how I feel about this -- the entries are worth reading and it's nice to be introduced to some of his work that I didn't know about (and it did seem like a nice birthday present), while OTOH I had been identifying the blog (naturally) closely with him, and it's unsettling for him to be in the ground and the blog to continue. They have retitled it Saramago's Other Notebooks, which could help in identifying it as a new blog.

Today's entry comes from The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis:


La palabra es lo mejor que se puede encontrar, la tentativa siempre frustrada para expresar eso a lo que, por medio de palabra, llamamos pensamiento.

The Word

The word is the greatest thing you will ever meet, the always frustrated effort to express that which, by means of the word, we call thought. [Vastly improved translation contributed by Rick in comments]

(Speaking of notebooks, I have ordered a copy of the Lanzarote Notebooks and am looking forward to reading it! though it will be my first posthumous Saramago...)

posted evening of June 22nd, 2010: 2 responses
➳ More posts about Readings

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

🦋 Dreams and Heaven

How exciting! On the occasion of my birthday Saramago has posted a cryptic and tantalizing note on his blog (which he has retitled "Saramago's Other Notebooks"):

Aside from the conversations of women, it is dreams that sustain our world in its orbit...
The piece is a quotation from Balthasar and Blimunda... I don't know why he picked today to post it but it fits in nicely with my frame of mind today. So I will consider this (until proven otherwise) my birthday gift from Mr. Saramago.

posted morning of May 18th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about Baltasar and Blimunda

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

🦋 A Stone Raft Sailing to Haïti

The Saramago Foundation announces that a new edition of The Stone Raft will be published, with all profits given to the Red Cross's relief efforts in Haïti.

Update: no, I misread that. The foundation is not donating all profits to the Red Cross, but rather "the entire 15€ purchase price of the book" -- rather more substantial a commitment.

posted morning of January 28th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about The Stone Raft

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

🦋 Saramago addresses Italy

Saramago addresses a new post to the Italians who marched in protest of Berlusconi's regime yesterday.

Si Cicerón todavía viviera entre vosotros, italianos, no diría "¿Hasta cuando, Catilina, abusarás de nuestra paciencia?" y sí: "¿Hasta cuando, Berlusconi, atentarás contra nuestra democracia?". De eso se trata. Con su peculiar idea sobre la razón de ser y el significado de la institución democrática, Berlusconi ha transformado en pocos años a Italia en una sombra grotesca de país y a una gran parte de los italianos en una multitud de títeres que lo siguen aborregadamente sin darse cuenta de que caminan hacia el abismo de la dimisión cívica definitiva, hacia el descrédito internacional, hacia el ridículo absoluto.

Con su historia, con su cultura, con su innegable grandeza, Italia no merece el destino que Berlusconi le ha trazado con frialdad canalla y sin el menor vestigio de pudor político, sin el más elemental sentimiento de vergüenza. Quiero pensar que la gigantesca manifestación contra la "cosa" Berlusconi, donde serán leídas estas palabras, se convertirá en el primer paso para la libertad y la regeneración de Italia. Para eso no son necesarias armas, bastan los votos. En vosotros deposito mi confianza.

If Cicero still lived among you, O Italians, he would not say, "How long, O Catiline, will you abuse our patience?" but rather: "How long, Berlusconi, will you transgress against our democracy?" This is how it is. With his unusual ideas about the basis and significance of the democratic institution, Berlusconi has in a few years transformed Italy into a grotesque shadow of a country; a great part of the Italian people, into a mob of puppets who go on, ovine, without understanding that they're marching toward the abyss of definitive civic resignation, towards international discredit, towards absolute ridicule.

With her history, with her culture, with her undeniable grandeur, Italy does not deserve the destiny which Berlusconi has mapped out, with brutal coldness and without the least vestige of political modesty, without the most elemental sentiment of shame. I want to believe that the massive demonstration against the Berlusconi "thing", where these words will be read, will become the first step for liberty and for the regeneration of Italy. For this arms are not necessary; votes will suffice. In you I place my confidence.

posted evening of December 6th, 2009: Respond

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 Cain

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

🦋 The Pátio do Padeiro

On Monday, Saramago posted a charming piece about the neighborhood where he grew up:

I believe it was twelve years, the time I spent in the Penha de França, first in the Rua Padre Sena Freitas, then in the Rua Carlos Ribeiro. For a much longer time, until my mother died, the neighborhood was for me a persistent extension of all the other places through which I passed. I have memories of it which remain vibrant today. Back then the Vale Escuro lived up to its name, it was a place of adventure and discovery for kids, a remnant of nature which the first construction projects were already beginning to threaten, but where it was possible to savour the sour taste of of the cedars and the sweet tuberous roots of a plant whose name I never learned. And there was also the battlefield, the site of Homeric struggles... And there was the Pátio do Padeiro (which was not in Penha de França, but in Alto de Saõ Joaõ...), where "ordinary" people did not dare to enter and where, it was said, even the police made themselves scarce, turning a blind eye to the supposed or actual illicit behaviours of those who lived there. What's certain is, great distrust and fear were caused by the closeness of that small world which lived segregated from the rest of the neighborhood and whose words, gestures and postures clashed with the tranquil routine of the timorous people who passed outside. One day, from the nighttime to the morning, the Pátio do Padeiro disappeared, perhaps laid waste by the municipal hammer, or more likely by the construction companies'excavations, and in its place arose buildings without imagination, each one a copy of the others, which grew old within a few years' time. The Pátio do Padeiro, at least, had its originality, its own physiognomy, even if it was nasty and malevolent. If I could do it, if I were able to share the life of these people to find out, I would like to reconstruct the life of the Pátio do Padeiro. Alas they are lost. The people who lived there are dispersed, their descendants have improved their lives, have forgotten or do not wish to recall the hard existence of those who lived before them. In the memory of the Penha de França (or of the Alto de S. Joaõ) there is not any space left for the Pátio do Padeiro. There were people who were born and lived without luck. Of them there remains not even the stone of their door-jamb. They have died and passed away.
I don't find anything about this bit of Lisbon's history online -- the name means "The bakery's courtyard," perhaps there was a baking industry near there and the people who lived there were the labor force? If you follow my link above you can see a map of the neighborhood.

posted evening of August 5th, 2009: Respond

Sunday, August second, 2009

🦋 Gabo

Saramago posts today about reading García Márquez:

Writers can be divided (assuming that they will accept being divided...) into two groups: the smaller group, of those who can open new paths into literature, and the more numerous, those who go after and who use these paths for their own journey. It's been this way since the birth of our planet and the (legitimate?) vanity of authors will do nothing against the clarity of the evidence. Gabriel García Márquez used his ingenuity to open and to pave the way that would come to be called "magical realism," down which multitudes of followers would later proceed and, as always happens, detractors in their turn. The first book of his which came into my hands was Cien años de soledad, and the shock which it caused me was enough to make me stop reading at the end of fifty pages. I needed to put some order in my mind, some discipline in my heart, and above all, learn to get my bearings and orient myself on the paths of the new world which presented itself before my eyes. In my life as a reader there have been very few occasions that have produced an experience like this. If the word "trauma" could take a positive meaning, I would willingly use it in this case. But, it has been written, leave it there. I hope it will be understood.

posted evening of August second, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Cien años de soledad

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

🦋 Castril

Take a look at Saramago's blog today for some beautiful pictures of Castril de la Peña, in the northern part of Granada. His reflections on its age are reminding me pretty strongly of One Hundred Years of Solitude:

The river which passes through Lisbon is not called Lisbon, it's called Tagus, the river which passes through Rome is not called Rome, it's called Tiber, and that other one which passes through Seville, neither is it called Seville, it's called Guadalquivir.... But the river which passes through Castril, this one is called Castril. Many inhabited places will right away be given the name of that which they are known for, not just rivers. For thousands and thousands of years, patiently, every river in the world had to wait for someone to show up and to baptize it, in order to be able to appear on maps as something more than a scribble, sinuous and anonymous. Through centuries and centuries the waters of a river as yet nameless would pass tumultuously through the place where one day Castril would have to erect itself and, while passing by, would look up at the cliff and say one to the other, "Not yet." And they would continue their journey to the sea thinking, with the same patience, that in time, a time would come, and that new waters would arrive, would meet women washing their clothing against the stones, children inventing swimming, men fishing for trout and all the rest that would rise to the bait. At this moment the waters knew that they had been given a name, that henceforth they would be not the River Castril, but the River of Castril, so strong would be the pact uniting them with the people building their first rustic houses on the slopes of the mountainside, who would later construct second and third dwellings, one next to the other, one over the ruins of the others, generation after generation, until today....
The José Saramago Center in Castril funds and promotes cultural, literary and artistic projects.

posted evening of July 7th, 2009: Respond

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

🦋 Appearances; and a response

Saramago wrote a note on Friday about reality and dissimulation:

Suppose that in the beginning of beginnings, before we had invented speech, which as we know reigns supreme as creator of incertitude, we were not tormented by a single serious doubt about who we were and about our relationship, personal and collective, with the place in which we found ourselves. The world, obviously, could only be that which our eyes saw in each moment, and more, complementary information no less important, that which the rest of the senses -- auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory -- contributed to understanding it. In this initial hour, the world was pure appearance, pure externality. Matter was simply rough or smooth, bitter or sweet, loud or quiet, smelly or odorless. All things were what they seemed to be, for the simple reason that they had no motive to seem one way and to be something else. ... I imagine that the spirit of philosophy and the spirit of science, coinciding in their origin, both manifested the day on which someone had the intuition that this appearance, at the same time as being images captured and utilized by the conscious mind, could also be an illusion of the senses. ...We all know the popular expression in which this intuition is reflected: "Appearances can be deceiving."
Today, he responds to a critique of his newly-published collection of blog posts, O Caderno, by José Mário Silva in the latest issue of Expresso -- Critica de livros, scroll down to "O Caderno" -- I'm not sure if this link will continue to work.
José Mário Silva says in his review of "O Caderno," published in the "Currents" section of the latest "Expresso," that I am not a real blogger. He says it and demonstrates: I don't make links, I don't enter into dialogue with my readers, I don't interact with the rest of the blogosphere. I already knew this, but from now on, when they ask me, I will make the reasons of José Mário Silva my own and give a definite conclusion to the matter. At all events, I will not complain about a critic who is well-educated, relevant, illustrative. Two points nonetheless, make me enter the fray, breaking for the first time a decision which until today I have been careful to carry out, that of not responding nor even commenting on any published assessment of my work. The first point he makes is that of an alleged oversimplified quality that characterizes my analysis of problems. I could respond that space does not permit me more, even though in truth, the person who does not permit me any more space is I myself, given that I lack the indispensible qualifications of a deep analyst, like those of the Chicago School, who, in spite of how gifted they are, fell down with all their baggage, it never passed through their privileged cerebra that there was any possibility of an overwhelming crisis which any simple analysis would have been able to predict. The other point is more serious and justified, for it alone comes this in many respects unexpected intervention. I refer to my alleged excesses of indignation. From an intelligent person like José Mário Silva I would expect everything except this. My question here would be as simple as my analysis: Are there limits on indignation? and more: How can one speak of excesses of indignation in a country in which this is precisely, with visible consequences, what is missing? Dear José Mário, think about this and enlighten me with your opinion. Please.
Hm. Not sure what I think about this -- Mário Silva's complaints about Saramago's blog entries are kind of similar to my own, I think -- I don't generally translate and post Saramago's political blog entries because, well, they don't seem worth the effort, seem full of froth and vitriol but not a lot else. (A major exception was his series of posts on illegal emigrants from Africa shipwrecked on the Canaries; these were informative and moving.) So Saramago's take-down of Mário Silva feels like it's directed at me, and doesn't feel successful, but this could of course be due to my biased position. (As far as Saramago not being a "real blogger," well, that's silly of course; his selection of this to open the response is a good rhetorical move but not germane to the real issue.*) I will go on being happy to read the notebook entries that exhibit Saramago's love and mastery of language and his thoughtfulness, and not paying so much attention to the others. (José Mário Silva's blog is Bibliotecário de Babel.)

Update: Mário Silva responds to the response.

* And looking at the source, and making allowances for my very limited understanding of Portuguese, it doesn't look like Mário Silva even intended this as a criticism, he just says in passing, "In truth, Saramago is the Antipodes of real bloggers. He doesn't make links, doesn't dialogue directly with his readers, doesn't interact with the rest of the blogosphere. He limits himself to writing short prose pieces which others then place online." All true and not a part of his critique, though the "real bloggers" reference grates.

posted evening of July 5th, 2009: Respond

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