(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 11, 2010
IN his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Jose Saramago declared, “In this half-century, obviously governments have not morally done for human rights all that they should. The injustices multiply, the inequalities get worse, the ignorance grows, and the misery expands. This same schizophrenic humanity that has the capacity to send instruments to a planet to study the composition of its rocks can with indifference note the deaths of millions of people from starvation. To go to Mars seems easier than going to the neighbour. Nobody performs her or his duties. Governments do not, because they do not know, they are not able or they do not wish, or because they are not permitted by those who effectively govern the world: The multinational and pluricontinental companies whose power – absolutely non-democratic – reduce to next to nothing what is left of the ideal of democracy...It is not to be expected that governments in the next 50 years will do it. Let us common citizens therefore speak up...Perhaps the world could turn a little better.”
On June 18
his life as a
car mechanic, later worked as a translator, as a journalist, then as a
novelist. Over the course of 60-year stint in writing, he covered the
repressive Salazar dictatorship in
His books Baltasar and Blinunda, The Stone Raft, Gospel of Jesus Christ, Blindness, All the Names, Death at Intervals, The Cave and Cain were statements on humanism and atheism.
He said, “I’ve always considered myself a quiet non-believer, because atheism as a public militancy seemed useless to me, but now I’m changing my mind. The reactionary insolence of the Catholic Church needs to be answered with the insolence of lively intelligence, of reason, of the responsible word. We can’t let the truth to be offended everyday by the self-proclaimed representatives of god on earth, whose only real interest is power. The church doesn’t care about the destiny of souls, what it has always pursued is control over the bodies. Reason can be an ethics. Let’s use it.”
José Saramago shed new light on the interrelation – complex, dynamic and in no sense reducible to dogma – between the literary and the political, the world of the arts and the world of everyday human struggle: an interrelation of which Portugal's Nobel laureate has become, through his labour as a writer and his practical activity, a supreme exponent for our hard times.
He always stood by the underdog and berated those who did vespers at the altar of unbridled consumption. He made god human and gave him all the follies humans have; he severed and floated nations down the sea noticing their weaknesses and cataloguing their traumas; he remade history by just inserting a single word; he stopped death in its endless tracks for months and took account of its absence narrating the spiritual and political upheaval its absence brings and, in one of his last works, sent an Indian elephant Solomon from Lisbon to Vienna, journeying humorously and meditating on society's oddities. In his public life, as in his books, Saramago never pulled his punches and strongly opposed globalisation and its attendant problems.
Saramago, democracy was in need of regeneration, since economic power
determines political power. “I'm doubtful of democracy”, he says.
“Participation in political life is insufficient. People are called in
four years, and in between, the government does what it wants. That's
Literature on its own will not save the world, but it is made out of multiple human experiences and sufferings and as a certain weapon, if properly used, serves its role in changing the world and making it a better place to live. The Nobel laureate eloquently denounced today's neo-liberal society, in which to be born confers no inherent rights, as a world which is absurd; indeed Kafkaeseque, thanks to the 'contamination of relationships by the perversion of the human'. He concluded by affirming the crucial humanist vocation of the writer: “The profession of the writer is the profession of being a man or a woman, a human being”.
thread of humanism is found in all his writings, even when they deal
illusionary subjects. Commenting on the various reviews of his Death at Intervals, published in
His novel The Elephant's Journey, which is stated as a “brilliant comedy about the stupidity of humankind”, traces the travels of Solomon, an Indian elephant. It was “99 per cent pure invention”, Saramago says. “I was fascinated by the elephant's journey as a metaphor for life. We all know we'll die, but not the circumstances”. This is indeed true even for him, as it is for all of us. He was 40 pages into the book when he was rushed to hospital last winter with a respiratory illness, he recalls: “They were reluctant to take me because I was in such a serious condition”. Chuckling, he adds: “they didn't want to be the hospital where José Saramago died”. Allowed home, he immediately resumed writing. “What I find surprising and strange is that there's a lot of humour in the book - it makes people laugh. No one would guess how I was feeling”.
José Saramago’s vast, remarkable, and unique literary work will remain a milestone in the history of Portuguese literature, in which his is one of the most prominent names. He was the only Portuguese writer to receive the Nobel Prize in the field of literature in 1998 for the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.
Saramago was a member of the Portuguese Communist Party since 1969 and
death represents a loss for the entire Communist movement – more for
which he chose as his own until his final days. He helped to build the
1974 Revolution as an active participant in the resistance to fascism.
continued this activity after the Day of Liberation with his engagement
revolutionary process that profoundly transformed
Saramago said, “We’re not short of movements proclaiming that a different world is possible, but unless we can coordinate them into an international movement, capitalism just laughs at all these little organisations.” Saramago was an inspiration. His death matters to millions. The real tribute to Saramago, thus, should be by strengthening the movements against imperialism on a global scale.