Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Remembering José Saramago: "We need to change the world"

Nine years have passed since the 18th June 2010, the day when José Saramago, one of the most gifted novelists of the 20th century, died. 

Saramago, was far more than just a novelist, a poet, a playwright and a journalist; he was a philosopher and he was a communist. 

Born on November 16th, 1922 at Azinhaga, a small village in Portugal. In 1924, the Saramago family moved to Lisbon where his father began his new job as a policeman. Just a few months after their settlement in the portuguese capital, Jose's older brother, Franscisco, died. Although Jose was a good pupil, his parents were unable to afford to keep him in grammar school, and instead moved him to a technical school at age 12. 

After graduating, he worked as a car mechanic for two years. Later he worked as a translator, then as a journalist. He was assistant editor of the newspaper Diário de Notícias until 1975. His first novel, the "Land of Sin", was published in 1947. 

In 1969, Saramago became a member of the Portuguese Communist Party and in April 1974 he participated in the "Carnations Revolution" that led to the fall of the "Estado Novo" dictatorship.  

Saramago's most famous novels include "Baltasar and Blimunda", "The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis", "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ", "Blindness", "All the Names" and others. 

Despite the Nobel Prize he received in 1998 and the international acclaim, Jose Saramago remained a fierce critic of the established world order. He supported the right of the Palestinians to live peacefully in their own country, he united his voice with the Zapatistas in Mexico and he strongly criticized leaders such as President Bush and Italian Premier Berlusconi. 

With his sharp words, Saramago lambasted neoliberalism and privatizations: "Privatize everything, privatize the sea and the sky, privatize the water and the air, privatize justice and the law, privatize the passing cloud, privatize the dream, especially if it's during the day and open eyed. And finally, for the embellishment of so many privatizations, privatize the States, surrender once and for all their exploitation to private companies through international share offering. There lies the salvation of the world... and, while you're at it, privatize your whore mothers" (Cadernos de Lanzarote, 1994). 

In 1998, the portuguese novelist gave an interview to the Greek newspaper "To Vima" (18 October 1998). Here is a small abstract of a very interesting answer he gave. 

- So despite the perceptions which set the image as dominant, do u still believe that the words can change the world?

"Both yes and no. The words can change the world, but in order to do that, they must, first of all, to be said. But not only to be said, but also to be thrown in a fertile ground so that they will become motivations for action. The truth is that we are passing through times during which words and negative messages, such as, for example, the "you must triumph", are at their peak. That means - clearly implied- that the intervention of any of us in life must be subject to this pattern. But we see that, in the end of the day, that leads to selfisness, indifference and non-solidarity. 

So, what happens? Is it a defeat for us all who support a different route? I always say that, like victories, defeats are never definite. It has no sense for someone to believe that his victory will last forever. The same can be said for the defeat. At this moment, the defeat is for those who believe in a different notion of the world's construction. 

I personally regard myself a defeated one, not on my personal beliefs - these nobody can take away - but defeated in the meaning that when a new notion for life was attempted to take place, it failed. From this persepctive I regard myself as a defeated one.

But I am completely convinced that, even if I won't be here, today's defeat will be transformed into a new struggle and a new victory which, as well, will not be a definite one. This isn't just a hope; it has to do with the fact that I do not want to lose the only reason I have to live: the consciousness that the world in which we live is not a good world, on the contrary - and we need to change it".