Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Jose Saramago

A dark vessel, the Highland Brigade, ascends the sombre river and is about to anchor at the quay of Alcantara. The steamer is English and belongs to the Royal Mail Line ... [there are] spacious decks for games and sunbathing, even cricket, a field sport, can be played on deck, which shows that for the British Empire nothing is impossible.
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, 1992 ed. p. 1

The evidence of death is the veil with which death masks itself.
ibid. p. 27

the gods of Ricardo Reis are silent entities who look upon us with indifference and for whom good and evil are less than words, because they never utter them, and why should they, if they cannot even tell them apart. They journey like us in the river of things, differing from us only because we call them gods and sometimes believe in them. We were taught this lesson lest we wear ourselves out making new and better resolutions for the incoming year. Nor do the gods judge, knowing everything, but this may be false. The ultimate truth, perhaps, is that they know nothing, their only task being to forget at each moment the good as well as the evil. So let us not say, Tomorrow I shall do it, for it is almost certain that tomorrow we will feel tired. Let us say instead, The day after tomorrow, then we will always have a day in reserve to change our mind and make new resolutions. It would be even more prudent, however, to say, One day, when the day comes to say the day after tomorrow, I shall say it, but even that might not prove necessary, if definitive death comes first and releases me from the obligation, for obligation is the worst thing in the world, the freedom we deny ourselves.
ibid. p.46

Salvador assured him that he always waited up to hear the bells ring in the New Year at midnight, a family tradition. They always ate twelve raisins, one for each chime, to bring luck during the next year, a popular custom widely observed abroad. You're talking about rich countries, but do you really believe such a custom will bring you good fortune. I do not know, but perhaps my year would have been even worse had I not eaten those raisins. It is with such arguments that the man who has no God seeks gods, while he who has abandoned his gods invents God. One day we shall rid ourselves of both God and gods.

ibid. p. 57

'These earthenware bowls are fragile and so easily broken, they are only made of a little clay on which fortune has precariously bestowed some consistency, and the same could be said of mankind.'
from The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (2008: 151)

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