Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saramago, Caín, The Evolution of Opinions, and The Perils of Rigidity

For a good and hefty chunk of my life, I hated Saramago. At some point I read something of his--no clue what, could've been in school, could've been in some stray book in my dad's library, could've even have been a snippet glimpsed over someone's shoulder--and, whatever it was, made enough of an impression to forge a rock-solid disdain of his work.

And (to my intense embarrassment today) I didn't hesitate to vociferate it to anyone who asked.

Listed in Amazon
Hey, says an innocent bystander. What do you think of Saramago?
Guilie, in full wrath mode, retorts, He's preachy and presumptuous and arrogant and totally incompetent as a storyteller.
But, but, would stammer the poor bystander, he won a Nobel prize for literature.
And I, in all my wisdom, would just roll my eyes. What. Ever.

And then along came a friend with a copy of Saramago's Caín. Have you read this, he says. No, I say, and before I can spit out my usual Saramago-induced vituperations, he shoves it into my hands. Here. I owed you a book.

I don't read this crap seemed, given it was a gift--and a special friend, and the tail end of a pretty special evening--a tad harsh. So I smiled and did my best to sound graceful when I said thank you.

I did not intend to read it.

But... Well, like I said. Special friend. Special evening. Maybe I was predisposed toward paradigm shifts. Maybe the book I was reading wasn't doing much for me. (Can't even remember which one it was, so there's that.)

Next up on the Making-Up-For-Lost-Time
(aka the Saramago Guilt Trip)
reading list.
I opened it. I began to read, expecting to last no more than a half-page before throwing the thing and all its cheery canary yellow against a wall.

I didn't put it down for the whole day, a good chunk of the night, and throughout all the waiting and sitting and standing in line of my flights back to Curaçao. I drew wary stares and realized I'd been chuckling or--worse--repeating a sentence out loud, just for the pleasure of hearing the words.

As one wades into middle age, one's convictions--beliefs, prejudices, experience-sourced knowledge--harden like the remains of a Thanksgiving dinner on silver platters left on the kitchen counter in the classic "We'll clean up tomorrow."

Caín, for me, was a much needed reminder that knowledge is only perception; that it's not the fittest but the most adaptable that survive; that there is, in fact, a lot of newness under the sun--if we care to look. To rip off the veil of prejudice and see.

Thank you, Saramago introducer. You'll be remembered with gratitude forevermore. I might've gone through life never knowing this brilliant, brilliant author. His brilliant mind.


  1. Hi Giulie ... well I looked around to see what the book was about ... and found his background in Portugal, then his works particularly this one "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ" - where Saramago is obviously a highly philosophical thinker ... somewhat beyond me ... but I can see it's something I might venture into in due course ... really interesting to read about Saramago ... and learn something! Cheers Hilary

    1. He is philosophical, I won't lie; his books have no simple concepts. But he's so easy to read, and he has this fantastic, dry sense of humor--very British in some ways, I suppose--that make the (to some) bitter spoon of deep thoughts go down easier and sweeter (lord, now I've made him sound Mary-Poppins-ish :D ). If you do get a chance to read something of his (the Gospel is sort of hefty, but Cain is quite short; maybe that's a better one to try at first?), I'd love to know what you think. And if you hate him, you can always blame me ;)

  2. Well, since one of my favourite authors is Jostein Gaarder, I may have to give this one a try ;)

    1. Please do! I think you'd find him as compelling as I have (now)--and if you do give him a try, please let me know what you think. I'd love to talk books with you, Ms. Monkey :)

  3. I haven't heard of this author, but I'm willing to give him a try. (Hope readers say that about me someday -- after I'm dead.)


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