Monday, December 22, 2008

Saramago's Monsters

Z-word's Eamonn
McDonagh translated part of a post by José Saramago, the 1998 Literary Nobelist, describing Israelis: "… those experts in cruelty with doctorates in disdain, who look down on the world from the heights of the insolence which is the basis of their education. We can better understand their biblical god when we know his followers. Jehovah or Yaweh or whatever he is called, is a fierce and spiteful god, whom the Israelis always live up to."

There is something definitely Iberian and almost medieval in Saramago’s enraged loathing at the sight of the insolent Israeli Jew, when he is armed, fierce and spiteful. Please note the incontinent viciousness of this polemic. No term of abuse is too hyperbolical for the author to hurl at the Jews.

I find the whole thing an unintended exercise in self-ironization. Saramago appears pathologically incapable of regarding Israeli soldier as a real person, (who, given a workable choice, will happily trade his guns for a peaceful dinner at his mother’s table and a day at the beach, ogling the girls). The fact that he can only refer to them in Nietzschean metaphors of impossibly implacable Übermensches points directly into a mind of darkness that produced these fulminations.

Why does a Portuguese author develop such a deformed view of reality and compassionless contempt for Israelis in particular? I find it hard to recognize human beings in his descriptions. It’s as though he produces these lines while in the grip of some evil spirit.

Another thing: Imagine someone writing the exact same words, substituting “Quranic” for “biblical” and “Allah” for “Jehovah or Yaweh or whatever”. How long before there would be several fatwahs issued against him? Would he ever dare to write such a thing? How come these words roll off his pen with such ease and comfort when the subject is Jews? What do we call this pathology? This is a legitimate criticism of Israel? What to call these strange excited calumnies?


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