Yesterday I finished Jose Saramago's "Raised From the Ground." This book, although the subject matter is not new to me, is quasi-experimental in form and extremely moving in its nature. I am often drawn to the suffering of the common man/woman at the hands of the bourgeoisie landowners, the Church in cahoots with a ruthless clone of General Franco or Adolf Hitler; because I live in hope.
This is a story of Salazar's Portugal, not of Salazar himself, but of the latifundio (Spanish translation=large estate), the hot fields and dry hills, between the 1930s and the 1960s, and of the poor men and women who worked it and lived on it--barely. It is also about the cruel dragons who were Salazar's guards, torturers, soldiers, financial supporters, and ass-kissers who were pledged to defeat, to crush the hearts and minds of the Portuguese people.
Below are some excerpts from the book, revealing Saramago's literary power and lyric pathos.
[Raised From the Ground, by Jose Saramago, Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 1980. English translation by Margaret Jull Costa, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2012.]
"That’s a good worker for you, one who, when he gets whipped, will show off his raw welts, and if they’re bleeding, all the better, ...Ah, you people preserved in the grease or honey of ignorance, you have never lacked for exploiters. So work, work yourself to death, yes, die if necessary, that way you’ll be remembered by the foremen and the boss, but woe betide you if you get a reputation for being an idler, no one will ever love you then."
"Mend your ways while there’s still time, and swear that you’ve taken twenty beatings, crucify yourself, hold out your arm to be bled, open your veins and say, This is my blood, drink it, this is my body, eat is, this is my life, take it, along with the church’s blessing, the salute to the flag, the march past, the handing over of credentials, the awarding of a university diploma, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
"...you hear someone say, and you feel as if you were not of this world, carrying a load like that, have pity on me, help me, comrades, if we all carried it together it would be so much easier, but that’s not possible, it’s a matter of honor, you would never again speak to the man who helped you, that is how deceived you are. You deposit the trunk in precisely the right place, a huge achievement, and your comrades all cheer, you’re no longer the last in the race, and the foreman says gravely, Well done, man."
"The man fell and the others dragged him to his feet again, shouting at him, asking two different questions at the same time, how could he possibly answer them even if he wanted to, which is not the case, because the man who fell and was dragged to his feet will die without saying a word. ...and in the silence of his soul only deep sighs, and even when his teeth are broken and he has to spit them out, which will prompt the other two men to hit him again for soiling State property, even then the sound will be of spitting and nothing more, that unconscious reflex of the lips, and then the dribble of saliva thickened with blood that falls to the floor, thus stimulating the taste buds of the ants, who telegraph from one to the other news of this singularly red manna fallen from such a white heaven."
"...meanwhile they have joined forces and pieced together what they saw, they know the whole truth, even the larger of the ants, who was the last to see the man’s face close up, like a vast landscape, and it’s a well-known fact that landscapes die because they are killed, not because they commit suicide."
"...don’t worry, they won’t harm you, but you never know, one day your conscience might make a cuckold of you, and that would be your salvation."
"...these men are not really going to sleep here, if they do lie down on the bed, they will do so simply in order not to die, and now is perhaps the moment to speak about pay and conditions they’re paid so much a day for a week...."
"This may seem complicated, but it couldn’t be simpler. For a whole week, Manuel and Antonio will scythe all day and all night, and you need to understand exactly what this means, when they are utterly exhausted after a whole day of work, they will go back to the hut for something to eat and then return to the field and spend all night scything, not picking poppies, and when the sun rises, they will again go back to the hut to eat something, lie down for perhaps ten minutes, snoring like bellows, then get up, work all day, eat whatever there is to eat and again work all night, we know no one is going to believe us, these can’t be men, but they are, if they were animals they would have dropped down dead, only three days have passed, and the two men are like two ghosts standing alone in the moonlight in the half-harvested field, Do you think we’ll make it,"
"We have to, and meanwhile Gracinda, heavily pregnant, is weeding in the rice field, and when she can’t weed, she goes to fetch water, and when she can’t fetch water, she cooks food for the men, and when she can’t cook, she goes back to the weeding, her belly on a level with the water, her son will be born a frog."
|Jose Saramago (1922-2010)|