"BAD PAPER: The Bursting of the Fiction Bubble"

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December 28, 2008

“To dilute and obscure”: Again on James Wood & Saramago

In an earlier post I dissected Wood’s review of José Saramago’s Death with Interruptions to show how Wood struggles to domesticate the Portuguese leftist’s fiction.  I pointed out, for instance, how Wood dishonestly misrepresents Saramago’s work as an endorsement of the doctrine of Original Sin and “fallen” human nature – the ideology that humans are, to use Wood’s own sordid phrase, “natural-born utopia-killers.”

Here is a translated excerpt of a recent post from Saramago’s own blog, in which the eighty six-year old writer reflects on the very doctrine that Wood seeks to foist upon his work:

Some people say that skepticism is an infirmity of old age, an ailment of recent times, a sclerosis of the will. I don't dare to say this diagnosis is completely wrong, but I will say that it would be too comfortable to try to escape all difficulties through this door, as if the actual state of the world were a simple consequence of the old being old... The dreams of the young have never succeeded, at least until now, in making the world any better, and the rejuvenated bile of the old has never been enough to make it worse. Clearly the world -- poor world -- is not to blame for the evils afflicting it. That which we call the state of the world is the state of the unlucky humanity that we are, inevitably composed of old people who were young, young people who will be old, others who are not young and are not yet old. Whose fault? I hear it said that everyone bears the blame, that nobody can be presumed innocent, but I find that these sort of declarations, which appear to distribute justice evenly, are no more than spurious recurring mutations of the so-called original sin, which serve only to dilute and obscure, in an imaginary collective guilt, the responsibilities of the authentically culpable. The state, not of the world, but of life.

The translation is by Jeremy at Readin, the emphasis is mine. 

“To dilute and obscure,” indeed.

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