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Middle East: Goodbye Saramago

Bloggers across the Middle East mourned the death of Portuguese writer Jose Saramago – the only Portuguese language Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, who has his own religious and political controversial views. People in the Lusosphere and all over the world reacted to his death, and the Arab world is no exception.

Jose Saramago

Yazan Ashqar published this photo of Saramago in his blog and wrote one of his most famous quotes under it: I think we are blind. Blind but seeing. Blind people who can see, but do not see.

Egyptian blogger, Badawiaa, wrote in her blog about Saramago bidding farewell to life:

في خطابه بمناسبة فوزه بنوبل، تحدث ساراماغو عن سنوات الطفولة واستذكر وفاة جده جيرونيمو بهذه الكلمات: “ذهب إلى حديقة بيته. هناك بضع شجرات: أشجار تين وزيتون. ذهب إليها واحدة واحدة واحتضن الأشجار ليقول لها وداعا، لأنه كان يعرف أنه لن يعود. إن رأيت شيئا كهذا وإن عشته ولمْ يترك فيك ندبا إلى آخر العمر، فإنك رجل بلا إحساس”.
اليوم جاء الدور على ساراماغو ليقبّل أشجار حديقته هو الآخر ويقول لها: وداعا.
In his speech on the occasion of winning the Nobel prize, Saramago spoke about his childhood and remembered his grandfather's death: “He went to the garden of his house. There were some trees and bushes there, fig and olive trees. He went to the trees one after the other, hugged and bid each one of them goodbye. He knew that he won't be able to get back to them again. If such scene doesn't leave a wound in your soul for the rest of your life, then you are a senseless man.”
And here comes the day where it's Saramago's turn to hug his own trees and kiss them goodbye.

Lebanese blogger Jihad Bazzi wonders what Saramago might be doing now in his afterlife:

لقد مات الكاتب إذاً..
حيث ولد الآن، يتلفت مراقباً. سيكتب عما يرى، لا فرق ما إذا كان في الجنة أو في جهنم، او حيث أظنه مكانه المفضل بعد الموت: العدم الرائع
The writer has passed away…
He's now where he was born, wondering and watching. He will sure write about what he sees there – whether he is in heaven or hell now. Perhaps he is where I think he is now. He's in his favourite place after death, the wonderful nowhere.

Besides being a writer, Saramago has his own political stance as well. And this made Yassin El Suwayheh, a Syrian blogger living in Spain, write about Saramago's political stance in his blog Spanish waves on Levant shores:

رحل رجلٌ يكفي لوصفه أنّ أقلّ ما يمكن أن يقال عنه أنه حائز على كبرى جوائز الأدب و الرواية و الشعر, و منها جائزة نوبل.. إن جوائزه الحقيقة كانت بشجاعته في تشريح الظلم و الطغيان, في تحدّيه و طعنه.. في دفعه و الدفاع عن ضحاياه.
للذاكرة تبقى له مواقف و أقوال و أفعال.. مثل تلك الوقفة أمام ملايين المتظاهرين ضد غزو الطغيان للعراق, ذلك الرجل الثمانيني الخارج من آلاف المعارك وقف أمامهم و قال: ” يوجد الآن في العالم قوتان عظيمتان: الولايات المتحدة و أنتم”.
رحل الحالم المناضل من أجل عالمٍ أفضل, أكثر عدلاً.. أكثر منطقياً
A man has died, who can at least be identified with his major awards in literature and poetry, and Noble prize for literature was one of those prizes.
And his real award is his braveness in standing against injustice and tyranny. And his support for the victims of such systems.
Our memories will forever behold his sayings and stance. Ones like addressing those who were protesting against the the invasion of Iraq. The eighty-something year old man stood and said: “There are two super powers in the World: The United States of America and You.”
The dreamer who fought for a better world, a world with more justice and reason, has left us now.

An anonymous reader commented on Yassin's post. The reader objected to the phrase, “A man has died, who can at least be identified with his major awards in literature and poetry” writing that it's what such personalities do and say that identifies them and not the prizes and awards they win:

يعني الجوائز ماهي إلا هامش بحياة الكبار, يعني هي شغلة بيفكر العالم انو عمل الي عليه بس يعطين جايزة قال!
وكأنو هني ناطرينا!
Awards are just a marginal part in such great people's lives. It's like the world's only way to not feel guilty towards them and give them such awards to feel comfortable doing what they are obliged to do. It is as if those great men are really waiting for such recognition.

On the other hand, Ahmed Shawky was worried that Saramago's political stances, might make people overlook his side as a creative writer.

وداعا أبو الرواية البرتغالية..أعلم جيدا أنهم سيملأون الدنيا صخبا في الأيام القادمة عن مواقفك السياسية المحترمة، وسينسون في وسط هذا الهراء التوقف على تفرد إبداعك..وداعا خوسيه ساراماجو
Goodbye to the father of Portuguese literature. I know they will keep talking in the coming days about your respectful political stances, and during these talks they will forget your creative and unique masterpieces. Goodbye Jose Saramego.

Many Arab intellectuals know about, and have read for, Jose Saramago. Unfortunately many others should be thankful to his death for introducing them to writer like him. Ahmed El Mueini wrote in his blog about Saramago's novel Blindness, and how he has had it in his bookshelf but never had the chance to read it:

اشتُهر ساراماغو بروايته “العمى” الصادرة عام 1995، والتي ترجمها إلى العربية محمد حبيب وصدرت عن دار المدى. كما عُرف أيضًا بكتابه المثير للجدل “إنجيل عيسى المسيح” والذي اضطر بسببه إلى الرحيل عن البرتغال والإقامة في جزر الكناري.
للأسف لم أقرأ لساراماغو، وكنتُ دائمًا ما أنظر إلى روايته “العمى” في رف مكتبتي متمنيا أن أقرأها في فرصةٍ قريبة.
Saramago became very well known for his novel, “Blindness“, which was published in 1995, and was later on translated into Arabic by “Muhammad Habib”, and was then published by “Dar El Mada”. He was also well known for his book, “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ“, which was the reason behind his departure from Portugal to spend the rest of his life in the Canary Islands.
Unfortunately I haven't read anything for Saramago, and I always see his novel “Blindness” on my bookshelf and wish to have the chance to read it soon.

Omani Wadhha AlBusaidi then commented on Ahmed El Mueini's post:

الله يرحمـــــــه
اول مرة اسمع عنه ، وان دل على شيء فإنما هو يدل عن جهلي بالأدب العالمي
God bless his soul.
It's the first time to hear of him, and this proves how ignorant I am when it comes to international literature.

Another commenter replied saying that he will sure miss Saramago's writings, although he doesn't agree with his religious views:

لا شك أننا سنفقد فيه روايته العظيمة وأسلوبه الأخاذ …
أما أنا فلن استطيع الترحم على من قال : إن الله والمسيح أقاما علاقة جنسية
For sure I'll miss his great novels and attractive writing style.
But I can't ask God to bless the soul of someone who had said before that God and Jesus had a sexual relationship.

And finally, Laila, advised Ahmed not to miss the chance of reading Saramago's novel:

أنصحك يا أحمد ، بألا تفوت قراءة ( العمى ) ، رواية تشعرك بالواقعية ، تشعرك بأهمية العينين ، مازلت إلى اليوم أخشى احساس فقد البصر فجأة في مكان ما
My advice to you Ahmed, is not to miss the chance of reading “Blindness“. It's a very realistic novel that will make you feel the value of your eyes. Until today I still have the fear of loosing my sight all of a sudden.


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