Friday, April 13, 2007

Some Stories Are Worth Retelling...

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
Jose Saramago
Giovanni Pontiero
Portuguese to English

Number of Pages:
International Fiction

TBR Reading Challenge

Began Reading:
April 6th, 2007
April 9, 2007

Even before blogging, my 'books-to-be-bought" list has been forever on my mind. Still, of late, I have purchased volumes usually on recommendation from a teacher, respected colleague, neighbour or fellow blogger.

However, I do ensure that when walking into a bookstore with a specific purchase in mind that I spend at least 10 minutes caressing each book with my eyes if not with my hands. My little cousin has always giggled in embarrassment on the occasions she has accompanied me (with Starbucks in mind of course), a by-stander while I flipped to a random page of a tomme I happened to pick up and smell. Deep breath. Taking in the smell of the ink pressed on paper. The fresh crack of the spine. The potential. These cheep trills I dive into at least once a week and would argue with any MD that its works greater wonders then any apple a day business.

Of course, there are negative consequences such as the effects to my wallet. On the day I picked up Saramago's volume, I was purchasing Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (which is still on my TBR Pile). The title caught me off guard having been someone who believed that they knew pretty much all the important title if not all of this Nobel prize winner. My shame of course propelled me - no obliged - to make the purchase. I quickly signed it up as an April read for the TBR challenge hosted by Miz Books because I thought it would suit the Easter weekend with more lamb then even Jesus would expect.

Story: Well, it seems a little silly for me to relate to you the story of Jesus' life. No matter your faith or religious position - post-Dan Brown era means having some idea of what this man's life - at least in major events such as being born, dying and resurrecting - comprises of.

However, Saramago spends the majority of his piece devoted to the beginnings of Jesus life and even before, as he focuses on the couple Mary and Joseph as they struggle before their first son is born.

What this is however is a depiction of a man. A human who fucks and shits and swears. Who feels pride and shame, hurt and betrayal, love and confusion. Disturbing to say the least that Jesus didn't necessarily WANT this... that the fame post-partum was not of his design.

Is it worth it?: I don't know if the book really produced something effective or reviving. Though keeping in mind that this was written in 1991, it may be that all the news headlines of having found JC's bones and Mary Magdalene's grave has de-sensitized. The Church calls the book 'blasphemous' which is ridiculous considering it is clearly marked as Fiction but then maybe they forgot to read that part. If furthering your knowledge on multiple interpretations is what you are looking for then pick up this book. There is no great adventure or scheme as in Da Vinci Code. Its more like a humble memoir of how a miracle would have been carried out and later written about.

Best Part: When God comes to Jesus at the lake with the Devil and they talk for a while and JC asks why does the devil have to be there. God replies, "My son, never forget what I'm about to tell you, everything that concerns God also concerns the devil." page 310

I'll let you discover for yourself what was meant by that remark.

Worst Part: I got a bit annoyed at times of the characters. God was a 'cool dude' but a little too full of -self and that was frustrating; when you read pages and pages of the great wonders that are capable through -. In no way is Saramago using this text as some religious propaganda. Let us just say that when God spoke I had echo's of Nietzsche's discourse on the Old and New Testatment God in my head.

Style: Classic Saramago = means no quotation marks + very long paragraphs + sarcastic humour that makes one laugh out loud. He is, like Stendhal, TELLING a story to you. He acknowledges your presence and your knowledge of JC's life, using it to his advantage. I do prefer The Cave to this text and am told that Blindness is even better but everyone should experience one volume of Saramago sometime and discover for them self why he won the Nobel when he did.

Parting Words: Bla! I am writing another essay for an acquaintance. I am reinvesting the money into a HD DVD player but not with that Blue Disk coming out I am unsure whether I should or not.

I finished reading In the Skin of a Lion and the Milestone, neither being extraordinary but happy to have them under my belt if only for diversifying.


Nymeth said...

Shamefully enough, I am Portuguese and I have never read this book. I think I've been discouraged because it's the kind of book that "pseudo-intellectuals" carry around for months, never actually moving the bookmarket from the page where it happened to fall. I really that's a pretty silly reason to dismiss a book, though, and your review made me want to give it a try.

Chris said...

Great review! I'm surprised that I haven't heard of this book.

I too know the pleasures of walking around the bookstore and playing with the pretty books :) I love the smell of books...I've gotten strange looks as well.

Stephanie said...

Great Review!! I read Blindness by Jose Saramago and thought it was very good. Hmmm....I don't think I've heard of this book either! Will definitely check it out!

Bellezza said...

A book such as this scares me; it seems to sacriligeous for me to read. When authors start writing as if they were God, then I start walking. I remember seeing The Last Temptation of Christ around, and feeling the same way. But, to your credit, at least your open minded to try such a novel.

Petunia said...

Your review was wonderful. It gave enough information in it to help me decide that I will not be reading this one any time soon. I'm with Bellezza on this one.

John Ottinger said...

I thought you might be interested in the New Notions 5 reading challenge

John Mutford said...

I discovered Blindness in 2007 and it rushed to the top of my all-time favourites list. A lot of people suggest reading his Seeing next, but the title of this one intrigues me much more - as does your review.