Tuesday, April 10, 2007

So give me novocaine

Today I woke up with a lot of energy and a surprising will to write my paper for the semiotics and literature course. So I was writing about Barthes in a paper where he was not actually supposed to be mentioned. But the books I've read since I came to Porto have made me a rich girl. Of course, they have been long debated, but I guess that's just a recognition of their value.

One of them is The Crash of Civilizations of Samuel Huntington. Most of my teachers don't even want me to mention the book, they consider it farfetched and not too objective. But switching the view from a traditionally realist perspective in international relations to one that puts in the core of external affairs cultural identity is quite accurate in my view. Take for example Turkey and the European Union. They have been struggling for a long time to be accepted as members and they hardly made it close to the candidate countries' list. The pretext the EU always puts on the first page is that they didn't do much work to solve the problem of minorities, basically refering to the kurds. But ask any turk, they know the real reason: it's hard to think of a Muslim country in a Christian union.

Another is Gabriel García Márquez's Living to Tell the Tale. A story of the becoming of a writer who was strong enough to leave law school to have time to write. And this is just a rough and stupid summary. Márquez in a Columbia struggling to get over its dead, in a big amazing family and with a crazy passion for reading made me feel sorry I stopped writing. In Majestic cafe I had my first great idea for a short story and I really hope it will come to life before I leave here as a tribute to the woman who taught me about luxury cats. More than the story and more than my pain (my fingers were almost bleeding while I was turning the pages thinking about my own frenzy to write), nobody can deny the great storyteller Márquez is... how he constructs his paragraphs and the way he makes mundane events magical.

Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason by Michel Foucault was hard to digest but amazingly graceful. I have always been interested in the subject, and deconstructing reason itself was a titanic work I still can explain with some difficulty. Then the references to Bosch and Goya, two of my favourites, has taught me more than being in a museum, putting in context the actual emergence of the notion of insanity. The book, as most reviews admit, is nevertheless opaque and complex... a sociology of madness that has to be read several times to be understood at least at half its value.

One I'm reading now is The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, by the Portuguese contemporary Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago. I don't know much about it, but the preface speaks of a book created on the idea of labyrinth (from Borges on) and Ricardo Reis is one of the pseudonyms of Fernando Pessoa, the greatest modern Portuguese poet. The story is that Fernando Pessoa died and Ricardo Reis came back to Lisbon after 16 years in Brazil. Pessoa comes back from death and has long converstions with Ricardo Reis, who is also a poet (the is the author of the Odes). What is wonderful is that Portuguese speak of the three pseudonyms of Pessoa (for whom he created personal stories) as if they were real poets and different persons from their creator.

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