José Saramago e a idolatração do totalitarismo comunista

After all, one can scarcely imagine the elders of Stockholm attributing the Nobel Prize for literature to a writer, whatever his artistic merits, who notoriously denied the holocaust or was guilty of pro-Nazi militancy. And yet, if we replace the words ‘holocaust’ and ‘Nazi’ by ‘gulag’ and ‘Stalinist’, we will find that Saramago is far guiltier than the shame-faced Heidegger, who at least had the grace to give up his rather pallid militancy and, once Nazism was discredited, to feel uncomfortable about his past. But Heidegger was an intelligent and cultivated man. Whether Saramago is either of these is, on the evidence, open to doubt—and perhaps the only excuse for his abject politics.


Wave after wave of disenchanted dissidents left the Party during those years, but Saramago’s name was never among them. His name, however, was always present among the signatories of those regular manifestos, petitions and open letters beloved of semi-skilled intellectuals. His following solidified and grew as his literary output increased. As the years went by and memories began to fade most people outside intellectual and university circles had forgotten Saramago’s role in the 1974-75 purges.


To judge by Press reports of his reception outside the Luso world, things are probably even worse there, where scarcely anybody knows who the Nobel prize-winner really is.
So the Saramago phenomenon is not to be dismissed lightly. There are a number of lessons it has to offer. First, that the literary judgement of elderly Swedes is as little to be trusted nowadays as when their grandfathers flunked Tolstoy in 1901. Second, that communism, a decade after its fall, is now quite respectable and not to be held against its adepts. This means that at least in one way things are worse than they were before the fall, when the daily publicized testimony of dissidents had made it decidedly unrespectable. Third, that the international news media, so well-informed when it comes to things lubricious, can be remarkably ill-informed on important matters. Fourth, that there are still a huge number of ‘useful idiots’ around. Indeed there are probably more of them today in consequence of 1968 and its heirs helping to destroy educational standards. Finally, that strange things happening in ‘far-away, unknown countries’ should not be dismissed lightly.