In his last years, Saramago took to blogging. The results, a year of cultural, personal and political reflections expertly translated by Daniel Hahn and Amanda Hopkinson, can be found in The Notebook (Verso, £12.99). Grumpy-old-guru snorts about world events combine, in readably provocative style, with offbeat riffs on his life and writing, on ideas and histories. For the most part, this is a bittersweet delight. Then, on 12 January 2009, this fervent opponent of Israeli policy – and friend of Palestine – lets off steam at the military assault on Gaza. He writes that “the Israeli army, which the philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz accused in 1982 of having a Judeo-Nazi mentality… is faithfully following the genocidal doctrine of the people who tortured, gassed and burned their ancestors. It is even fair to say that in some respects the disciples have surpassed their masters.”
Read the full article here.
And here is the final extract from the book.
June 25: Formation (1)
I am not unaware of the fact that the main duty of education in general, and especially education at the university, is what we call formation. The university prepares the student for life, transmitting the knowledge necessary for the effective exercise of a chosen profession within the range of the demands placed on it by a given society, a profession that might once have been a vocational calling, but which increasingly frequently now is based on scientific and technological advances, along with pressing business interests. In either case, the university will always have reason to think it has fulfilled its obligations by delivering up to society young people ready to receive and integrate into their body of knowledge the lessons that yet remain to be learned, meaning those that experience (the mother of all things human) will teach them. Nowadays a university, as is its duty, forms you, and if this so-called formation continues to do the rest, the inevitable question arises: “Where is the problem?” The problem is that I have limited myself to discussing the formation necessary to professional development, leaving aside that other formation, the formation of the individual, the person, the citizen—that earthly trinity, all three in a single body. It is now time to touch on this delicate subject. Any action that is performed presupposes, obviously, an object and an objective. The object—or perhaps we should here say subject—is the person who is the object of that formation, and the objective lies in the nature and aims of that formation. A literary formation, for example, gives rise to doubts only as to the teaching methods employed and the greater or lesser receptiveness of the student. The question, however, changes radically when we start discussing the formation of individuals, always given that we want to inspire that person whom we have designated as our ‘‘object,’’ and not restrict ourselves to merely supplying the materials appropriate to this particular discipline or that particular course. This then involves us in including the whole complex of ethical values and theoretical or practical relationships indispensible to any professional activity. However, forming individuals is not, of itself, a soporific. An education that propounded notions of racial or biological superiority would be the perversion of this intrinsic concept of value, replacing the positive with a negative, replacing ideas promoting respect for humanity with intolerance and xenophobia. Both ancient and recent human history is not short on examples of this. Let us continue.