10 May 2006 saw the official launch, on the premises of Manchester
LITERATURE (details on this blog, entry for 25 April), edited by Dr Mark Sabine and Dr Adriana
Alves de Paula Martins and published by the University of Manchester.
Present were the two editors, one of the contributors (Dr Christopher
Rollason), the Portuguese Consul in Manchester and, as guest speaker, Dr
Ana Paula Arnaut of the Romance Languages department of the University of
Coimbra, as well as a broad cross-section of academics, students and
general readers.
Here is an extract from Ana Paula’s speech:
"Mark Sabine and Adriana Martins underline that the main aims of In
Dialogue with José Saramago were both to locate “his work in relation to
current delineations of a canon of western literature”, and to exam¬ine
“his response to a post¬modern aesthetics of quotation and his assessment
of the political implications of quoting and rewriting” (…) This volume on
Saramago is therefore a fundamental contribution to the understanding of
Saramago’s work and consequently a proof that in what concerns Saramago’s
literary production, and also in what concerns critical studies on his
work, there has been no resignation at all."
And here is an excerpt, as quoted by Ana Paula in her speech, from my own
contribution to the book, on Saramago and Orwell: "One of the notable features of Saramago’s more recent novels is the near
total disappearance of the intense portugalidade of the books that made his
name. The earlier Saramago in some respects paralleled Orwell’s
Anglocentric side in implicitly stressing Portugal’s cultural specificity
or, in "A Jangada de Pedra", dramatizing the notion of Iberian difference
from the rest of Europe. It could be argued that this cultural specificity
embraces particular historical practices of totalitarianism, or at least
its authoritarian antecedents, as represented in Memorial do Convento and
O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis. As in Orwell’s novel, the absolute monarchy
of King João V (1706–50) and Salazar’s dictatorial Estado Novo in the
mid-1930s are both regimes whose demand for obedience and uniformity of
thought, behaviour, and identity goes hand in hand with the scapegoating
and persecution of minorities, with imperialist exploitation, with
repressive state apparatuses, censorship, and surveillance. (…). What is
distinctive about the oppressive environment of the five novels from 1995
on is the depersonalized, featureless urban space which their characters
inhabit. All are set in and around the same nameless capital of a nameless
country. While this capital city bears a vague generic resemblance to
Lisbon, it is stripped of distinguishing features and, to a large extent,
of history, thanks, one might conjecture, to the undermining of cultural
particularity by the homogenizing pressure of globalization."


You can see 4 photos from the launch, featuring variously Ana Paula Arnaut (reading out her speech), Adriana Martins, Mark Sabine, Christopher Rollason and Hilary Owen.

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