Friday, May 9, 2014

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago

Title: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
Author: Jose Saramago
Publisher: Harvill Press
Original Publication Date: 1991
Pages: 341

Appreciation of this book dictates that you have to contend with two premises:

First: That Saramago's signature writing is characterized by sentences that are paragraphs long occasionally digressing from the thought of the sentence.

Second:That this book is about the humanization of Jesus Christ necessarily entailing innumerable repercussions to the orthodox belief of his 'socially' constructed divinity.

Of the two, I met with some negligible difficulty with former.

Saramago's writing is incomparably unique and beautiful at the same time. It is unique for his sentences are literally paragraphs long  lengthened by serial commas and seemingly unending semicolons. But Saramago's writing does not lack beauty. In fact even in his long winded sentences, there is fluidity in his labyrinthine like thoughts. It cannot be hardly expected that sentences as long as his comport themselves into solitary thoughts. This is hardly the case as his sentences sometimes tend to digress from the precedents he has laid down. I often find myself pausing irregularly, suddenly turning pages back, and rereading certain passages over again. But once you find the coherence in his thought and the connection between the phrases, one will find writing unlike any other.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is an incomparably fearless work. Works like these tend to create an unprecedented outcry from the religious community, as it did in this case, which however did not impede Saramago winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In most Christian orthodox beliefs, the arrangement of the written Word, what books to include and not, were contemplated over a time span of centuries and most were in pursuit of a certain desired conclusion, the rendering of Jesus Christ’s divinity. Also, Jesus formative years from 12 years of age to 30 are not recorded or written. This book is a fictional retelling of that life, including the years before his ministry.

This is an attempt on the humanization of the life of Jesus Christ. He is portrayed as flawed, easily angered, subjected to passions, desires and doubts; he is portrayed as <i><b>“human”</i></b>. As an extract, he wrote how Jesus fell in love with Magdalene, learning the warmth and passion of the loins and how through his ministry, she remained to be on her side, as an apostle no less.

The controversy over these kinds of themes and books has always been curious to me. The contention that lies on the alleged challenges to his divinity is misplaced and unnecessary. I guess people tend to forget the fact that Jesus was born of a human mother, but more importantly, he himself was both burdened and liberated by the human flesh. He was subject to pain, hunger, and passion naturally. We have here a perfect human model who was able to rise above the yoke of the world, but in failing to acknowledge that he himself was condemned to the very maladies we are subject to, we tend to be caught in a cyclic self-defeating belief. You see, faith in Jesus Christ should not be that he was faultless, kind, and magnanimous because he was divine. It should be anchored on the idea that he was human, like us, and that he saw kindness in the world, he gave compassion where none was asked, he made the right and honest decisions were conventionality dictated otherwise.

To consider the question of this book as an affront to the faithful is both hilarious and tautological. Faith is a funny thing. It is meant to be tested, to weather it from the storms of challenges, to keep resolute in times of trials and temptations, to be unyielding in the most pressing of times, there lies faith, not in the cradled bosoms of the fearful and the apprehensive.

For a similar book to enjoy, read  Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (4 Stars)

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Awardees

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