By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
On the other hand, I’m not just a communist, I’m a lot of other things. First of all, I am not responsible for the crimes committed by what was called “real socialism.” Secondly, I’ve never been a Stalinist. I’ve had some ideas through reading Marx, and I would say that Marx has never been so right as today. The time we are living in now is proving Marx right.
While you were speaking just now, I was reminded of how, today, the meanings of certain words have become distorted or altogether lost. Like “communism” or “socialism.” In America, these are bad words, but fewer and fewer people seem to know what they really mean.
They don’t know what they really mean. Misunderstood, misapprehended, and then people’s behavior becomes completely irrational. On the other hand, they have every right not to like it. I also don’t like American fundamentalists. I also dislike the absolute power of the great capital of the United States. I don’t defend the idea of universal love. It has never existed and will never exist.
Yet in many of your books, maybe even in all of the books, there’s a yearning or desire for love.
Not universal love, no, no, no. Love is something highly personal. You’re not saying that everybody acts as if they were like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who deep down was really not preoccupied with people’s lives but more so with people’s souls? There are some slightly erroneous ideas of love. With Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to continue that example, twice she was offered hospitals that were completely equipped and ready for use. And she rejected them. What she liked was finding a dying man with his soul bared and saying a prayer for him. For her, that was love. Of course, I love my wife, but I could never imagine that love I have for her being subsumed in a universal love for everyone. Everyone has love.
But this doesn’t strike me as pessimism exactly, and you have often been described as a pessimist. Maybe it isn’t optimism, but it also isn’t pessimism.
I am absolutely a pessimist. That is your opinion, my opinion is different. The human species is a disaster. That’s why we find ourselves where we do today. With millions of people dying of hunger, suffering from diseases that can easily be cured, with a criminal distribution of wealth.
And the Crusades are still going on.
It doesn’t even compare. The executives of those financial corporations, in the depths of the crisis, receive multimillion-dollar bonuses. They have done a terrible job and are being paid for that terrible job.
That’s the error of capitalism: When it is assumed that capitalism was the answer, when that happens, anything goes. And that’s what has happened. Everything is allowed within the neocon framework of the economy. And in the case of the United States, the country of private initiative and free-market competition, these companies’ large debts will be paid by the American people. Now the taxpayers are paying for the crisis.
Doesn’t this all come back to the idea of people’s fear of death? All these things that we are talking about — money, power — are the ways in which people try to grant themselves immortality.
If one could be immortal when you are 40 or 50, that could perhaps be an interesting experience. What happens is that immortality would be like eternal old age. The years pass and the immortal person gets older until they can no longer move, but they’re still immortal. That’s the problem that this book represents. Immortality would be a nightmare, a terrible nightmare. Dying is okay, it’s necessary. You already know I just went through a very grave illness. I could have died. Death was standing right next to me. But it will happen one day with this illness or another and I will have to leave this world, my library, no more interviews. It’s over.
When death finally comes, what will you say to her? [NOTE: This question was translated to Saramago as “When do you think death will come definitively?”]
At any moment. I hope I have another two years. But a writer’s definitive death is when no one reads his books anymore. That’s the final death.
I think you don’t have to worry about that. Unless they burn all the books.
I’m only worried about the time I have left to live. The rest is not in my hands. I’m not going to torment myself with wondering whether my books will be read or not. I have no control over that. My responsibility is to write the best I can. I attempt that every day in my work.