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“This collection of essays by Silviano Santiago makes a superlative contribution to Brazilian studies, both literary and cultural. Culled from approximately thirty years of production, the superior selection covers the development of Santiago’s wide-ranging critical thought.”—Leslie Damasceno, Duke University
I consider invalid the opinion of those who search, having already found. -Paul Valéry
The last book by Umberto Eco published among us, Travels in Hyperreality: Essays, is useful for asking once again a question that always occurs in the discussion of the relationship between the Old and the New World, ever since the latter was revealed to Western European consciousness: Why and for what purpose does the European travel?
Years ago, it was fashionable for American historiography to try to explain the reason why the New World did not manage to discover the Old one. Among many hypotheses, one was most seductive because it pointed to the scientific superiority of the Occident. It was said that discovery had not taken place because our pre-Columbians did not know the compass. Gradually, with the recent studies of political anthropology carried out or inspired by Pierre Clastres, we will discover that there must be other reasons, or at least different reasons from those dictated by victoriousEuropean ethnocentrism. But let us consider, for the time being, the classical question formulated above.
Camões told us that, when the European traveled, it was to propagate Faith and the Empire, and he was right. But, rather than making the Portuguese responsible for the colonization of other peoples, he gave the responsibility for the job to the pagan gods. This was a decoy pointed out by Voltaire in the Essay on Epic Poetry (1733): "The main goal of the Portuguese, after the establishment of their commerce, was the propagation of their faith, and Venus sees to the success of the enterprise. Seriously, such an absurd marvel disfigures the entire work in the eyes of sensible readers." António José Saraiva adds one more contradiction to this one: in the epic poem, the humans behave like gods and the gods like humans. The Portuguese argonauts, such as, for example, Vasco da Gama, are decent, perfect, Olympian, while the gods engage in merely mortal intrigue, victims of their own feelings (love, hatred, etc.). This is why Saraiva could come to the conclusion that mythology, in Camões, is the transposition of historical reality.
At any rate, Camões's answer has at least one major advantage: it does not emphasize the gratuitous aspect of the journey, that of pure and simple curiosity for what is different, for the Other (for the aboriginal, different from and symmetrical to the European). The emphasis on curiosity would reduce the whole question of the discovery and colonization, of the conquest, to a mere intellectual exercise on the dissatisfaction of the white man, "naturally" inclined to universalism, with his own civilization. It would result in a mere variation on the manner in which the European searches for knowledge: he travels because he is curious about what he does not know. The unknown is what instigates his knowledge. Camões insists, to the contrary, on the expansionist and colonizing goal of the journey. So much the better.
The navigators and the colonizers were not truly curious about the Other and dissatisfied with the European reality of the time; this was true in relation to those who remained in Europe, with the burden of religious intolerance and the Inquisition, such as Montaigne. As far as I know, Montaigne never traveled outside Europe, but he had the brilliant idea of taking from the Other (or, more specifically, from the anthropophagous who visits Europe) his potential to contest the organization of the modern European state, conferring on it the status-here, surely-of an object of knowledge, of intellectual curiosity (read the chapter "Des cannibales" in his essays).
The point is not that the Portuguese had not felt in their own skin the outrages of the Inquisition. They were not insensitive, as Camões was not, to the "rough, dark, and vile sadness" the nation was going through. But they were unable to understand and criticize the wave of religious intolerance that ravaged the continent with the religious and social standards opened up by the maritime discoveries. Diego Bernardes, for example, tells us, in "An Answer to Dr. António Ferreira," of the atmosphere prevailing in Portugal, but he does not establish Montaigne's enlightened counterpoint. So he says:
A medo vivo, a medo escrevo e falo, hei medo do que falo só comigo, mas inda a medo cuido, a medo calo. [I live in fear, I write and speak in fear, I even fear what I only tell myself, but still in fear I take care, in fear I keep silent.]
On the other hand, Sá de Miranda, at least in the turns of comparison, abandons the European frontiers and enters Egypt, where he finds in the behavior of thirsty dogs on the banks of the Nile the way to survive those negative times:
Farei como os cães do Nilo que correm e vão bebendo. [I will do as the dogs of the Nile that run as they drink.]
This is stated in a "Letter to the King D. João III." Isn't he the clever fellow?
Even the Puritans, who moved to America once and for all, and who could at first be considered dissatisfied with European intolerance, did exactly the same, as they took to the other place the intolerance that had victimized them, rearming it even more vigorously because the historical and social obstacles existing in Europe were lacking. Thus, the contact with the New World does not change the Puritans' world view; on the contrary, it provides them with a guarantee-legitimized by the theory of predestination-that they are making the right journey. It is no coincidence that the "bible" of the American Puritans, Pilgrim's Progress, presents salvation through faith by means of an allegorical journey. The difficulties for the soul to reach the safe port that God represents are the same undergone by the traveler confronted with an insurmountable natural obstacle. In other words: one can only attain one's deepest religious being through the hardship of a journey:
This hill, though high, I covet to ascend; The difficulty will not me offend; For I perceive the way to life lies here: Come, pluck up, Heart, let's neither faint nor fear: Better, though difficult, the right way to go Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.
As paradoxical as it may seem, the best answer and the most radical of all is provided by inertia. What Camões's masterful creation tells us is that the truly dissatisfied person with the Portuguese reality of the time is the inert Old Man from Restelo, the figure who remained in the port criticizing the navigators, and even the first navigator: "Oh! maldito o primeiro que no mundo / Nas ondas vela pôs um seco lenho." ["Be damned the first man who in the world / In the waves placed a sail a piece of dry wood."] The Old Man asks the navigators the reason for the journey since there is so much to be done in the country itself and surrounding areas. Wouldn't it be better to spend so much energy and money transforming the country into a model of equilibrium and civilization? Addressing the "glory of command" that constitutes the motivation for travel, he asks:
A que novos desastres determinas De levar estes Reinos e esta gente? Que perigos, que mortes lhes destinas, Debaixo dalgum monte preminente? Que promessas de reinos e de minas De ouro, que lhe farás tão facilmente? Que fama lhe prometerás? Que histórias? Que triunfos? Que palmas? Que vitórias? [To what new disasters are you determined To lead this Kingdom and these people? What dangers, what deaths do you have for them, Underneath some overhanging mountain? What promises of kingdoms and mines Of gold will you make them so easily? What fame will you promise? What stories? What triumphs? What laurels? What victories?] Fernando Pessoa must have been thinking of the Old Man from Restelo when he imagined the verses that celebrated the Fifth Empire:
Triste de quem vive em casa, Contente com o seu lar, Sem que um sonho, no erguer de asa, Faça até mais rubra a brasa Da lareira a abandonar! [Sad is the one who stays at home, Contented with his homestead, Without a dream, that in the lifting of wing, Would turn redder the embers In the fireplace left behind!]
I also remember that, during the first space explorations by NASA back in the 1960s, there was an obscure reader who wrote letters to Time and Newsweek repeating the lessons of the Old Man from Restelo: he asked the American government if it wouldn't be better to spend all those federal resources on programs to improve the quality of life of poor Americans. From this point of view, the answer to the initial question would be quite interesting: the European travels because he is insensitive to the problems of his own people, because he does not have a high sense of justice. (In the contemporary world, the same conclusion would be valid in reference to Americans and Soviets.)
Colonization through the spread of Faith and the Empire is the negation of the values of the Other (Camões unfortunately was not lucid enough to realize that the coin has two sides). To be more precise, it is a triple negation of the Other: first, from a social standpoint, because the Indian loses his freedom as he becomes the subject of a European crown. Second, the Indian is forced to abandon his religious system (and everything implied by it in economic, social, and political terms) and is transformed-by the power of catechism-into a mere copy of the European. Third, he loses his linguistic identity, gradually expressing himself through a language that does not belong to him. As António Ferreira says in his exaltation:
Floresça, fale, cante, ouça-se viva A Portuguesa língua, e já onde for Senhora vá de si soberba, e altiva. [Flourish, speak, sing, listen to itself and live The Portuguese language, and wherever it goes, It shall lordly go, haughty and proud.]
Therefore, colonization through the expansion of Faith and of the Empire is above all the lack of respect (and not mere intellectual curiosity) in relation to the Other; it is intolerance with the values of the Other. It is the main effect of the narcissistic European gesture that aimed at seeing its own image repeated throughout the universe. In full glory, the so-called universal history begins with European expansionism. The New World is only the occasion for another mirror, and the native is the clay to mold a double, similar figure-and add more violence and destruction.
From such a situation does Saint Francis Xavier escape in his pilgrimage through Japan. He believed in a "universal" that transcended linguistic differences and that, in its turn, was transcended by Western reason. Pierre Chaunu says this about him: "Trusting in universal revelation, or rather, the universality of Western reason, [Saint Francis Xavier] believed he could find terms in the Japanese language that translated Christian concepts, since he thought of crystallizing around Japanese words the forgotten notions of a latent monotheism, and he resurrected beyond paganism the data of universal revelation."
Before his death, the Apostle would find out that it was a mistake to think that there could be preestablished harmonies between Japanese and European thought.
Let us not discuss the aspects of colonization that have a clearly economic character, since in this case we would have to leave aside the question referred to in the title and would have to try to answer a narrower but more urgent question: Why and for what purpose does the black African travel? It is obvious that the why in the question is merely rhetorical, since the Africans traveled without their own motivation and the journey had a narrow and specific goal. The Europeans not only liked to travel, but they also really wanted the Africans to go with them, without bothering to ask them if that pleased them. But we have come to realize that Camões's answer also ignored a very important aspect of the question: the expansion of Faith and Empire was built on basis of one of the most unjust socioeconomic systems man was capable of inventing-that of black slavery in the New World.
THE ETHICS OF ADVENTURE
One thing would become clear as time went by: it appears that the European travels because he does not like to work, but on the other hand we must admit that, in the end, he does work, for no ship can reach its destination by itself. It is more correct to say that there is a hierarchy in work: the noble type as opposed to the undignified. Noble work is that which is justified by the ethics of adventure, which, in its turn, in a rather unethical manner, justified and legitimized everything, so that the action of the adventure would be entirely fulfilled, including black slavery.
There is no doubt that one of the major interests of the novel written from the nineteenth century on is to institute as truthful and just an ethics of adventure for modern man. We can mention Daniel Defoe, Chateaubriand, even and especially Joseph Conrad, and more recently Michel Butor. It is obvious that the arguments raised by the novelists are convincing, so convincing that we are finally seduced by them, and we forget what remains hidden. Isn't seduction the enticement through a transitory intensity, as illustrated by the myth of Don Juan?
To make the ethics of adventure fascinating and seductive, those novelists and others made a single individual responsible for the burden of agency. In this way, questions of a collective and ideological nature (such as colonization and exploitation) become abstract, and the reader's spirit is subdued by the formidable evidence of such heroes of our time in lands other than the European lands.
It is fantastic, in this phase, how religious oratory tried to justify action (in this case, religious proselytism) in the most varied ways, with the single aim of devaluing the priests that would not go planting, as Padre Antônio Vieira said. It was he who made the famous pun between "Paço" and "passos" mentioned in the Sermão da sexagésima: "Ah Dia do Juízo! Ah pregadores! Os de cá, achar-vos-ei com mais Paço; os de lá, com mais passos." [Oh Judgment Day! Oh preachers! In the ones from here, I will find more Court; in the ones from over there, more steps.] Manuel Bernardes, up against the wall of his personal defects, is led to justify himself: he wants "to compensate by flights of the pen the steps that, due to his ailments, he could not take in the mission." Frei Antônio das Chagas also considers less valuable the joyful delights of mysticism: "Sanctity does not consist in praying a lot, but in working a lot. There is more value in a single day in which you perform deeds of charity, or humility, or obedience, or patience, than in a month of contemplation, ecstasy, and rapture."
THE CORSAIR AND THE DUTCHMAN
The one who is capable of unmasking the modern adventurer protected by the ethics of adventure would be the corsair. This would be the adventurer devoid of the objective rationalization that would make greedy sailors into heroes. The corsair is then much closer-as a deconstructive metaphor-to the navigator and the colonizer that spread Faith and the Empire.
Excerpted from THE SPACE IN-BETWEEN by Silviano Santiago Copyright © 2001 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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|Introduction: Silviano Santiago, a Voice In-Between||1|
|1||Why and For What Purpose Does the European Travel?||9|
|2||Latin American Discourse: The Space In-Between||25|
|3||Eca, Author of Madame Bovary||39|
|4||Universality in Spite of Dependency||53|
|5||The Rhetoric of Verisimilitude||64|
|6||Worth Its Weight: Brazilian Modernist Fiction||79|
|7||The Permanence of the Discourse of Tradition in Modernism||93|
|8||Repression and Censorship in the Field of the Arts during the 1970s||111|
|9||Literature and Mass Culture||119|
|10||The Postmodern Narrator||133|
|11||Worldly Appeal: Local and Global Politics in the Shaping of Brazilian Culture||147|