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SARAMAGO, José



The History of the Siege of Lisbon

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But the disadvantage with sources, however truthful they try to be, is their lack of precision in matters of detail and their impassioned account of events, we refer to a certain internal faculty of contradictory germination which operates within facts or the version of those facts as provided, sold, or proposed, and stemming like spores from the latter, the proliferation of secondary and tertiary sources, some copied, others carelessly transmitted, some repeated from hearsay, others who changed details in good or bad faith, some freely interpreted, others rectified, some propagated with total indifference, others proclaimed as the one, eternal and irreplaceable truth, the last of these the most suspect of all.

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The Gospel according to Jesus Christ

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the doves, as we know, must be killed according to the law before Mary’s purification can be acknowledged and ratified. Any ironic or irreverent disciple of Voltaire will find it difficult to resist making the obvious remark that, things being what they are, purity can be maintained only so long as there are innocent creatures to sacrifice in this world, whether turtledoves, lambs, or others.

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the worshippers here are not likely to kill one another, they all offer the same sacrifice, and how the fat spits and the carcasses sizzle as God in the sublime heavens inhales the odors of all this carnage with satisfaction. Jesus pressed his lamb to his breast, unable to fathom why God could not be appeased with a cup of milk poured over His altar, that sap of life which passes from one being to another, or with a handful of wheat, the basic substance of immortal bread. Soon he will have to part with the old man’s generous gift, his for such a short time, the poor little lamb will not live to see the sun set this day, it is time to mount the stairs of the Temple, to deliver it to the knife and sacrificial fire, as if it were no longer worthy of existence or being punished.

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Holding the lamb in his arms, Jesus watched the people file past, some coming, some going, some carrying animals to be sacrificed, some returning without them, looking joyful and exclaiming, Alleluia, Hosanna, Amen, or saying none of these things, feeling it was inappropriate to walk around shouting Hallelujah or Hip hip hurrah, because there is really not much difference between the two expressions, we use them enthusiastically until with the passage of time and by dint of repetition we finally ask ourselves, What does it mean, only to find there is no answer.

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Jesus lies on his back, holding the end of the cord to prevent the lamb from escaping, an unnecessary precaution, the poor animal has no strength, not only because of its tender age but also because of all the excitement, the constant motion back and forth, not to mention the meager food it was given this morning, for it is considered neither fitting nor decent for anyone, lamb or martyr, to die with a full belly.

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The lamb, having survived the storm unharmed and no longer afraid, came up to Jesus and put its mouth to his lips, there was no sniffing, one touch was all that was needed. Jesus opened his eyes, saw the lamb, then the livid sky like a black hand blocking whatever light remained. The olive tree still burned. His bones ached when he tried to move, but at least he was in one piece, if that can be said of a body so fragile that it takes only a clap of thunder to knock it to the ground. He sat up with some effort and reassured himself, more by touch than by sight, that he was

neither burned nor paralyzed, none of his bones were broken, and apart from a loud buzzing in his head as insistent as the drone of a trumpet, he was all right. He drew the lamb to him and said, Don’t be afraid, He only wanted to show you that you would have been dead by now if that was His will, and to show me that it was not I who saved your life but He. One last rumble of thunder slowly tore the air like a sigh, while below, the white patch of the flock seemed a beckoning oasis

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But why sacrifice Your own son’s life for so little, surely all You have to do is send a prophet. The time when people listened to prophets has passed, nowadays one must administer stronger medicine, shock treatment, to touch men’s hearts and stir their feelings. Such as a son of God hanging from a cross. Yes, why not.

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Blindness
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Who would have believed it. Seen merely at a glance, the man's eyes seem healthy, the iris looks bright, luminous, the sclera white, as compact as porcelain. The eyes wide open, the wrinkled skin of the face, his eyebrows suddenly screwed up, all this, as anyone can see, signifies that he is distraught with anguish. With a rapid movement, what was in sight has disappeared behind the man's clenched fists, as if he were still trying to retain inside his mind the final image captured, a round red light at the traffic lights. I am blind, I am blind, he repeated in despair as they helped him to get out of the car, and the tears welling up made those eyes which he claimed were dead, shine even more. These things happen, it will pass you'll see, sometimes it's nerves, said a woman. The lights had already changed again, some inquisitive passers-by had gathered around the group, and the drivers further back who did not know what was going on, protested at what they thought was some common accident, a smashed headlight, a dented fender, nothing to justify this upheaval, Call the police, they shouted and get that old wreck out of the way. The blind man pleaded, Please, will someone take me home. The woman who had suggested a case of nerves was of the opinion that an ambulance should be summoned to transport the poor man to the hospital, but the blind man refused to hear of it, quite unnecessary, all he wanted was that someone might accompany him to the entrance of the building where he lived. It's close by and you could do me no greater favour. And what about the car, asked someone. Another voice replied, The key is in the ignition, drive the car on to the pavement. No need, intervened a third voice, I'll take charge of the car and accompany this man home. There were murmurs of approval. The blind man felt himself being taken by the arm, Come, come with me, the same voice was saying to him. They eased him into the front passenger seat, and secured the safety belt. I can't see, I can't see, he murmured, still weeping. Tell me where you live, the man asked him. Through the car windows voracious faces spied, avid for some news. The blind man raised his hands to his eyes and gestured, Nothing, it's as if I were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea. But blindness isn't like that, said the other fellow, they say that blindness is black, Well I see everything white, That little woman was probably right, it could be a matter of nerves, nerves are the very devil, No need to talk to me about it, it's a disaster, yes a disaster, Tell me where you live please, and at the same time the engine started up. Faltering, as if his lack of sight had weakened his memory, the blind man gave his address, then he said, I have no words to thank you, and the other replied, Now then, don't give it another thought, today it's your turn, tomorrow it will be mine, we never know what might lie in store for us, You're right, who would have thought, when I left the house this morning, that something as dreadful as this was about to happen. He was puzzled that they should still be at a standstill, Why aren't we moving, he asked, The light is on red, replied the other. From now on he would no longer know when the light was red.

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