Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Travels in My Homeland (Almeida Garrett)

Excerpts from: Almeida Garrett, Travels in My Homeland (Viagens na minha terra, 1846)

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No – go to the Devil, you generation of steam and pottery; macadamize roads; make railways; build flying machines, like Icarus, to cover faster and faster the numbered hours of this material, coarse and humdrum life that you have made of the one God gave us, which was so different from the way we live today. Go on, money-grubbers, go on! Reduce everything to figures, reduce all the considerations of this world to equations of material interest: buy, sell, speculate. At the end of it all, what profit will there have been for the human species? A few dozen more rich men. I ask the political economists and the moralists if they have calculated the number of individuals who must be condemned to misery, to excessive labour, to depravity, to villainy, to wanton ignorance, to insurmountable wretchedness, to absolute poverty, in order to produce one rich man. The British parliament should be able to tell them, after so many commissions of inquiry there, they must have computed the number of souls that must be sold to the Devil and the number of bodies that must be delivered before their time to the cemetery to make a wealthy, noble textile manufacturer like Sir Robert Peel, or a mine-owner, a banker, a gentleman farmer or whatever: every rich, well-to-do man costs hundreds of unhappy wretches.

Therefore the happiest nation is not the wealthiest. ...

I has long been said that honour and profit are not good bedfellows ... (ch. III)

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Because the story of this world is the story of the house that Jack built. Here is the dog that bit the cat that killed the rat that gnawed the rope, etc. etc: it keeps going on like this. (ch. XIII)

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Joaninha’s eyes are a vast book, written in moving characters whose infinite combinations are beyond my comprehension.

What are your eyes saying, Joaninha?

What language do they speak?

Oh, why do you have to have green eyes, Joaninha?

The lily and the jasmin are white; red the rose; the rosemary blue . . .

The violet purple and the jonquil gold.

But all nature’s colours come from one alone, green.

Green is the origin and first type of all beauty.

The other colours make up green; in green is the whole, the unity of created beauty.

The eyes of the first man must have been green.

The sky is blue . . .

The night is black . . .

The earth and the sea are green . . .

The night is black, but beautiful. Your eyes, Soledade, were black and beautiful as the night.

The stars that shine in the depths of night are beautiful, but who does not sigh for day at the end of a long night?

And for the stars to disappear, to go away, at last! . . .

Comes the day. . . . The sky is blue and beautiful, but one’s eyes weary of looking at it.

Oh, the sky is blue like your eyes, Georgina! . . .

But the earth is green and the eyes find it restful, never tiring of the infinite variety of its pleasant hues.

The sea is green and rises and falls. . . . But oh, it is as sad as the earth is joyful.

Life is made up of joys and sadness . . .

Green is sad and joyful, like the joys of life itself!

Joaninha, Joaninha, why do you have to have green eyes? (ch. XXIII)

[cf. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939), pages 611–612]

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I hate philosophy and I hate reason, and I sincerely believe that in such a topsy-turvy world as this, a society which is so false, an existence as absurd as this one is made by its laws, customs, institutions and conventions, to affect in words the accuracy, the logic and integrity that does not exist in things themselves, is the worst and most pernicious incoherence there is.

Let us say no more about this, because it is not good for one, and let us end the chapter here. (ch. XXXVIII)

The end of the previous chapter is, I know, a terrible document in support of the charge of scepticism that has been brought against me by certain unlettered moralists, at whom I have the audacity to laugh, at them, their indictment and their accusation, at the same time protesting that I shall neither seek redress nor appeal, nor ask for any reversal of the wondrous judgement their most excellent hypocrisies may deign to pronounce against me.
After this solemn declaration, let us proceed.

And as for you, benevolent reader, to whom I wish to give only pleasure, if these fantasies still weary you, I advise you to turn over this obnoxious page, because the reflections in the last chapter are as out of place in my book as most things are in this world. Go to sleep, then, and wake not from the fine ideal of your logic.

It is a discovery of mine, of which I am vain and conceited, this idea that logic and punctuality in life’s affairs are much more a dream and an ideal than the most fantastic dream and the most exquisite ideal in poetry. (ch. XXXIX)