Category Archives: Saramago, José

Gas chambers in Gaza

José Saramago: grotesque obtuseness

José Saramago: grotesque obtuseness and moral cretinism

The Portuguese Hobsbawm

Dalrymple reports that when José Saramago drew a parallel between the plight of the Palestinians and Auschwitz, a journalist asked whether there were gas chambers in Gaza. Saramago replied:

I hope this is not the case. There are so many things being done that have nothing to do with Nazism, but what is happening is more or less the same.

Dalrymple’s comment:

Quite apart from its startling lack of intellectual clarity, Saramago’s reply implies that there might be gas chambers in Gaza, and also that their absence would be a minor detail: Auschwitz and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians are essentially comparable. The comparison is odious, shameful, wicked, and stupid in equal measure.

Moral obtuseness of Saramago and Rushdie

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José Saramago and Salman Rushdie are no less crass

José Saramago’s attempt to draw a parallel between the situation of the Palestinians and the fate of the victims of Auschwitz is, Dalrymple points out,

odious, shameful, wicked and stupid in equal measure, and the man who makes [the comparison] sullies his name.

Salman Rushdie is also guilty of this trivialisation of the Nazi death camps.

What lies behind this? Dalrymple explains:

The problem is that so much of what intellectuals write and say seeks more to establish their right-mindedness and breadth of sympathy than to elucidate truth. It is hardly surprising that vehemence should be mistaken for depth of feeling, and depth of feeling for thought: and no metaphor could be more vehement than one that invokes Auschwitz. Only the vehement feel truly or deeply, so an inflationary usage of Auschwitz as analogy sets in.

A man who compares the travails of a people with Auschwitz

is not so much drawing attention to their plight as to the supposed depth of his compassion for them: a much more important matter in his estimation. It is not a sign of generosity of spirit: it is a sign of self-absorption and egotism. It is the frivolous use of the murder of millions for small personal advantage.