Selections from The Notebook, May 26: José Saramago on weapons and human destiny


In celebration of the new paperback edition of José Saramago's The Notebook, Verso is pleased to present another of the acclaimed author's elegant and astute observations on contemporary culture and politics. The publication of excerpts selected from his blog began on April 20 in lead-up to the release of the new edition and to commemorate Saramago's passing on June 18, 2010.

On May 26, 2009, Saramago's mind was on the production and sale of armaments. Contemplating the kind of nefarious political infrastructure necessary to allow such a global flow of destruction, his thoughts turn to the potential for human kind to liberate itself from this economy of violence...

May 26: Weapons
Arms sales, thanks to the flexibility of laws within national boundaries or else simply to blatant smuggling, are hardly in crisis-I mean the much-discussed and deeply suffered crisis to which the physical and moral destruction of much of the population of our planet bears witness but which as yet doesn't touch everyone. Around the globe, the unemployed can be counted in millions, thousands of businesses declare themselves bankrupt and close their doors on a daily basis, but there is still no sign that even one armaments factory has closed down. To work in an arms factory is a life insurance policy. We already know that armies always need arms, for they are forever replacing the weapons they have with newer and deadlier ones-that's what it's all about-for the old arsenals, useful in their time, no longer fulfill the requirements of modern days. It should be obvious that the governments of arms exporting countries ought to strictly control the production and sale of the weapons their industries supply. Put simply, some don't bother, and others look the other way. I am talking of governments because it is difficult to believe, when we consider the barely concealed industrial installations that supply the drug traffickers, that there are not also clandestine weapons factories. Furthermore, there is no such thing as a pistol that cannot be surreptitiously and retrospectively issued with an official stamp, however invisibly introduced. When a whole continent such as South America, for example, estimates that it contains at least 80 million weapons, it becomes impossible not to believe in the poorly disguised complicity of governments, complicity that must be affording cover to importers and exporters alike. The blame, at least to some degree, lies with contraband operations on a grand scale, if you leave aside the fact that for a thing to be smuggled, the rule sine qua non is that the thing has to exist in the fi rst place. Add to that the fact that anything can be smuggled.

All my life I have lived in the hope of seeing a strike, every tool downed in every weapons factory, but I have waited in vain, for no such prodigious occasion has come to pass, nor ever will. This was my one pathetic hope, that humanity might yet be capable of changing its path, its direction, its destiny.

Watch the Verso blog for more excerpts from The Notebook leading up to June 18.

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