While I was reading As Telefones Someone asked me if I was enjoying the book because the author “is pretty militant” which surprised me because I don’t really get that from the books at all. There’s one racist incident I remember from Marremoto, but I don’t really get strong militant vibes. Obviously, by writing about people in the margins of society like Boa Morte da Silva, I guess there’s an implied criticism of the system as a whole there, but I don’t think it’s any more than an author should feel for the subjects of her books. And what’s literature for if not to show us a different perspective on life?
I tried watching an interview with her to see if I could understand what he meant. Here she is on RTP2, drinking coffee with José Navarro de Andrade and talking about Maremoto. My first impression as that she just comes across as just a writer wanting to talk about her book. OK, she admits the dreadful crime of not having read O Ano Da Morte de Ricardo Reis by José Saramago, but she doesn’t say anything I’d describe as “militant”. Interestingly, (if I’m understanding correctly) the interviewer tries, at around the eleven minute mark, to get her to admit that the inconsistencies in the biography of the main character are because she is trying to make him a pastiche, representative of all African immigrants in Lisbon, to which she says, no, the protagonist is just writing his own story in the form of a letter to his daughter and he isn’t always a reliable or coherent narrator. QA lot of his personality comes from a real person she knows and yes, it’s messy, but that’s how life is sometimes.
I’m not sure where the idea that she is militant comes from. She seems very empathetic – to the point of avoiding any attempt to educate the reader because she feels like it gets in the way of the protagonist’s own voice.
She quotes Peter Geach, husband of Elizabeth Anscombe, in the closing minutes. I can’t find the quote online but it’s something like “It’s possible for a man to lose his one chance while he is still young, and live to be old, feeling happy and at ease in the world but in the eyes of God, be dead”. That’s heavy stuff, man, but it’s Christian ethics, not Marxism, feminism, CRT or whatever. So I’m at a loss to know where this “militant” thing has come from, unless she was more of a firebrand in her youth.