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M. S. Lourenço’s book owning alter ego

December 20, 2012
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M.S. Lourenco, O Doge (1962)

Guest post by João Dionisio

In the Gospel according to John, Nicodemus heard Jesus say that no one could see the kingdom of God unless through rebirth. Nicodemus reacted with puzzlement for it seemed to him that no one, once born, would be able to be born again (“How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”, John 3:4, New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition). Jesus then replied: “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3: 5-8). Here lies the basis for baptism, one of the seven sacraments in Roman Catholic Church which came to be associated with the assumption of a (new) name. The motive of regeneration or rebirth plays a core role in the poetics of Portuguese writer M. S. Lourenço (1936-2009), in the guise of a current literary motif, under the paratextual form of a made-up obituary or more visibly through the instance of his alter ego Alexis Christian von Rätselhaft und Gribskov. Known as the fictional author of O Doge, a collection of prose short pieces published in 1962.  Though it is not the only, it is certainly the most conspicuous alternative name inscribed on the title page of several books in Lourenço’s private library. These books may function as a biographical trait ascribed to the ‘Alexis von Gribskov’ persona : what kind of books did he have? which books did he read? and so forth. By looking into this part of his library, we can shed on some aspects of Lourenço’s literary work from the 1960s. Perhaps more importantly, looking into this part of his library enables one to view it as the stage where multiple personal projections enter in an intellectual dialogue. Against this background emerges the seemingly special status of some books by Rilke, both as a determinant factor in the literary staging of otherness and as a possible poetic enactment of the Gospel passage: “the wind blows where it chooses”. In this respect the fact that Alexis von Gribskov’s motto is precisely “spiritus ubi vult spirat” is especially meaningful.

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