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Despierta y lee.

Fernando Savater. Despierta y lee. Madrid. Alfaguara. 1998. 359 pages. 2,900 ptas. isbn 84-204-8352-4.

Fernando Savater (b. 1947) is perhaps best recognized for his journalistic contributions. In addition to those, however, he has published more than forty-five books of essays, philosophy, fiction, and drama, winning both national (Spain) and European awards.

The first expression that comes to mind upon summarizing the work under review is "narrative necrology." This tone is set beginning with the initial words of chapter 1, part 1, "En el principio esta la muerte," and continues through the last words of the book. That conclusion, in fact, is an essay-length explanation of the Roman euphemism of death as "Se fue con la mayoria." Explained quantitatively, of the sixty-eight chapters, it could be argued that twenty are glorified obituaries - even if, several centuries after the passing, an additional essay deals with the highway deaths caused by automobile accidents, and another concerns the "death" of NASA's Pioneer X. Furthermore, many of the other chapters examine philosophers - and their philosophies - who, although relevant today, have long since passed from this life. In short, rare is the article where death is not a pervading force.

Despierta y lee, a collection of primarily previously published "articulos destinados a periodicos y revistas," is divided into two major parts, to which is added a "Prefacio" and a "Despedida." The first section, "Tienes razon," opens the work with an examination of the omnipresence of death and emphasizes that "Los humanos somos todos por igual huespedes unos de otros." Points of departure for the development of this philosophical standpoint include the writings of Jean de la Bruyere, Voltaire, Kant, Derrida, and Fromm, among many others. Also inserted in this section is a lengthy discourse on the medieval elements of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, in particular the story of Gonzalo Guerrero. Part 1 ends with an "Intermedio: Carinos cinematograficos" - eight essays on current and not-so-current movies, scriptwriters, and directors ranging from El espiritu de la colmena to King Kong, from Groucho Marx to Vincent Price, from Jason y los Argonautas to Parque jurasico.

Part 2, "Que corra la voz," takes on a more established "academic" tone in that Savater examines the writings of various authors while often providing a bibliography of further readings. Here such greats as James Boswell, Jon Juaristi, Jorge Luis Borges, Michael Crichton, Edgar Allan Poe, Kafka, Cabrera Infante, Plato, and Descartes are eulogized and/or praised. Two of the chapters provide a tangential point of view: one, titled "Contra la cultura como identidad," is an antinationalist affirmation that "cultura es la curiosidad por lo ajeno, no la celebracion maniatica de lo propio." The other, "Ideoclips," is a compilation of aphorisms on life and death.

Despierta y lee, then, serves as a good overview of Savater's writings and philosophical principles. Certainly the humanist, if not the average reader in general, upon finishing reading the work, cannot help but understand, and sympathize with, the title and its far-reaching mandate that hate and nationalistic fervor be eliminated from mankind.

Jeffrey Oxford

University of North Texas
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2000
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