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EAST AND WEST: FOREWORD TO MARTINS JANEIRA'S UNPUBLISHED WORK
Eduardo Kol de Carvalho, May 2021
(edited by Kevin Morris)
It will be a great age when East and West will meet in the lightered approach of their cultures, asserted Armando Martins Janeira (1914~1988), a Portuguese diplomat and writer born in the early 20th century in the rural municipality of Moncorvo, in the Trás-os-Montes’ province of northeast Portugal. Like so many other Portuguese born on those rocky hills by the border of Spain, Martins Janeira dedicated part of his life in search of the mysterious Orient.
An isolated and poor region of the country, Trás-os-Montes offered many dedicated men to the adventurous crusades and pilgrimages to the East, much like how the Spanish sent numerous conquistadores (conquerors) from isolated Extremadura to the Americas, the “Spanish East”. After the Portuguese arrived in India, many people from Trás-os-Montes, especially missionaries, spent their lives in search of the East. Martins Janeira could be one more, but his “Orient” was discovered before his arrival in Japan as Chargé d'Affairs in 1952 or as Ambassador after 1964.
In fact, through the writings of Wenceslau de Moraes, Martins Janeira unveiled the East to himself during his childhood, many years before the diplomat reached Asia.
In Portugal, the spirit of Orient was alive since early times when crusades sailed along Portuguese coasts and helped the Christian reconquest of the new born Country. This leading role of the Portuguese Nation in search of the East is as natural to Portuguese as breathing, and few of us inquire about the vital function of breathing. Orientalists before Orientalism, the Portuguese took for granted the East as part of the Nation, and not so many questioned the inner force that led them to the Orient. Martins Janeira, in his curious and humanist spirit, was one of those who raised the question: why did Western men go to the East?
Orientalism, entrenched by scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries to identify the study and analyses of Eastern languages and literatures, sounded somehow strange to the Portuguese who since the 16th and 17th centuries studied Oriental languages and produced the first dictionaries of Japanese, Vietnamese, or Concani, for example, and published early accounts or studies on Eastern History, Geography and Flora. Nevertheless, Orientalism in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries was very popular, promoting japonesism and chinoiseri as a fashionable market in Central European societies.
In the second half of the 20th century, Orientalism and Comparatism were reborn among those who were concerned on men's destiny, more than the reconstruction of devastated Europe and Japan. Martins Janeira, more than a Japanologist, more than an Orientalist, is a remarkable Comparatist who before Edward Said launched the discussion on Orientalism with the unpublished text, East and West. This work produced 50 years ago, most likely in Rome, in 1972, is a watershed on Portuguese and European Orientalism.
As a result of two experiences in Japan, while observing the Japanese economic miracle after its unconditional surrender in 1945; one as witness to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and the other as participant at the Osaka Expo in 1970, Martins Janeira, insightfully, moulded his thoughts in searching for the spirit of the East. While Martins Janeira was uncovering the secret of the two poles, East and West, Portuguese Prime Minister Caetano received two Western leaders in the Azores, Nixon and Pompidou in December 1971, a few months before the American President would meet Mao Tsé Tung in Beijing in February 1972. It was the significant moment of change and Martins Janeira was already there, ahead of his time.
Since his early days, Janeira studied Portuguese theatre and through the plays of Gil Vicente, the founder of the Portuguese art of representation, he came to understand ancestral Japanese theatre, Nô. In, East and West, Janeira somehow like Gil Vicente, in his monologues, interpellated not the spectator, but the reader, about the vision of the Portuguese in the East and its approach.
Janeira identifies the West as a logical, analytical, dynamic and materialistic world, in contrast to the East, as an intuitive, synthetic, spiritual and passive universe. As the two poles of human nature, East and West are two faces of the same coin where, the West came to the East to find out the mystery and fascination for unknown.
Those two identities, for Martins Janeira are in contradiction as far as History, Geography, and Religion, are concerned. Europe and later, America, have a religious unity, landscape variety, contained scale, sense of liberty and history, against the East, vast with a dominant landscape where man is part of the Universe and individualism is not allowed. In opposition to an introspective Eastern man, who can find his essence in deepened spiritual meditation, there is a Western man dominated by the Creator, concerned with freedom and reverence to life versus death. If the West tries to dominate the Universe through science and technology, the East uses mind, meditation and spiritual power for the same purpose.
According to Janeira, a curious and dynamic European wave embraced the Asian world with aspirations, ideas, inventions, economic and social changes. This wave, probably a seismic tidal wave (tsunami), imposed the European hero to the Asian spiritual soul, as well as to the African rhythmic force and magic power of the word. Through this exercise, comparing East and West, Janeira’s reader might understand that in spite of the meeting of civilizations, when Western knowledge met Eastern wisdom, when the anthropocentric European embraced Cosmocentric Asian, when Western individualism confronted Eastern spirituality; final harmony was not always achieved.
If fusion of man with Universe is fundamental in the Orient, in the West, the image of God is reflected by the image of man, so attested Janeira, to whom universality does not mean to reduce the differences that are the bases of originality and singularity.
A half century ago, global Janeira's intellectual capacity, was able to identify the technical advancement of human kind led by Western man and the main contemporary problems of humanity. For him, computers initiated a new industrial Era, where cooperation, spreading of education, social reforms, economic development, changed the way of lives. This new Era, when man reached his greatest height, as a remarkable result of modernisation, threatens to alienate man from nature. Pollution, over population, damage to the environment, erosion, over exploration of natural resources and nuclear weapons are some of the threats that Janeira listed as relevant facts that menace contemporary man who suffers from the fear of destruction of mankind and mother nature.
In his analyses, Martins Janeira does not forget to stress the power and importance of languages, which give individuality to a culture, implicit in the irreparable danger of their decay and lost in favour of globalisation and universal dialogue.
The impermanence in place and time of which, contemporary man's life suffers is responsible for the lack of depth in modern life, stresses Janeira while praising tourism, alerts to its risks. Although considering the extraordinary development of tourism, which turned into a process of running from place to place with little emotion, Janeira concluded that the world became too small for today's man because he does not stop time enough to enjoy the beauty.
Through History, Literature and Sociology, Martins Janeira, firmly established on the classics as well as the contemporary Western and Eastern authors, offers a deep and complete view on man's itinerary, predicting that when man feels a stranger in the world he created, a new humanism must rise.
In fact, for Janeira, universalism does not mean to reduce or to erase the differences that are the bases of originality and singularity. Janeira believes that under today's humanism two main ideas are present: free development of individual personality and the ideal of freedom. In a contemporary world, science and technique are sources of economic, social and spiritual revolution. This revolution, according to Janeira, is not limited to the political field, it alters fundamentally the capacity of knowledge with regard to nature and to society.
A universal soul, casted on a cultured and intellectual spirit, allowed Armando Martins Janeira to offer to the world an immense legacy within the text, East and West. It is our duty, 50 years later, to read and contemplate on his conclusions, a libretto for a contemporary opera, where man will build bridges between a dynamic West and a poetic East.
Inéditos: What We Do
EAST AND WEST
- unpublished texts for download -
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