Ned’s Corner

Five or six years ago in Évora, Portugal I stumbled upon one of the strangest books that I’d ever seen. We lucked out and happened to be in town on the one Sunday of the month when the town has its humble, little flea market. In the Praça 1° de Maio, the square where the Gothic Church of Saint Francis and the macabre Capela dos Ossos [1] are located, people set up rickety folding tables and throw moth-eaten blankets on the ground and proceed to cover them with every battered, rusty, dust covered, mildew stained knick-knack imaginable.

One scruffy old fella had a chaotic pile of books scattered across the sidewalk and one caught my eye. I picked it up and started leafing through the pages. It had these weird illustrations, sort of like something you would see in a religious pamphlet, and the pages had an odd feel to them. The paper was kind of like a mix between newspaper and wax paper. As I flipped the pages I realized a good deal of them were uncut along the top edge, and I could only open every eighth page due to the way the book was printed and bound.

1220

the cover of A Terra e a Humanidade…

The old fella said something which I didn’t quite catch, other than the word “Salazar”. António de Oliveira Salazar was the dictator of Portugal from 1932 until 1968. He suffered a stroke in 1968 and was replaced by Marcelo Caetano, but Salazar didn’t die until 1970. The story goes that his handlers never informed him that he had been removed from power and he died believing he was still the Prime Minister of Portugal.

I thought the old fella was saying that the book was propaganda from the days when Salazar was in power. The year 1947 was printed on the spine and the illustrations had that fascist edge to them.

“¿Quanto custa?”

He sort of half shrugged. “¿Cinco euro?”

Sold! To the only bidder for five euros!

The book is titled A Terra e a Humanidade Nos Meus Dias: Paz e Fraternidade Universal Na Minha Volta 260 Anos Depois – 2,200 Na Minha Reencarnação (rough translation: Earth and Humanity in My Days: Peace and Universal Brotherhood on My Return 260 Years Later – 22nd Century in My Reincarnation). It was written by “Antomvamtos,” which is most likely a pseudonym, and contains 904 roughly A4-size pages.

It turns out I had completely misunderstood the guy who sold me the book. When I got home and looked up the title online I found very little information. One Portuguese blog, Livreiro Monasticon, describes it as being a “muito invulgar” (very unusual) book that mixes Masonic ideas with Mysticism.

antomvamtos

an illustration from A Terra e a Humanidade…

I think the old fella was trying to tell me that this book, which appears to be the work of a secret society, was prohibited by Salazar’s Estado Novo (“New State”), the corporatist authoritarian government that kept an extremely tight grip on things through censorship and suppression.

Here’s a little taste of the book’s message, translated into Spanish by my better half and then translated into English by me:

“In a repugnant world where Destiny hides in an amalgam of tangled images that corrupt an uneducated earthly populace, I try to see my own likeness in these innumerable abandoned beings in the rough streets, in their failings in Life. I dedicate this message to my Followers and to the World so they will Awaken to the Light.”

mason

an illustration from A Terra e a Humanidade…

The book weighs close to 3 lbs (nearly 1.5 kilos). It’s a strange beast of a thing. I don’t think I’ll cut the pages.

[1] I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones). It really puts things into perspective. Apparently, that was exactly what the 16th century Franciscan monk who built the place had in mind: to spread the message that life is transitory. There is a sobering phrase chiselled in stone above your head as you enter the chapel: Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos (“We bones that are here, for yours await”). It is estimated that the skeletons of roughly 5,000 monks were used to decorate the chapel. And, if the sight of all those human skulls and bones isn’t enough of a shock to the system, in one corner there are two grotesquely meaty, half-mummified corpses, one of which is a small child, dangling from ropes.

Sweet dreams.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s