By Manuel Leal
Vamberto Freitas is recognized today one of the best literary critics of the Portuguese language world anywhere. Some experts have even pointed at him as uniquely holding the highest altitude in this context. This singularity expresses style, knowledge, and logical communication as one would find a painter incorporating form, stroke and color.
It is a field in which literature intercepts implicit psychology much as a conversant attempts to read through the style and phrases that project the thinking of an interlocutor whilst assimilating it with his own in the analysis or silent inquiry that all of us conduct in social interaction.
No man is truly an island. No one really constitutes a true representation of the unlikely theory of the Great Man in the making of big bangs spawned out of a vacuum. Socrates and Freud, or even Einstein were privileged creatures in a process in which human behavior retraces group phenomena in our cosmological order that physicists are finding and psychologists ought to think about. Lightening, both as meteorological event and in a metaphoric construction at the synapses of one’s neurological association stations, is produced only when specific conditions exist. Those icons of our capacity to generate consciousness arrived at a confluence of concepts in the academic environment at the right moment with the preferred intellectual and motivational makeup.
In quantic entanglement, which has been experimentally achieved last December in a lab at Harvard University, specific particles of matter trapped in a two cage compartment, each resembling a four chamber partially connected as half doors open to rooms, loose their properties to become a new whole much like the individual in a group.
Apart, separate and distinct in our Universe, particles of the same species always became twin copies of each other with the same identity and atomic weight. The change that occurred following the interaction of atoms, mystified the investigators who witnessed the metamorphose. In this context, differences between the parts, when the full entities are indistinguishable, only happens “if there is entanglement within each system”.
No matter where in the universe one finds a particle, it has the same properties everywhere because they mimic in isolation each other across the cosmological expense where elements are the same. This quantum “miracle” of symmetry in the chaos recognized by Einstein is what tells astrophysicists that other worlds like ours populate the galaxies throughout the trail left by the initial explosion of Creation. The categorization of behavioral phenomena in psychology may be seen in the same context of elimination of the ubiquitous noise through which the novelist as well as the historian weave a plot that simulates our existential bedlam projected in the Babel of our tongues.
Writers and thinkers may seem at times to be feral children in the development of their skills, but in reality they are chains in the continuous linkage of mind and humanity. All human activity, in the pursuit of the arts, as it has been with science and the very existence of our species, needs to be viewed in the context of the experiential zeitgeist. However, ideas and ah-ahs in a Gestalt sense are products much more than the sum of its parts.
As Vamberto ponders through his own membership in an emotional fringe of the ongoing melting pot of intellectual evolution, he combines with solid and authoritative and inspiring mastery of the subject matter, and in the associations of his world view, the saga of those who ventured anxiety and assimilation in the transmutation of adaptation which predisposes both the writer and the reader to be a collective entity in the memory as well as in the formation of one’s discovery of being human.
The subjective ability to dissect a writer’s projection of feeling and intent is at the core of the understanding of fiction as well as communicating in the narrative, or even poetry. Rather than the “hysterical realism” that seems to have engulfed the business of the novel as a publishing modality as James Wood once complained, Vamberto’s essays and short exploratory reviews often stay linked to the experience which is common to many in our diaspora. He is always back and forth, crossing the borders of his insight into belonging to the two margins of the Atlantic. He has been able as a prolific thinker to entangle the experience of two different and much dissimilar intellectual realities and traditions of thought to become, not one or the other, but a singular unifying bridge for others, presumably his students, to follow and expand. An agent of cultural diffusion, his work in the realm of the different worlds or dimensions of the reality in question is much akin, within the framework of my pendant vision of a continuum of processes from physics to psychology, to the behavior of energy in entropy, which he works with sensibility and an extraordinary sense of connection.
Vamberto graduated from the California State University, Fullerton, and taught in the United States before recrossing his emigrant’s route to teach in the University of the Azores, which had been recently organized. Equally at ease with English and Portuguese, his first language, he writes a weekly column on literature for Açoriano Oriental, a leading Ponta Delgada newspaper.
It is to the credit of this publication’s editorial leadership that a subject matter perhaps beyond the interest of the average reader is brought to the attention of an academic minority in a popular forum. Furthermore, the reasonable length of his essays reveals the newspaper’s knack for quality over quantity. Thus Vamberto does not seem to be arrested or restricted by the requirement of writing with his mind tied to metric limitations of volume or line count. The creative freedom of his talent finds the space and reinforcement to take off in flights of creativity.
In this week’s column, writing about James Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life (Brandeis, 2015) Vamberto confronts his own presence in two worlds geographically and culturally apart where his children have grown and develop in a linguistic and cultural dimension differentiated from his own. It is the drama of those of us who write and think with roots in both the United States and the Azores, or any other intellectual tradition as in the experience of James Wood, eternally unable to pull from one or the other affectively charged poles of this dichotomy that became inherent to one, our singular complex and intellectually hybrid identity.
I wish his column had been written in English as well, for I would make it available to my adult, American educated children. I once wrote a paper while still in graduate school about the same theme, in which I cried with words about their inability to read the involved prose of my Portuguese writings.
It was a paper on the psychology of individual identity in an acculturative situation, which conditions the vocabulary and the affective tone and content of the cognition of people who, for all the implications about the hemispheric specialization of our brains, not only express themselves in words with dissimilar grammatical and metaphorical characteristics, but also think bicamerally. Each cerebral subsystem of function and mediation of processes in the other, has almost segregated patterns of arranging the elements and the meaning of reality across the corpus collossum.
My professor, of whom I became later a colleague, penned then on the top of the first page: “I weep with you”.
It is how I feel after reading Vamberto’s excellent text.