The protagonist of the novel is a man with has lost his left hand but who possess several prosthetic limbs designed to complete varying specialized tasks.
I generally read two books simultaneously. The books that I am currently reading, at least on the surface, seem to be very different and were written by authors who came from very different literary circles. The novels are Baltasar and BlimundaJose SaramagoThe Moon is Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. To my surprise the above sentence perfectly describes both books! It seems so very strange to me that purely by chance I should be reading both works simultaneously.
Baltasar Mateus, one of Saramago’s main characters, is an eighteenth century ex - soldier who lost his hand in battle. A blacksmith has made him two artificial hands. One manmade hand ends in a hook, the other in a spike.
Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis, Heinlein’s hero, is an inhabitant of The Moon during the 2070’s. Having lost most of his lower arm in an accident, he possesses six high technology artificial limbs, each one specially designed for specific functions.
Though the missing appendages seem to me to be symbolic in both books, I think that the symbolism is different. Saramago connects Baltasar’s missing hand with a purported missing hand of God. Heinlein’s protagonist’s artificial arms point to the future interface and common fate of humans and technology.
This odd coincidence has gotten me to thinking, are there other similarities between these works and authors?
On the surface Jose Saramago’s Baltasar and BlimundaRobert A Heinlein’s The Moon is Harsh Mistress are wildly different books. The authors also seem to be very dissimilar. Saramago could be described as a being a supporter of the political and social left wing. Heinlein, at least during the period that he wrote The Moon is Harsh Mistress expressed strong Libertarian ideals. These days, at least in America, Libertarianism is, perhaps inaccurately, associated with the political right wing.
Looking at things a little differently however, both books and writers do have some similarities. As per Wikipedia, Saramago advocated “Anarchist Communism.” This belief system rejects government, laws and most institutions including capitalism. It champions people working together in commune like groups.
In The Moon is Harsh Mistress, Heinlein pushed his own philosophy that he coined “Rational Anarchy”. This belief system also rejects government and laws. It advocates that society works best when individuals are free to decide their own morality and course in life. Unlike Saramago however, Heinlein’s philosophy was very pro capitalist and scorned collective groupings of people.
Though I have not yet completed either work, both books seem to clearly champion the respective authors’ respective beliefs. Not surprisingly, each novel also has a strong antiauthoritarian streak. Both contrast a corrupt and selfish elite with a somewhat virtuous common people. I also detect feminist themes expressed in both books. While in many ways different, these ideologies clearly have much in common.
Both writers, now deceased, were contemporaries. I wonder if Saramago and Heinlein knew of each other. They seemed to inhabit very different intellectual worlds so it seems likely they may have not been aware of one another. I also wonder if anyone else ever compared these two works. It is such an unlikely coincidence that I should be reading both at the same time.
I am a person who likes to find connections in the world. It can be a fun exercise to compare seemingly incongruous philosophies and thinkers. It amazes me what I find even when I do not try too hard!
I will provide thorough commentary on both books in few weeks when I finish reading them.