The image of Christ in literature
It is difficult to imagine another image that would be found in literature so ubiquitous as the image of Jesus Christ. It is paradoxical that being an icon exclusively of the Christian world, Jesus is recognizable (precisely recognized, not recognized) in absolutely any other faith: Islam, Buddhism, etc.Speaking of the image of Christ in literature, I do not mean a certain figure with a crown of thorns on his head and wedges in his hands, but rather a symbolic personification of his fate (suffering, self-sacrifice, benefits) in the face of individuals, objects and entire settlements.
At the same time, the role of Christ in fiction has long gone beyond the strict limits of religion and time: Jesus became a prototype for the creators of the middle ages, the Renaissance, and enlightenment. Religious themes were a favorite for Spanish writers of the Golden age (Lope de VEGA, Tirso de Molina), later it was addressed by Oscar Wilde, classics of the turn of the 19-20 centuries (although much less often), but just as many examples of the image of Christ can be found in modern literature (we will not go far, but just remember the “gospel of Jesus” by Jose Saramago and “Prayer for Owen Mini” by John Irving).
The image of Christ in 20th-century literature
In the previous paragraph, I mentioned in passing that in the 20th century, writers began to use the image of Christ a little less often. This statement requires further explanation. The fact is that in the last century, the style and manner of telling the story of the Messiah has changed dramatically. The most significant change is that centuries-old and outdated religious dogmas no longer apply, and therefore writers, roughly speaking, have distanced themselves from those Evangelical norms that were so strictly observed by their ancestors.
In 1921, Giovanni Papini published a book called the History of Christ. In this book, the reader sees an unusual canonical image, completely devoid of right angles of the Church cut. Papini creates his own Jesus Christ-a living and active person who categorically denies any derivative of power, both political and economic. In his book, Papini argues that Jesus could talk about money quite calmly, see how others dispose of it, but he did not allow himself to touch it. Of course, his surroundings were surprised by this behavior, but his entire being shuddered in horror at the mere thought of touching this dirty symbol of wealth.
But if Papini suggested the image of Christ with a complete antipathy to bragging and wealth, the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis made an even more radical and explosive suggestion in his novel the Last temptation of Christ (1951). The publication of this book cost the writer dearly: he was met with a barrage of criticism and prohibitions from the Greek Orthodox Church. Neither did his unsuccessful attempts to explain that his book is pure fiction, which does not even contain a hint of historical interpretation.
The course of thought of Church servants is quite understandable — the artistic fiction proposed by Kazantzakis completely negates the entire essence of religious canons. In the book, the crucified Jesus imagines a very different life, in which there is no place for the role of Savior or Messiah. He is an ordinary person who has his own family and simple everyday concerns. It is obvious that this image of Christ completely turns the whole course of events. The greatness of Kazantzakis ‘ work is that Jesus accepts his present position and refuses the temptations of greatness and canonization that promise him crucifixion and death. The phrase that the reader sees at the beginning of the work probably most accurately characterizes the entire life of Jesus: “Every moment of the life of Christ is a constant struggle.”
Now I would like to note one very interesting observation: almost any public work, even minimally related to religious topics, almost necessarily leads to loud censures and condemnations from the Church! One of these works was the novel by the famous Portuguese Jose Saramago – “the gospel of Jesus”, which was written in 1991. This time, the level of criticism that fell on the writer’s head reached the size of a hurricane. The Church called the book blasphemous and discrediting the very essence of their religion, and the writer was even forced to leave his native Portugal. Saramago allowed himself to publish a critique of officially recognized Church dogmas and published his own version of the events described in the gospel. Jose Saramago draws the image of Christ, who is constantly in doubt, who does not blindly accept all the teachings of the Father, and at the end of life understands the inevitability of his fate.
The image of Christ in Latin American literature
While in Europe the image of Christ “developed” in one direction, in Latin America, where Christian belief reaches almost pan-continental proportions, the situation is quite different. In European ideas, the image of Christ was formed around the symbol of the Martyr and the altar, and in South America there was a different historical background: the people for centuries fought for their independence from the Spanish viceroys, and therefore Jesus for them means nothing more than a symbol of self-affirmation of the suffering and the poor. So, in the sixties, a new theology of Liberation began to take shape, according to which Jesus was the leader of the rebels (agree, this idea does not quite fit into our consciousness). It was such a rebel who fought for the freedom of his people through the war against slavery, oppression, and exploitation.
In such semantic tones, in 1970, Demetrio Aguilera Malta wrote his book “Seven Moons, seven serpents”. In one of the usual Latin American settlements, we observe Christ and his burning. But here he comes down from the cross and leads the fight against those who oppose the poor. Thus, Dametrio Aguilera in his novel describes two points of view on religion: the one that stands for the rights of the haves and the one that turns out to be on the opposite Bank. Christ, in his faith, chooses the side of the poor!