~ Known as the Father of Hypnotism, Abbé Faria is practically unknown in Goa, the land of his birth.
~ Konkani writer Uday Bhembre fills in significant gaps in Faria’s life with ‘rational imagination’.
Panaji: A long-believed legend that the character of the Italian priest, Abbé Faria, in Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (1844) is based on Goa’s very own priest-hypnotist Abbé Faria has been challenged through research by renowned Konkani writer and activist Adv. Uday Bhembre for his new novel ‘Katar Re Bhaji’.
Bhembre, who was in conversation with Anwesha Singbal, the first female president of the Konkani Bhasha Mandal, at the recent MOG Sundays talk at the Museum of Goa, Pilerne, said that he learned about this fact-nugget from the authoritative biography on Abbé Faria by a Portuguese neurosurgeon Daniel Gelásio Dalgado published in 1906.
“Dalgado clarifies many inconsistencies surrounding Faria in his biography. He disproved the belief that Faria was jailed, as was widely accepted by many biographers due to its mention in Dumas’ novel. Dalgado was also shocked to find out that Faria visited a gambling place in Paris. I have addressed this in my novel,” said Bhembre.
Born in 1756, in Candolim village, Abade Faria, also known as Abbé, was a pioneering Goan hypnotist, who left an indelible mark in the fields of psychology and hypnotherapy.
According to Bhembre, ‘Katar Re Bhaji’, which was published a few days ago, aims to “fill in the sometimes decades-long gaps in Faria’s life utilising imagination that is guided by rationality and to write history as creative literature without any distortion of fact.” Bhembre claims he used the writing technique to explain Faria’s conception in spite of his parents’ “cold” relationship and how Faria came to be a member of the Medical Society of Marseille, despite not being a doctor. “Less than half of my book is a biography, the rest is my imagination,” states Bhembre.
Bhembre conducted extensive research and referred to seven biographies on Abbé Faria to formulate his novel – two in Konkani (one of which was translated from the original in Portuguese by Nobel laureate and neurologist António Egas Moniz), one in Marathi and four in English.
Goans’ lack of awareness of the importance of Faria’s legacy to his native region pushed Bhembre to focus on him as the novel’s subject. “That Goans themselves don’t know about someone who is globally recognised today as the Father of the Doctrine of Suggestion in Hypnosis is shameful,” he stated.
“During my tenure as a Konkani teacher at Goa University, I asked students if they knew who Abbé Faria was and received no response. They could not attribute Faria’s identity to the statue of him that had been erected by Ramachandra Pandurang Kamat in 1945 next to the Adil Shah Palace in Panaji,” Bhembre said.
This lack of knowledge made Bhembre realise that despite there being several historical biographies on Faria, there was no readership for these texts, which is why, the writer says, he chose to utilise the novel format to depict Faria’s life in order to garner a wider audience.