viernes, 17 de junio de 2016

LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION (LASA): Congreso Internacional


En las postrimerías de mayo pasado, se celebró en la Ciudad de Nueva York el congreso internacional de LASA. Al unísono de cientos de mesas redondas y paneles académicos, una de ellas organizada por quien suscribe esta narración, miles de académicos de todas las calañas se congregaron en el Hilton Midtown y el Sheraton Times Square para discutir asuntos relacionados con Latinoamérica desde una diversidad de enfoques intelectuales, creativos y académicos que sería bochornoso enumerar aquí. Por ejemplo, asistí a una mesa de difusión sobre los retos de los estudios del siglo diecinueve: “Hay que hacer todavía más evidente que los fenómenos culturales del siglo veinte y veintiuno pertenecen a procesos que atraviesan el siglo diecinueve”, dijo uno de los ponentes. Yo, como soy decimonónico por vocación y pasión, aplaudí en silencio, pensando que tan pronto como fuera posible debía ceñirme a mi trabajo en torno a Romero, Alamán y los proto-decadentistas mexicanos de finales del XIX, como Sierra Méndez, Alegría, Ceballos o Rebolledo.

“Avezarme sólo al diecinueve, eso es que lo tengo que hacer”, escribí en mi Moleskine. Esa noche envié al editor la versión corregida de un artículo académico sobre Amado Nervo y los momentos narrativos de disidentificación (término original de Judith Butler, aunque yo empleo la versión de José Esteban Muñoz) que la revista Cincinnati Romance Review ya ha aceptado para su publicación este año.

Entre los muchos encuentros y rituales de salutación que moldearon mi presencia en el congreso de LASA, creo oportuno asentar que saludar a Christopher Conway y William Acree fue instructivo y ameno en varios sentidos. También tuve la oportunidad de conversar con varias personas, entre amigos, académicos y escritores: platicar con Carlos Labbé y Mónica Ríos en el bar del Hilton Midtown representó la misión cumplida de mi presencia en LASA. Sin embargo, la interacción más extraña, e incluso iluminadora, que sostuve fue una breve conversación con la Dra. Mabel Moraña, reconocida profesora de la Universidad de Washington en San Luis; todos los que tenemos cercanía con los Estudios Culturales en Latinoamérica hemos leído algo de la profesora Moraña. Fue un encuentro al azar: ambos buscábamos un lugar donde sentarnos a esperar en el lobby del Hilton, donde la habitación más económica es alquilada por más de tres mil pesos mexicanos la noche, es decir, todavía más que el salario mínimo mensual. 

“¿Cómo está, Dra. Moraña?”, yo sonriendo, muy atento a su respuesta.

“¿Puedes imaginar que aquí en el Hilton, con lo que cuesta, no hay lugar para sentarse?” 

Es muy cierto, en un lobby con dos bares, café independiente y me parece que uno o dos restaurantes (una cerveza Budweiser cuesta nueve dólares), las pocas butacas dobles de mármol que adornaban el vestíbulo no daban abasto a la cantidad de nalgas que buscaban un sitio para posarse. 

“El neoliberalismo”, respondí, sin dejar de sonreír como un pajarraco feliz. 

La Dra. Moraña volteó a verme directo a los ojos sin dejar de sonreír. “Así es”, exclamó, mirándome con la misma cordialidad que un adulto le prodiga al niño que, de pronto, reconoce que llevar las agujetas desamarradas puede ser un obstáculo para intentar correr. 

“¿Estás en Pittsburgh, no?”, me preguntó, buscando en derredor a una persona que no llegaba; yo también estaba en medio del proceso de encontrarme con el Murciano, quien en ese momento, me enteré más tarde, fumaba como chacuaco afuerita del hotel, mirando el tránsito cansino de Avenida de las Américas.  

“Sí, estoy en Pittsburgh, bonita ciudad”, respondí, la cabeza de pronto nublada de sorpresa, niebla, puesto que nunca en mi vida había establecido contacto con la Dra. Moraña, aunque sí sabía que había sido profesora del departamento de Estudios Hispánicos de la Universidad de Pittsburgh. 

“Entonces habrás escuchado muchas cosas negativas sobre mí”, replicó la reconocida intelectual uruguaya. 

“No, nunca”, respondí con la verdad, porque cada vez que he tenido la oportunidad de conversar con los doctores Branche, Beverley, Duchesne, Balderston y Monasterios, he aprovechado el tiempo para hacerles preguntas de índole académica o intelectual, como “¿qué debo leer para aproximarme a la posibilidad de un malungaje en México?” o “¿es posible formularse como intelectual subalterno?”, siempre preguntas de este tipo.

“Estoy en el departamento de inglés, terminaré el MFA el próximo semestre, paso más tiempo con la Dra. Shalini Puri...”, agregué, con la intención de expresar que mi estancia en Pittsburgh discurre por meandros académicos e intelectuales.

“Eres un coleccionista de títulos universitarios...”, afirmó, siempre con un tono cordial.

Respondí sólo con una sonrisa, musitando algo que ni yo pude escuchar y ahora no recuerdo sobre el mercado laboral de los académicos, luego nos pusimos de pie, nos despedimos deseándonos buena suerte y una agradable estancia, y cada uno retomó su camino para consumar un encuentro pactado con antelación.


Posdata

Carlos Labbé, cuando nos despedíamos, soltó al aire un “deberíamos escribir una novela a seis manos”. Hay que hacerlo, Carlos. 



TEXTOS RECOMENDADOS



De John Beverley: Entrevista  




     



  

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2016

Anyone Can Play Guitar

I was driving back home, after teaching my intro to fiction class, and when I saw the Giant Eagle’s lights I thought, like an arrow, “tonight I am going to make a ten-song anthology of Radiohead, my very favorites, starting with Airbag, or even better: with a song from the Pablo Honey album, but not Creep because everyone has been down there at least once in a lifetime,” but then I arrived home and, after enjoying time with my beloved Tessa, I sat and revised a short story, then I wrote a grant application involving archival research and fieldwork in my hometown, ‘cause sometimes I sort of forget the smell of the darkness of Mexico City, it feels kind of foggy, like a grisaille. By the way, “grisaille” is a word that I had to learn myself in order to describe what I used to see as a surrounding force when I was a fat child, somewhere between ten and thirteen years of age, back then I also spent my evenings listening to the gunshots and the shrieks from the street with an enciclopedia between my hands, my father had to sell books when I was born and that was the origin of all of those books, including Proteus, an animal enciclopedia with manatees, antelopes, different snakes, an enciclopedia of "universal literature," there I read Santha Rama Rau, Katherine Mansfield, Daphne Du Maurier, Asturias, stuff like that, authors perhaps not copiously read in the United States, it was like growing up in a militarized zone, but against pirated merchandise, music CDs, DVDs, tennis shoes, watches, in Tepito I bought the complete works of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, Relics by Pink Floyd, I even got this extremely rare compilation of the yelling voice of Janice Joplin. Then, after my grant application, I also started writing the first words of a flash-fiction collection in English, because now I am studying the syntax and lexicon of Nabokov. "Let Down," that’s a cool song even for tonight, or what do you think Carlos or Tahsin? It does not have to be a pessimistic lullaby, Let Down also has a promise, just like when we get to remember the names of people from our childhood, or the buzzing of the tontorrones dying on the fresh grass of a baseball field; when I was a child I played baseball in a little league called Anáhuac, like in Valle de Anáhuac, where my father played himself as a child, then he was hired by a professional team at the age of fifteen, apparently my father was some sort of baseball genius, but a bit crazy or extremely passionate about the sport, its rules, the honor implied in playing baseball, although the truth is that who gives a shit about baseball in Mexico? Growing up baseball was popular, but when I turned nineteen-yold the television companies invested millions in Mexican soccer, baseball was killed with a national financial failure called TRI. But going back to my father, after three years of playing AA professional ball, when he turned 18 he was immediately signed by a top professional team, Los Tigres de México, XXX level with prospects of being eyed by a scout from MLB, Mike Britto was often at the Mexico City stadium looking for Mexican pitchers to play for The Dodger’s, the next Fernando Valenzuela was throwing balls at El Parque del Seguro Social, by that time my father's arm had been throwing too many fireballs, and just like that my father got his arm injured, “smoking ball,” that’s how my Crazy Uncle used to call my dad, my father went from baseball prodigy to a man who gave his childhood and teenage years to the baseball profession, later on he worked for a national television channel commenting the baseball games, Imevisión, that’s the name of the television company, the boss of my father was a man named José Ramón Fernández, a very controversial thinker of Mexican sports, of Spanish descent, as tall as a ten-yold person, for that I had to be punished and baseball was imposed upon me, as a Christic cross charged beforehand on my back, but eventually I found my way out of the King of the Sports, in Mexico old men wearing suits used to call baseball the King of the Sports, some even compare it to chess, for that my father also played chess like a nut head, he used to play against himself with a book in his hand, “I am studying,” he used to say, half smiling, while my mother was yelling at him for spending the afternoons playing against himself, my father even became a professional chess player and got ranked in some specialized chess magazine. Someday we should play chess, it is boring, but I bet that with a Negra Modelo the game gets more interesting. (When I was young like the people who do not give a fuck about being young I used to spend hours a day writing and reading any book around, even stuff like writings by Karl Popper or Melvin DeFleur or Giovanni Sartori or Algebra by A. Baldor or the biographies of Rocky Marciano or Johnny Unitas. I was always reading Nietzsche, I used to read Nietzsche on the subway, pure performance; on Sundays, some nights I traveled the whole green line, from Universidad to Indios Verdes, roundtrip, while reading and writing in a tiny notebook with a Bic pen. In Acapulco I enchanted a few girls and even a guy (potential fan) with the poems written in that notebook. I disintegrated that notebook by submerging it in water. No Surprises is a better first song. Once I got along with a Canadian girl due to a poem in French by Henri Michaux that I copied on my notebook, when she asked me “did you write this?,” I replied “do you think it's good?" Ha. Mexico City is a great place, it takes years to understand its rhythms and smells. I have been in more than forty different nations, and my brother, my only brother, has never left Mexico neither once, he says that he was born and still lives in Mexico City, “why would I have to go to places like Paris or San Francisco? You already went and came back saying that Paris and his people suck and that San Francisco does not even have a real subway.









viernes, 7 de agosto de 2015

THE COLOMBIAN GIRL FROM "LA NARVARTE” by Catalina Ruiz-Navarro (my translation)

Last weekend there was a brutal multi-murder in Mexico City. It happened in a district known as “La Narvarte,” a quiet, middle-class neighborhood. There were five victims: a man (who was found dressed) and four women, all naked, tortured and rapped. 

All of them got a mercy killing shot in the head. The five people from La Narvarte were, people say, 1) the photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, who came to Mexico City self-exiled because he was threatened to be killed in the state of Veracruz, where he resided since 2009. The governor of Veracruz (Javier Duarte) has created a very hostile and dangerous environment against journalism: so far, since he came into power (in 2010), it has been “officially” recorded that 37 journalist have been murdered and 37 have gone into exile. 2) Nadia Vera, an anthropologist, a cultural promoter and humans rights activist from Chiapas but graduated from the Universidad Veracruzana. Nadia was also threatened, to such point that she said in an interview that if something happened to her, she wanted to blame the despicable governor of Veracruz in advance. 3) Yesenia Quiroz, a young make-up artist, whose family (originally from Michoacán) lives in Mexicali; she had recently arrived to Mexico City straight from Mexicali. 4) “Alejandra,” a forty-year-old and “divorced” woman, who apparently worked as a housemaid, and whose last name has not been released to the press yet. And 5) “Simone” or “Nicole” (the Attorney General's Office has not been very clear about her, arguing that no one knew her last name in the building where her body was found), a 29 year-old Colombian girl, a “model and personal assistant,” at first assumed as the owner of the Mustang in which apparently the killers escaped (although the registration doesn’t have her name, also according to the Attorney General's Office). The Mexican press is suspiciously pointing at the statement released by the Attorney General’s Office: “despite not having a job, she was the owner of the Mustang, contributed to the expenses and owned a few jewelry and gold,” which, in other words, means that she was a whore (“like all the Colombian girls”).

This case is paradigmatic and disturbing for many reasons. Because Mexico City is no longer the safe refuge where threatened journalist once used to find peace. Also because, at first, the crime was reported as the murder of Rubén Espinosa and four other victims, whose names have been released slowly during the last days. Why at the beginning only Espinosa was mentioned? For two reasons: because authorities (and the press) tend to make FEMINICIDES invisible by not mentioning the names of the victims. And because the journalist, Rubén Espinosa, had solidarity and social networks in Mexico City that became aware of his absence. But why these women did not have this sort of networks? The answer is quite sad: because besides being women, they belonged to the most vulnerable social groups. The multiple homicide of La Narvarte perfectly exemplifies (and also makes us aware of) the great vulnerability suffered by women, journalists, activists, immigrants, domestic workers and sexual workers. This is a very clear message to those social groups: There’s no place where they can feel safe. I should also mention that all the stereotypes divulged by the press and media about these groups make easier that these crimes are eventually forgotten with impunity. Neither being a prostitute, nor consuming drugs, nor doing activism, nor criticizing the Government, nor “not spending our time picking up coffee beans” are justifications for rapping, torturing and murdering. 

Based on the public information, all “the evidence” points at the fact that the Colombian girl will be the scapegoat of this atrocious crime. Soon, people will say that it was “due to drugs”. However, if the authorities point at Rubén Espinosa and Nadia Vera as the main victims, this will become a clear attack against freedom of expression, and will eventually have a very high political cost, mostly because people won’t be able to say that the Colombian girl was murdered for “being a prostitute and a drug dealer.” In fact, the words “Colombian girl” are being often used as an euphemism for prostitute. Do you remember when Colombia felt terribly offended “as a country” when a Chilean comedian called Colombian women “whores”? Well, this crime is not a comedy sketch: a “Colombian girl” has been brutally murdered, stigmatized for being Colombian and discarded only for being an immigrant. No one will feel terribly offended for this crime? This is the time to feel indignation, to reject impunity, to demand our rights and, of course, to shout for the respect of the Colombian prostitutes.



Related articles:
-“Sex Tourism Drives Underage Prostitution Boom in Cartagena, Colombia” by Meredith Hoffman

-“Prostitution in Colombia” 







miércoles, 13 de mayo de 2015

WHAT IS BEHIND A BRAIN THAT DOES NOT READ? by Juan Tallón

I’ve been wondering for years about the brain of someone who doesn’t read. What encourages such a brain to think through time and carry on 24 hours a day, for a whole existence? How are the walls inside this brain? How does it feed itself? Once I heard Fernando Savater saying that the brain of a person that doesn’t read, or barely reads, must probably look like an “empty attic,” in which slowly and silently a thick and dying dust takes over like a complete darkness.
            There is a letter from Kafka to Max Brod in which The Metamorphosis’ author punches the subject harder and better, he says <<If the book that we are reading doesn’t shake our heads with a shove, why do we bother to read it? We need books that affect our lives as a catastrophe would do, books hurting deep and hard, like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, books that make us feel exiled in a forest far from everyone, like suicide. A book should be the axe to face the frozen sea throbbing inside ourselves.>> Kafka, like Savater many years later, thinks about a brain that doesn’t read as a cold place, inhospitable, illuminated by a dull light.
            But, what if it isn’t that way? Often times we are tempted to think that the real damaged and absented brain is precisely the one that reads. After all, I don’t know people whose brains remain very tranquil, in peace, after reading a good book. There’s something so-called “curiosity” in these brains causing continuous tribulations; these kind of people are unable to sleep well without a book at hand. People that live establishing quotidian contact with literature accumulate anxieties, vital holes, broken nights, unknown questions… Sooner or later these people are unsure about everything, holding on to doubts and constantly facing a personal ostracism that forces them to move on to another book, and this  takes place day by day. This movement becomes perpetual, and the reader remains for life defeated in front of himself, because books are, in a sense, very powerful enemies.
            In April of 2000, during his last trip to Chile, Roberto Bolaño confessed to a journalist from The Latest News that <<writers are good for nothing. Literature is useless. Literature is only useful to literature itself.>> And Bolaño concluded by saying that <<for me that is enough.>> In his theory, a person decides to become a writer <<in an instant of total insanity,>> and one good day what that person wrote ends in front of someone reading also in a gesture of total insanity. Literature, said the author of 2666 in a different interview, grows over collisions and disasters. And only in that place Literature is happy, surrounded by its own sickness, which happens to provide to some kind of people a lot of company. Nothing is more uncomfortable for people that read than the “apparent” comfort that the person that never reads conveys.
           The place of readers is one lacking comfort, the gale, the feeling of inner disorder. The popular Spanish writer Iñaki Uriarte tells in his diaries that he has a friend that reads, of the kind that read to feel sick and pessimistic, and that always arrive late to the appointments. Uriarte recalls that once he waited for his friend one hour and a half, and when he finally showed up, he justify his tardiness arguing that <<Kafka always arrived late to his appointments.>> Uriarte reproached him that he had just invented that citation, that it wasn’t true, but then his friend replied that <<Faulkner was also a great liar.>> Perhaps reading is useful to establish this kind of dialogues. Dialogues that are ephemeral but dazzling.     




Here you can find the original text in Spanish: 
 http://descartemoselrevolver.com/2015/05/09/que-hay-en-una-cabeza-que-no-lee/
translated from the original in Spanish by Francisco Laguna-Correa





miércoles, 22 de abril de 2015

ORPHANAGE by Inés Arredondo (Mexico)

I believed that everything was this dream: on a hard bed, covered with a gleaming white sheet, I was a small girl with arms amputated at the elbows and legs cut above the knees, dressed in a tiny bathrobe that left the four stumps uncovered.
      I was in a room that looked a lot like a poor doctor’s office, with antiquated glass cabinets. I knew that we were by the side of a road in the United States where all the world, sooner or later, had to pass by. And I say "we were” because next to the bed, showing me his profile, there was a young doctor, joyful, perfectly shaved, and clean. He was waiting.
     The relatives of my mother entered the doctor’s office: tall, beautiful, and the room was suddenly crowded with sunlight and noise. The doctor explained to them:
     -Yes, it’s her. Her parents had an accident near this road and both died, but I was able to save her. That’s why I posted the sign, so that you might stop and see her.
     A very white woman (that immediately reminded me of my mother) touched my cheeks.
     -She is so pretty!
     -Look at her eyes!
     -And she has curly, blonde hair!
   My heart throbbed with joy. They were talking about our facial similarities, and in all the excitement and praise, no one mentioned anything about my mutilations. They were now debating my future: I was indeed one of them.
   But for some mysterious reason, laughing and rambling, they joyfully left the doctor’s office and did not look back at all.

The relatives of my father came later. I closed my eyes. The doctor repeated the same speech that he gave to my mother’s relatives.
     -Why did you save that?
     -This is frankly inhuman.
     -No, a freak always possesses something surprising and, in certain ways, also something funny.
    Someone strong, short in height, held me by the armpits and shook me like a rattle.
      -You’ll see that we can do something else with her.
      And put me on a sort of rail suspended between two brackets.
      -One, two, one, two.
     He was positioning, one at a time, my leg trunks on the rail as if I were a tightrope walker, holding me by the neck of the bathrobe like a grotesque doll. I shut my eyes until my head hurt. 
      Everyone laughed.
      -Of course we can do something else with her!
      -This is fun!
     And vulgarly laughing they left the room while my eyes were still shut.

When I opened my eyes, I woke up.
     A dreadful silence crowded the dark and cold room. There was neither a doctor nor a room, nor a road. I was here. Why did I dream about the United States? I am in the interior hall of a building. No one walked by nor would ever walk by this place. Perhaps no one had ever walked by before. 
     The four stumps and I, lying on a bed dirty with my excrement.
    My horrible face, totally different from that of my dream: facial features have no definite forms. I know it. I cannot have a face because no one never recognized me nor will they ever.

This story was first published in the short story collection Subterranean River (1979) by |nés Arredondo (México 1928-1989).






-Translated from the Spanish by Francisco Laguna-Correa














sábado, 18 de abril de 2015

(reseña crítica de) EL INFINITO SE ACABA PRONTO de Joseph Avski

EL INFINITO SE ACABA PRONTO
Joseph Avski
Bogotá: Editorial Planeta Colombiana, 2015.
p. 137


El infinito se acaba pronto de Joseph Avski es una novela inquietante. Puede leerse de un solo jalón, como una película que te atrapa y no te suelta hasta el final, o capítulo a capítulo, como un libro de sentencias y aforismos que aluden a la memoria, el infinito, la amistad y la locura. La novela trama capítulo a capítulo las vidas del matemático ruso Georg Cantor y el aspirante a matemático colombiano (una especie de detective salvaje) Marcos Lyons Pupo. Llama la atención que todos los capítulos están encabezados por la letra aleph; de hecho, la novela comienza sin epígrafes y lo primero que encontramos es el aleph, ¿un signo?, que el narrador explica en el último tercio de la novela haciendo referencia al trabajo de Cantor: "También son el infinito más pequeño, al que llamó א, usando la letra aleph que para sus antepasados judíos representaba la unidad de Dios" (p.95). Por supuesto que viene a la mente el famoso cuento de Jorge Luis Borges; sin embargo, aventuro que para el lector que no tiene en la memoria la referencia al alfabeto hebreo o al cuento borgesiano, la letra aleph podría parecer un signo en forma de tache o cruz aviesa que sugiere que el paso está prohibido. Y quizás la idea de que para el desprevenido la letra aleph es un tache que impide el paso, adquiere legitimidad en la medida que al asomarnos a las vidas de Cantor y Marcos sentiremos la misma soledad delirante que acompañó a los personajes de esta novela. Avski practica con intensidad una forma particular de hacer memoria, donde la objetividad es una forma de indiferencia afectiva, puesto que el narrador, cuyo nombre es "Avski" a secas, nos lleva por los meandros pedregosos de las vidas de Georg Cantor y Marcos Lyons Pupo sin hablar mucho de sí mismo ni llegar a sentir pena por el deterioro emocional y psicológico de Marcos, del que es testigo directo.

(Quisiera hacer una breve digresión con respecto al nombre del narrador de la novela, que se asume es el mismo autor de carne y hueso, inmortalizado ad infinitum en su El infinito se acaba pronto. Esto lo traigo a colación por cuestiones de género. En Estados Unidos hay una distinción tajante entre lo que llaman "literary fiction" y "literary non-fiction" o auto-novela. Se arguye que las técnicas escriturales y los métodos para enfocar el objeto diegético son distintos para cada género. En Latinoamérica y Europa, creo, esta distinción no es funcional e incluso puede parecer espuria. Me vienen a la mente varias novelas publicadas desde la segunda mitad del siglo XX donde la experiencia "real" de sus autores es pábulo diegético e incluso diégesis pura. Me refiero, entre muchísimas que ahora olvido o ignoro que existen, Mars de Fritz Zorn (seudónimo), Vidas minúsculas de Pierre Michon, El libro de mi madre de Albert Cohen,  Austerlitz de WG Sebald, Canción de tumba de Julián Herbert, varias de Roberto Bolaño, American Visa de Marcelo Rioseco, etcétera. Todas estas novelas las leí, pese a su contenido histórico de realidad, como ficción, puesto que lo novelado es un guiño hacia la realidad, pero no la realidad en sí. En El infinito se acaba pronto, este guiño se reproduce en mise-en-abyme: Joseph Avski es el pen name o seudónimo del colombiano de Montería "José Palacios", quien en la novela de su vida decidió suplantarse a sí mismo con el "Joseph Avski" autor y personaje de ficción. Y, como sabemos, algo o mucho de Quijotesco hay detrás de esta suplantación nominal). 

El infinito se acaba pronto es también un diálogo con reflejos intertextuales. Tras la letra aleph con que comienza la novela, el primer capítulo comprende un solo párrafo con varias citas del Génesis que hacen referencia a la quimera de la Torre de Babel. Esta referencia bíblica no la recupera el autor a lo largo de la novela de forma explícita. No creo que esto haya sido un descuido, me parece que es una treta literaria en la que el primer capítulo se inscribe también como el epígrafe inaugural de la novela. Comenzar con la letra א es imprescindible para Avski, me parece, con el fin de inscribir las historias de Cantor y Marcos como parte de un entramado infinito de historias, que como se dirá más adelante: "No importa qué tan inmenso sea un infinito siempre hay otro más ridículo, se suceden sin límite, uno más grande que el anterior, todos inconmensurables, neciamente incomprensibles para la limitación humana" (p.79). Quizás la memoria tiene una relación analógica con el infinito. Memoria, en un sentido histórico, sugiere una o varias historias que no figuran en los archivos historiográficos, de ahí que Enzo Traverso y Susan Sontag, entre otros, hayan ofuscado la idea de la recuperación de la memoria como una forma de hacer crítica historiográfica. Nuestra memoria vital e histórica puede fungir como un archivo de donde extraer evidencias para contrapuntear los discursos históricos que pretenden instaurarse como verdades absolutas. Esta novela de Joseph Avski echa mano de los archivos de la memoria para delinear los temblores vitales de Georg Cantor a través del desplome emocional de Marcos Lyons Pupo.

Parafraseando el prólogo que Octavio Paz escribió a la obra de teatro de Luis Cernuda, La familia interrumpida, El infinito se acaba pronto establece una tensión constante entre "la memoria y el olvido". Después del primer capítulo epigráfico que hace referencia a la Torre de Babel, la novela, me parece, arranca en el segundo capítulo, justamente con un recuerdo en el que se menciona al novelista colombiano más universal: "Al entrar al corredor recordé un cuento de García Márquez en el que una mujer ingresa a un manicomio..." (p.9). Este me parece un recurso de viveza en el que Avski hace un guiño a la tradiciones literarias colombiana y latinoamericana. Si recordamos la famosa frase inaugural de Cien años de soledad, "Estaba el coronel Aureliano Buendía frente al pelotón de fusilamiento cuando recordó...", podemos notar que en una frase Avski inserta las historias que nos va a contar dentro del infinito literario narrativo y al mismo tiempo fortalece la voz autorial en primera persona, cuyo sustento es la experiencia y el conocimiento directo de lo que nos contará. 

Y así ocurre. Avski halla de manera accidental, o casual, a Marcos en un manicomio de Montería, ciudad natal de ambos, cuando buscaba algo relacionado con el poeta Raúl Gómez Jattin, quien, imagino, con toda la ignorancia que poseo en torno a Gómez Jattin, una vez estuvo recluido en ese manicomio. De esta forma, la investigación extraliteraria o la curiosidad personal se convierte, en el caso de Avski, en la chispa que enciende la mecha de su propia memoria. Es así como llegamos a conocer a Marcos Lyons Pupo, a quien Avski el personaje maltrata a lo largo de la novela como si fuera un perdedor de la vida, un sin nada, un pendejo total, un loquito mitómano, megalómano, niño prodigio de pueblo, incoherente, fallido remedo de matemático, que una vez estudió matemáticas en la Universidad de Antioquia sin llegar a licenciarse. Del encuentro fortuito entre Avski y Marcos renace al final del primer capítulo, a través de otro recuerdo, la memoria del matemático Georg Cantor: "Recordé que Borges argumenta que todos los hombres somos en realidad uno, que nuestro destino es singular; y pensé que por lo menos en ese universo el loquito de la mugrosa bata blanca sentado frente a mí, era también Georg Cantor, el gran matemático del infinito". Esta alusión a Borges me parece crucial para comprender la indiferencia y el maltrato que Avski el personaje prodiga a Marcos el loquito. Después de este capítulo, habrá una alternancia casi perfecta (salvo al final de la novela cuando dos capítulos consecutivos hablan sobre Marcos) de capítulos que destejen las obsesiones intelectuales y espirituales de Georg Cantor y Marcos Lyons Pupo.

Este entramado de alternancias nos presenta, por una parte, a un Georg Cantor que escucha una Voz, quizás celestial o quizás diabólica, que lo empuja a buscar el infinito en los números hasta su muerte en 1918. Por otra parte, nos presenta los incontables fracasos de toda índole del indeseable Marcos, a quien el narrador le desea al final de la novela "suicidio". En esta alternancia, el narrador esboza a Cantor como un portento intelectual de perseverancia, mientras que a Marcos como un fracasado que falsifica su título universitario (de la Universidad de Gottingen) para dar clases en una escuela primaria, de donde es despedido cuando se enteran que no habla ni gota de alemán. Sin embargo, recordemos una vez más a Borges a través del narrador: "Todos los hombres son un solo hombre". La locura genial de Cantor es también la locura opaca y lastimera de Marcos. Cantor fracasó en su proyecto inmenso y vital de probar la Hipótesis del Continuo; Marcos, por su cuenta, fracasó en su proyecto vital de licenciarse en matemáticas con una tesis sobre Cantor. Pero no olvidemos que "No importa qué tan inmenso sea un infinito siempre hay otro más ridículo". Acaso, a lo largo de la novela, me parece que Avski, al denostarla y ridiculizarla, enmarca la vida de Marcos en una inmensidad más humana y compleja: la inmensidad del fracaso del idealista latinoamericano, porque el fracaso de Marcos, como lo narra Avski, es contundente y feroz.

El infinito se acaba pronto es una novela que en su brevedad contiene el maleficio de la trascendencia. Es una novela que debe leerse. Donde habla una generación colombiana, y me atrevo a decir que también latinoamericana, cuyo fracaso político y económico fue tan fuerte y profundo como sus ideales rotos sin un sentido preciso del futuro y la duración de la juventud. El lector hallará en esta novela una voz sabia, que como Marcos Lyons Pupo y Georg Cantor, aspira a su lugar en la inmensidad delirante del infinito.















miércoles, 8 de abril de 2015

THE BLACK CRITTER by Mario Levrero (Uruguay)



I OPENED THE DOOR OF THE APARTMENT to head out, and a black and hairy critter snuck rapidly inside; too big for a spider, I thought. It had to be a small dog, a little puppy. I closed the door and started to search for it; it had already hidden. For a while I couldn't find it. Finally, when I moved a couch, it ran like a bullet and hid again. I armed myself with patience and kept looking around, but I got tired of searching. So I left the apartment because I had to go out. When I came back, two hours later, the critter was still hiding. I put a bowl in the floor of the kitchen and poured a little milk in it. I sat on one of the living room couches and stayed still, waiting. From there I was able to see the door of the kitchen and the plate on the floor. It is sure to show up at some point, I was thinking.

And it did show up, much later, moving with caution; it came from the hallway that connects to the bedroom. It entered the kitchen but didn’t care for the plate of milk. It moved fast and with great lightness, almost as if it was floating, exploring the kitchen, which it evidently couldn’t have explored while I was gone because the door had stayed closed. Then it came out from the kitchen and, from its position near the door, glared at me. I say that it was glaring at me, but I don’t know how it did it, it was so hairy that its eyes were not visible. It looked to me as if it didn’t have eyes. Nor did I see its legs; it seemed as if it was just a ball of dough covered with black hairs. 

When I went to bed, I closed the door so that it didn’t sneak inside. I never close that door because I like to feel the air circulating in the bedroom, and with the door shut I feel something akin to asphyxiation, even though a random current of air always enters through the window joints. When I woke up the next day, the critter was on the bed, at the foot of the bed; it was rolled up on top of the blanket. I thought that I was going to catch it while it was sleeping, and I wondered what I was going to do with it when I caught it. But as soon as I moved, it moved too, and it slid rapidly under the door. It is a wooden door, not made of metal like the one in the kitchen, and there's almost a finger of light between the floor and the bottom of the door. So I understood that it wasn’t a dog. It was just hair. I proved that later to myself, looking at it against the light while it was moving on a windowsill; there wasn’t a proper body, or legs, or eyes. It didn’t eat or drink either. And I don’t know if it used to sleep, or if by night it simply got comfortable by the foot of the bed searching for company. It didn’t even look for warmth, because it used to stay far from my body.  

It never stung me, nor bit me, nor inflicted any harm upon me; but we didn’t become friends, either. Every time I tried to get close, it would move fast to get out of my reach. After a few attempts, I stopped trying. It will come to me itself, I thought, but it never came. 

During the couple of years that the critter stayed at my house, no one else saw it; not even the worker, who used to come twice a week, during one of her thorough cleaning sessions. I don’t know where it used to hide. The people that came over never felt its existence, and neither did the women that occasionally stayed for the night; those nights the critter didn’t show up in the bedroom. And the next day it didn’t show any signs of  resentment, nor had it changed in any way its quotidian behavior. 

One summer afternoon it was resting on the biggest windowsill of the living room, its favorite place. The other windows were also open, on account of the heat. There was a sudden gust of wind that fed a strong current of air into the apartment, and the critter was blown away; it navigated over the roofs, going away, and then it would slowly descend, and another gust of wind would push it up again, making it change its direction.

I followed it with my eyes until I stopped seeing it. 








Translated from the Spanish by Francisco Laguna-Correa