12.07.2016

Hamburgo, 6 de febrero de 1930 / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Hamburg, February 6th, 1930

Mr. Luis Yépez, General Consul of Venezuela.
Geneva. Rue du Rhône, 39.

Dear Luis:

     The Tropical Institute has released me and declares the illness has been perfectly cured. They’re recommending I go to a sanatorium in Merano and once I get there I’ll write you.
     It was several days ago I sent you those 318 francs again that were needed to smooth out the matter of the consulate’s office. I used a more explicit address.
     The nervous disorders, my desperation, haven’t ceased yet. They’re very singular and they completely disconcert me. The insomnia continues to be horrible.
     If these phenomena don’t disappear, I will have fallen into the deepest disgrace. I would lose my mental faculties.
     I’ve only received a single check so far. You shouldn’t pay me in Hamburg anymore. I’ll be leaving this city tomorrow or the day after.
     I’m sorry about any inconveniences I might cause you.
     I uncover myself to your wife and I hug and kiss the little ones.
     I am your most affectionate,
                                                            JOSÉ ANTONIO



Los Aires del Presagio, ed. Rafael Ángel Insausti (Caracas: Colección Rescate, 1960)




{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, edición de José Ramón Medina, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

12.01.2016

Caracas-Hamburgo, 7 de enero de 1930. / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Caracas-Hamburg, January 7th, 1930.

Mr. José Nucete Sardi.
Caracas.

My dear Nucete:

Send me your book again. The one you gave me must have been left behind at the Ministry, when it was time for me to travel. From here it must have gone to a used book store. That’s what I suspect.
     Send me your book to the General Consulate of Venezuela, home of the incomparable Rafael Paredes. I’ve remembered you quite a bit with him.
     I’m now at the Mühlens clinic and I hope to cure my intestine, author of my collapse. The insomnia, of an unusual tenacity, threatens my mental faculties.
     Say thank you for me to Pedro Sotillo for his generous notes on my work and tell him he’s mistaken when he qualifies me as a misogynist. I am a brother to every woman and no one can accuse me of being negligent in their service, much less cruel. The aphorisms I wrote are shots in the air.
     I’ll write everyone at least once. Now I’m trying to resist the treatment. The nervous system is a wreck.
     Take care of yourself and accept the friendship of
                                                                                     JOSÉ ANTONIO RAMOS SUCRE
     How’s the little girl?




Los Aires del Presagio, ed. Rafael Ángel Insausti, 2nda ed. (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1976)




{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, edición de José Ramón Medina, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

11.30.2016

Hamburgo, 5 de enero de 1930 / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Hamburg, January 5th, 1930

Mr. César Zumeta, Minister of Venezuela.
Paris.

Don César:

I will begin by telling you the don is well donated and that my last name doesn’t lend itself to spiritual word play. It’s worth repeating I’ve professed an invariable sympathy towards you since my childhood and no cause will keep me from cultivating it. I feel honored to have a superior of your qualities.
     The General Consulate of Venezuela here gave me a letter from you and I’m now responding with these inarticulate lines. I beg your understanding for a person afflicted by agonizing insomnias, direct enemies of my mental faculties. It seems a tropical parasite has precipitated this ruin —and I inherit the insomnia and have suffered it for the past eight years.
     I protest that my illness won’t stop me from satisfying my superiors.
     During the insomnia last night I examined a short novel by Goethe, an episode inserted in Wilhelm Meister, and whose name is Bekenntnisse einer Schönen Seele. If you were here, we could admire together that poet’s ability to describe the scruples of a nostalgic soul, agitated by theological restlessness. No critic of Goethe has ever mentioned that brief moment in Wilhelm Meister. At least, I don’t know of any reference from any commentator. Here Goethe differs from the pantheist and the naturalist.
     In conclusion, I promise to go to Paris and give you a hug.
                                                                                     JOSÉ ANTONIO RAMOS SUCRE




Los Aires del Presagio, ed. Rafael Ángel Insausti, 2nda ed. (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1976)




{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, edición de José Ramón Medina, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

11.29.2016

Hamburgo, 29-12-29. / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Hamburg, 12-29-29.

HOTEL ESPLANADE
HAMBURG, 36

Mr. Luis Yépez, General Consul of Venezuela.
Geneva, Rue du Rhône, 39.

My dear Luis:

I’ll start by telling you I’ve kept my promise and have sent you my last two books. I warn you Dr. Hurtado and I have spoken affectionately about you each night of our interview at the Hotel Bellevue. Such harmony between you two makes me happy. I waited for you until the 27th, the day of my precipitated departure for Germany. I should actually call it an escape. I really need to talk to you.
     I beg you keep the actual office for the consulate on Rue du Rhône. I’m willing to ratify whatever diligence you carry out with that goal in mind, for as long as I’m in Hamburg. Celebrate me a humanitarian contract. I’m at the service of Mr. Dunand and I can write whatever letter he might require, as long as you approve it.
     I bow to your lady and caress your children. I hope to enter the Mühlens clinic, tropical institute. I’ll write you once I’m there.

                                                                                     JOSÉ ANTONIO RAMOS SUCRE




Los Aires del Presagio, ed. Rafael Ángel Insausti (Caracas: Colección Rescate, 1960)




{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, edición de José Ramón Medina, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

11.24.2016

Merano, 25 de febrero de 1930 / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Merano, February 25th, 1930

My dear Luis,

     I’m inconsolable about your return to America and your demotion. I want to know the exact day you leave Geneva.I need to see you for a few days to talk about a thousand matters and about the administration of my consulate. I also want you to find me or point out a decent room with no noise and no cold, because my disease is exasperated by both phenomena.
     I’m going to find myself very alone in Switzerland when you’re gone. I possess the habit of suffering, but I’m exhausted by the inner life of the ascetic, of the sick person, of the abnormal. Leopardi is my equal. You would have been of great service and our friendship is fraternal.
     I will write Itriago about you telling him a thousand wonders.
     For now, I won’t send anything to Caracas with you.
     I bow to your wife and hug and kiss the children.
     I am your addict,

José Antonio




{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra poética, Edición crítica de Alba Rosa Hernández Bossio, Madrid: Colección Archivos, 2001 }

11.22.2016

Merano. [Febrero, 1930] / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Merano. [February, 1930]*

Mister Luis Yépez, General Consul of Venezuela.
Geneva. Rue du Rhône, 39.

Dear Luis:

     I’m here in Merano at your command. I arrived the day before yesterday via Munich and I’m living in the Stephanie sanatorium. I hope to see what path this horrible disease takes. The doctors in Hamburg, among them a specialist in nervous illnesses, examined me from head to toe and can only find a deep debility. The director of the sanatorium here says the same thing.
     I feel as though I’m gravely wounded. I can spend hours at a time in bed without any movement and without trying to get up. I warn you there’s nothing pleasant about the feeling of debility. I expect this whole process will lead me to consumption.
     I’ve discovered a vestige of Goethe here, the street with his name, and I’ve added this find to the memory of Manuel Díaz Rodríguez, who once talked to me about the ethnic composition of the Tyrol. Many Slavs. The German poet must have lived here on his way to Italy. I don’t have the means of verifying this conjecture. I precisely remember his stay in Trento, where he discovered only a single distinguished building: a palace attributed to the devil, that he’d built in a single night.
     I’m sorry that my absence is prolonged and tell Blanco that I’m not in Hamburg. I’d like to spend at least a month here. I count on your generosity. I have a few cents left from the monthly pay you sent me.
     My apologies to Zumeta and Hurtado Machado. The treatment doesn’t let me write them. I don’t have time.
     I uncover myself to your wife and I hug and kiss your children.
     Send me.

J.A.R.S.




*Luis Yépez gave seven letters from Ramos Sucre to Rafael Ángel Insausti for their transcription and publication in the anthology Los aires del presagio (1960). This one wasn’t dated, but Ramos Sucre left for Merano during the first week in February, after the 5th; which means it must have been written during the second week of the month. All the letters to Luis Yépez were handwritten and signed, the first one “José Antonio Ramos Sucre,” but the following ones just “José Antonio” or “J.A.R.S.”




{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra poética, Edición crítica de Alba Rosa Hernández Bossio, Madrid: Colección Archivos, 2001 }

11.21.2016

Cuentas claras / Rafael Cadenas

Clean Slate

Everything I wrote,
clumsy or acceptable,
belongs to me.
Actually, it belongs to many.

And I should
also accept
everything I did,
I should welcome it,
situate its place,
with no judgment.

Finally
what I didn’t do,
the reverse that completes me
sadly
urging me to lower my voice.




{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }

11.20.2016

Hoy / Rafael Cadenas

Today

Do people
still talk
about the poem?

It’s barely
even written.

There are
so many
collapses
and then,
then
a desire
for articulation.




{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }

11.18.2016

Colonia / Rafael Cadenas

Colonia

These foreigners
made light wooden houses,
they clung to the mountainous hills,
seeming to hide in them
and barely touched the forest,
penetrated
and let it blanket them.
They only took what they needed,
so today the town
melts into the mountain that seems
interrupted by houses.
This is called clean work
without harming the earth, but instead
becoming its friend.
We didn’t learn that simple art
or what this place is trying to tell us.
What understanding expands
like fragrant news
across these valleys.




{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }

11.15.2016

El otro exilio / Rafael Cadenas

The Other Exile

The words we speak
glow from within
from a clearing that floods them,
though we’re not there, but
in the outskirts where we live
like pariahs from being.




{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }

11.14.2016

Sin canon / Rafael Cadenas

With No Canon

You live
by letting yourself go.
You’ve given up so much ground
that you don’t feel yourself.
You rummage through yesterday
for your old design
and can’t recover it
and wouldn’t change it for the now
where you take root
foreignly.




{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }

11.06.2016

«La mirada» de Guillermo Sucre / Néstor Mendoza

Guillermo Sucre’s La mirada

                    [Image: María Núñez, from a portrait of G. Sucre by Lisbeth Salas]


There’s an alarming level of omission when it comes to the poetry of Guillermo Sucre. His poetic oeuvre, like that of many Venezuelan poets of his generation, isn’t found in any bookstores. Only in select personal libraries could we, maybe, read him. The level of obscurity is such that, many people might believe in a probable fallacy, especially if we thing of international readers: Sucre’s poetry doesn’t exist, and thus, neither does the poet. That’s how, without intending to, he’s moved since the early 1960s when he published his first book of poems: Mientras suceden los días (1961). His facet as a literary critic, his most well-known and celebrated, has been reinforced by the recent republication of La máscara, la transparencia (Caracas: El Estilete, 2016). Finally, the readers who had been wanting to read him and hadn’t been able to find the Monte Ávila Editores (1975) and Fondo de Cultura Económica (1985) editions were satisfied.

With Sucre we find evidence of how the Venezuelan reader tends to approach his favorite authors. We read those authors aslant and in fragments. We feed a monster with odds and ends (with anthologies, if we’re lucky), but our hunger remains intact. That’s why we seek out certain used book stores, as if discovering some millenary manuscript, old folios of incalculable philological value. This happened to me, for example, with La mirada (Caracas: Editorial Tiempo Nuevo, 1970), the second book of poems by our poet born in Tumeremo (land of infamy today and horrendous disappearances).

                    [Photographs by Samoel González Montaño]

The poems that make up this book were written starting in 1962, and they close in 1969. We notice this in the sections Sucre has established: “In the depths of summer, 1962,” “Figuration and act, 1963, 65,” “Mutations, 1966, 68” and “The glance, 1969.”

La mirada revolves around light. It is light. Guillermo Sucre becomes obsessed with illumination and his habitat is the daily gleam or darkness illuminated by electric light. The edges, in that sense, are dimmed in those blazes, those flashes the poet leaves behind with premeditation. The person speaking to us in the poems could be an insect (a hornet) fascinated by a light bulb (a lamp), that seeks and clings to the hot and shiny crystal surface, not caring that its feet might burn to a crisp. What’s the reason for that obsessive search for whiteness?

What’s important (for that insect) is to possess and be in that light, whatever it might cost. If we turn it off, if a tangible or metaphysical hand shifts suddenly and turns it off, the insect moves away, clumsily, toward somewhere else in the room. In its dumb flight, confused and erratic, it stumbles into everything in its path. It doesn’t want (isn’t interested in) the night. Its insect eyes are made for those big emanations, for “midday’s piercing hour” and for “The ruins of dawn.” Poetry for the summer, for the desert to be more precise, that waits vehemently for a light to dictate its own patterns and rhythms. The sun appears even at night.


Metapoetry, theorization within the poem itself, is another visible recourse: “The possibility of being naked in the poem; in the proliferation, in the variety of the poem.” La mirada is a poetics: Sucre observes with a maximized and selective vision: “Where others don’t see / is where the glance I am stops.” In other words, the poet stops in places that aren’t usually seen. I’m not only talking about unexpected places, but also those spaces that, because they’re so close, are easily omitted.

Sucre’s poems alternate ideas and images. Or the ideas are covered over by images (“The vine of knowledge”). The landscape of La mirada isn’t tropical: it’s located in territories that have four seasons, not in this Venezuelan earth that knows only sun and sudden rain. That’s made explicit in several instances of the book: “tall, golden fig tree in that island’s summer;” “We were in autumn;” “We starred in an unknown spring.”


There’s an explicit influence from French poetry in Guillermo Sucre: epigraphs from Mallarmé, Pierre Jean Jouve and Pierre de Place guide the transit of several of these poems; from this last author, Sucre translated “Image of Elohim,” included in the book Tierra prometida (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1969), whose original title was Terre interdite. What form does that influence take? In the associative freedom and the pleasure in the potentialities of the image: language as a discursive axis and as a theme, as he expresses it in the verse: “The poem whose only theme is the glance.”

La mirada is oblique, intermittent, although lucid and hallucinatory at the same time. Sucre experiments with the recourse of sound and semantic games (“Aire olivo entre olivares,” “ave de la ávida soledad del espacio,” “grávida ingrávida”). This book, it seems, leans toward certain searches for a writerly consciousness. A book to be captured, more than felt.




{ Néstor Mendoza, Letra Muerta, 3 November 2016 }

11.02.2016

Madrugada / Armando Rojas Guardia

Dawn

Papers. Books and folders
stalking. Notebooks and folios, rigorous.
Just over there, the pieces
where collected knowledge
sleeps away its useless vanity.
Indifferent and stubborn, the walls
delimit insomnia, this vigil
that measures the silence of the doors,
calibrates the room’s geometry,
feels the exactitude of the window.
Fixed clock. If I open the closet
I’ll find my clothes shivering. In the drawers
the secret opens its lips.
The mirror returns a dumb anecdote:
me writing these lines.
                                         I know I’m looking for
your smell in the words: it’s your body
that breathes in the letters of desire.
But it’s pointless. Today you’re only named by eviction
and here in this shipwrecked room I practice
the autopsy of remembrance.





{ Armando Rojas Guardia, Yo que supe de la vieja herida, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1985 }

11.01.2016

¿Poesía? / Armando Rojas Guardia

Poetry?

I speak (pompous, satisfied poem).

But next door
their radios also speak
and the commercials
speak
and the AP speaks from the newspaper
and the Minister of Culture
speaks.

We would have to
unspeak (ourselves).

Today is the only function of poetry.




{ Armando Rojas Guardia, Yo que supe de la vieja herida, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1985 }

10.24.2016

Nadie escoge su olvido / Ida Gramcko

No one picks their oblivion

No one picks their oblivion.
What for if their absence
reminds us what once was and the quick nest
keeps the appetite going ceaselessly?
“Come back,” shouts love, and what has been
is a new transparency in its shout.
Immense being immersed in the request
your voice is returned, your confidence,
your secret, your skin, your repeated
faithful spring that doesn’t include lack
but rather a change of place, the transfer
of the site to another sweetness, another potency.
No, I won’t send you back. What is maintained
is still around though its living sequence escapes.
You live here and there, so transcendent...
Love, you’re gone and your presence swarms.
Nothing says: prohibited.
“Come in!” say the doors of absence.


*


Nadie escoge su olvido.
¿Para qué si la ausencia
recuerda lo que fue y el raudo nido
prosigue sin cesar en la apetencia?
¡Vuelve!, grita el amor, y lo que ha sido
es en su grito nueva transparencia.
Inmenso ser inmerso en el pedido
devuelta está tu voz, tu confidencia,
tu secreto, tu piel, tu repetido
fiel hontanar que nunca es la carencia
sino el cambio de sitio, el transferido
sitial a otro dulzor, a otra potencia.
No, devolverte no. Lo mantenido
queda aunque escape su vivaz secuencia.
Vives aquí y allá, tan trascendido…
Amor, no estás y bulle tu presencia.
Nada dice: prohibido.
¡Entrad!, dicen las puertas de la ausencia.




1952




{ Ida Gramcko, Poemas, Caracas: Ediciones Letra Muerta, 2016 }

10.16.2016

Caracol, el hermano / Ida Gramcko

Brother Seashell

Brother seashell,
the same I, more shell. Concise
its form is untarnished and unscratched
so man can suffer a rich soul,
a soul of his own in fleece and in parts,
intimate, immense, always in thirst and full.
That’s how we build a human place,
but as full of him as it is of breeze,
We invent
a stone wall... and so different!
A new wall, strange? Only in its continuous fresh solitude.
Solitude, the solitary again, distance again? What about the caress?
Calm down, my love; our eyes are set on what’s far, touch the long profile, smooth stone
he says by the voice of his vigor: I love you.
The singular form is the infinite one.


*


Caracol, el hermano

Caracol, el hermano,
el mismo yo, mas caracol. Concisa
su forma sigue sin barniz ni estrago
para que el hombre sufra un alma rica,
un alma suya con el vellón y el gajo,
íntima, inmensa, siempre en sed y ahíta.
Así construimos un lugar humano,
pero tan lleno de él como de brisa.
Inventamos
una pared de cal… ¡y tan distinta!
Un muro nuevo, ¿raro? Solo en su fresca soledad continua.
—¿Soledad, otra vez lo solitario, otra vez la distancia? ¿Y la caricia?—
Cálmate, amor; lo nuestro es lo lejano, toca el largo perfil, la piedra lisa
dice por voz de su vigor: yo te amo.
La forma singular es la infinita.




1952




{ Ida Gramcko, Poemas, Caracas: Ediciones Letra Muerta, 2016 }

10.11.2016

Para construir la sola cosa pura / Ida Gramcko

To build the single pure thing

To build the single pure thing
you have to be it and resist inside it.
Be alone with its dark waiting...
The five pines hurt from the star!
Gestating it, and not only in the waist,
womb and will should stop quarreling
so if he says: I bequeath her creature
she responds: if it sparkles
remember the pain’s not enough if it doesn’t
procure something different from its sung trace.


*


Para construir la sola cosa pura

Para construir la sola cosa pura
hay que ser ella y resistir en ella.
Estar a solas con su espera oscura...
¡Los cinco pinos duelen de la estrella!
Gestándola, y no sólo en la cintura,
más vientre y voluntad no hagan querella
que si aquel dice: lego su criatura
aquella le responde: si destella
que no basta el dolor si no procura
algo distinto a su cantada huella.




1952




{ Ida Gramcko, Poemas, Caracas: Ediciones Letra Muerta, 2016 }

10.08.2016

Canoabo / Vicente Gerbasi

Canoabo

The sky has large white chickens
that float over a silence of trees.
In the patios, grey streams of coffee grains fall
and their murmur is the murmur of the afternoon.
There are slow cows on the streets overgrown with weeds,
where naked children gather
around a pineapple preserves vendor,
where an old man flies a red silk kite
with a wide rainbow tail.
It’s true, the rainbow was up in the damp hills yesterday.
The senses were gleaming in the cacao’s purple fruits.
We were staring at the peacocks for a long time.
In them the afternoon begins a solar sadness.




Los espacios cálidos (1952)




{ Vicente Gerbasi, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

10.02.2016

Sentido de la noche / Vicente Gerbasi

Meaning of the Night

The dark silences where the beetles glow,
the warm pupil like rancor where a pine tree burns,
the squirrel’s fear in the middle of the eyes,
a lightning bolt in the fluvial depths of memory,
a moment for me to become a part of the night,
in a pond of stellar insomnia.
The darknesses in the water give me unfinished spaces,
glowing jewels, chandeliers made of nuptial dwellings.

The player wanders around and looks at the spaces:
a tower with its bells in silence,
the king of cups amid the stars,
the horse of swords in darkened hills,
the jack of gold in the pond’s reflections.

The walker covers the tropic’s monotonous year,
the city hidden among its own lights,
listening from the silence of the shadows
to the song of the aquatic birds looking for the rains in the south.




Los espacios cálidos (1952)




{ Vicente Gerbasi, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

9.29.2016

Realidad de la noche / Vicente Gerbasi

Reality of the Night

A bitter almond shadow
I savor amidst the world.
Under my eyelids the night’s fury is locked
and behind the days is the murmur of the sea against the breakwater.
My senses echo in the cranium’s chamber,
in the concave darkness of lightning bugs.
There’s a collapse of the night like carbon
in my left rib,
a water fright.
Shadow of the poisonous bushes, round shiny leaves,
refuge for beggars beneath the fireworks.
Hidden shade behind the windows,
shade of the plains, of the chair, of the lamp.
Shade of the epileptics, of the blind.
Shade of medicine, of clocks, of hats.
Here are my hands playing in the dirt,
mute sustenance, simple conviction of death.
I’m a witness, an exile on crepuscular avenues,
on a Tuesday during Carnival,
with kids that reach my knees.
A foreboding pursues me like a nocturnal mask.
Stars fall on the plains, at the edge of the cities.
The hands that make the bread mold the night.
The lamps illuminate the bread.




Los espacios cálidos (1952)




{ Vicente Gerbasi, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

9.25.2016

Déjame estar / Guillermo Sucre

Let me be


Let me be among those rocks, big sponges hardened at the edge of the sea. The piercing hour of midday pulsing with the spines. It’s not the crown of repose, the wing of repose you sift over your forehead. Happiness is savage now. With the color of our skin we’ve become cruel. Hostile and dominant like the Sun.

Dispossessed. In the penury of our drowsiness we consume, however, the season’s fire. The bird that ferments in the pride of the seas liberates our desire. These waters lick your body, they smudge it. Later on it radiates in the constellations of your dream.

Coin spent in the commerce of the ports; ridiculous metal, burning the hands of the poor; a sound that resonates as crime in the night of the suburbs; curse of heroes and saints:

                                                                                That’s how I say our love shines
                                                                                and devours itself on these coasts.




La mirada (1970)




{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

9.24.2016

El verano sacudía / Guillermo Sucre

The summer shook

The summer shook its cracked scarlet salamander tail.
I said to myself, it’s extermination.
It was the plumed acrimony of the climate, buzzing.
The dry sound of the pines, where the light creaks.
The earth’s intoxication, its fury later disseminated in the afternoons.
The sea that knows its own lethargic humor and then it was shining;
copious idol, profaning with its lasciviousness the most solitary coasts.

We lived thanks to that splendor.




La mirada (1970)




{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

9.18.2016

Te recuerdo, otoño / Guillermo Sucre

I remember You, Autumn

I remember you, autumn, in these leaves overflowing the backyard of the house. For days, the sun dries them out or the rain softens them. They dissolve and return to dirt, without you, autumn, unleashing the whirlwind of your ecstatic light, the imminence of what will sweep everything away. I can’t smell you, autumn, I can’t follow your footsteps, the exile from your ocher and aerial body. I can’t say: now it’s autumn and we face the long test of purification, of dispossession. But I can still love you more. The caobo tree is now even more delicate: from its nakedness I watch a tapestry with small solar spots appear.




La vastedad (1988)




{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

9.11.2016

The Urgent Cause of the Recall Referendum in Venezuela

The following piece of political reflection constitutes a brief recounting of the affronts suffered by Venezuelans in recent years and a claim for the urgent concretion of the recall referendum this very year. Signed by over one hundred people, a group that includes various generations of poets, novelists, essayists, editors, university professors and artists. Besides proposing the start of many necessary discussions, it invites the reader to think of the importance of culture in the country to come.


We Venezuelans, writers, university professors and artists of diverse social tendencies and aesthetic and political positions, dedicated to expressions of sensibility and thought, moved by our frank indignation in the face of the situation in Venezuela today, reject the sectarian, vulgar and arrogant manner in which the current government leads the country’s fate, as a militaristic movement capable of utilizing the possibilities of democracy and invoking popular power only when it’s convenient for them.

Guided by a project of social engineering that equates the current government with the worst authoritarian experiences, it’s not too difficult to conclude —this isn’t just an idea, it’s a suffering that begins in the body— that they only want to install a single and servile “thought” in Venezuelan society; yes, they want to institute by force a society with citizens whose heads are hung low, meek, in submission and conforming to the sharing of the misery they have deliberately orchestrated; a society afflicted by shortages, sick and starving, depressed in all possible senses, deprived of the most elemental goods necessary for the proper development and formation of life itself. All of this for the single goal of perpetuating themselves in power through propaganda in all public media outlets, the most perverse manipulation of consciences, political persecution, coercion, the control of food, systematic harassment, persecution, defamation, calumny, extortion, insults, threats, absolute control of Judicial Powers, along with the blocking of the National Assembly and its functions for legislation, research, interpellation, discussion and control.

It’s no secret for anyone that we’re living through the systematic destruction of the Republic, understood in its most logical sense as a place for co-existence among those who think differently. In recent decades —from 1999 until today, punctually— we’ve witnessed and been victims of political, legal, economic and social measures that seek to repress and suppress the individual, along with all his creative potential, turning him into an acritical, obedient, impoverished mass, sunken in the blind cult of personality around the quarrelsome caudillo Hugo Chávez, the great author of this tragedy that the current president is in charge of prolonging. After destroying the country’s productive sectors, distributing gifts to neighboring countries in exchange for complicity, strategic silences and doctrinaire advisors, do we still need to remind ourselves that Chavismo wasted one of the greatest petroleum booms in our history? Yes, we need to remind ourselves and observe how the consequences are expressed in every detail of daily life. When it comes time to respond to the interpellations, there are no answers, only justifications and aggression. Some functionaries remain silent. Others ask for faith and sacrifice, while they deny any humanitarian aid for the country for the most essential items related to health care and food. Relatedly, others are fired from their jobs for adding their names to the Recall Referendum. What else can we ask for when faced by the daily scenes of people scavenging through trash bags on the streets to find the most minimal amounts of nourishment? Is it possible, by means of some supposedly socialist ideological subterfuge, to ignore the reality of people dying in hospitals for lack of medicine, treatments and medical equipment?

It’s important to remind ourselves that the current government does not follow the very same Constitution it proposed in 1999; undermining by all means the observance of the Recall Referendum for this year; boycotting, prohibiting and repressing all the civic and peaceful protests of Venezuelans (for instance, at the doors of the National Electoral Council); it persecutes, tortures and jails students. It’s no coincidence that it has also been asphyxiating the budgets of the autonomous universities, for the mere fact of not aligning themselves with their unilateral and sectarian position. Now this government intends to hand out bags of food, but it actually wants to know who their opponents are, how many oppose them (what a task!). Isn’t the creation of a “system” that instead of attacking problems multiplies them an alarming aberration? What type of “humanitarian” government brags about handing out small quantities of cornmeal, margarine, milk and sugar? These, among other matters —one of them, the most difficult one, without a doubt, is the use of hunger as an arm of political extortion— make the urgency of the Referendum more pertinent than ever today. What should be a mea culpa, a revision and correction of economic policies, is taken by the government as “revolutionary achievements” and “victories” in their tedious, imaginary battles.

Each one of us, within ourselves, holds a memorial for all the affronts and horrors that Chavismo has perpetrated in recent years. It’s not unreasonable to think these could be turned into a Universal Exhibit. Quotes, photos, videos, statistics, testimonies, speeches, forced government TV and radio transmissions, tortures, taunts. It would be a walking allegory of what we don’t want to be as a country. This exhibit —let the reader assume it as a way of not ever forgetting these years— should have a permanent hall in every country of this region that has been complicit in modeling our disgrace, beginning with the dictatorship of the Castro brothers, who today, contrary to what’s happening here, seem to be seeking another path.

We want to collaborate in the organization of a country with tenacious, creative and hard-working people. For this purpose we think that culture is tied to our current storm and will help us think of the country to come, one that’s more conscious, more tolerant, more social, more political —in the human sense of the word: knowing how to be with others, knowing how to exist amid differences— and in this way being able to defend the right to be free, capable of carrying out our desires and projects, far from the separations, the empty praises of poverty, the excessive cult of personality and the militarization of everyday life. The relationship between citizens and the State should not be based on submission and humiliation, under any government. On the contrary, it must be critical: building, organizing, proposing, creating, expanding instead of profaning, pulverizing, expropriating, kidnapping, manipulating, blackmailing.

With a deliberative spirit, freedom and the desire for a better, more just, more egalitarian life, we demand immediately a more just and plural country, whose institutions and civic life —sustained with the base of a robust democracy— are capable of being in tune with the most immediate popular demands, as well as resolving the intense social, economic and cultural conflicts that assault our daily lives at this very moment.

Culture —literature, poetry, visual arts, theater, dance, traditional popular culture, memory; in sum, independent thought, ideas, sensibility and creativity— can’t continue to be an adornment in Venezuelan social life, nor much less an instrument of domination for the established classes in the very complacent and comfortable Chavista cultural power.

The most noble function of culture —among others— is to interpolate, to interpret, to question. It implies a group of identities and visions of the world that, far from disturbing each other, converse. It’s also the point of departure for thinking about ourselves and germinating in our consciousnesses a critical, autonomous and fertile thought, full of imagination, impermeable to the will to dominate and indoctrinate. In other words, minds that are impermeable to the pretensions of the personalist, regressive and anachronistic project represented by Chavismo, a political current full of antagonisms and internal contradictions, which perhaps have yet to fully explode in all their magnitude in the public sphere.

Those who identify with these discussions should add their voices, taking advantage of the fact that at this moment of imminent danger there are still spaces for dissident expressions, facing the unstoppable disaster that overwhelms our country. It is a civic urgency that brings us together in the face of the machinery of control represented by Chavismo in power. May these words be debated, replied and multiplied, under the most varied forms, by each person, in every corner of the country, in every community, in each neighborhood, in every street, in restaurants, schools, newsstands, high schools, military bases, grocery stores, lines, universities, hospitals, in all the places where the current government —capable of persecuting even its own dissident currents, we can’t forget this— concretizes its ravages. We must remember: the very nature of this government is tied to intolerance and fanaticism. These pulsations go against any project elaborated for the common good, for peace, concordance, moderation, dialogue or critical understanding.

Today we also resist the submission and humiliation under an arrogant clique that has kidnapped Venezuela’s institutions. With our names and our citizenship, perhaps our most prized possessions, we are willing to raise our critical voices and participate in all possible discussions for a profound democracy, whose institutions can guide our current differences. We know: these desires can’t be achieved without the cause of the Referendum. Or in other words: the cause of the Referendum is the beginning of the other country, less subdued. That is the reason for this shout in the face of all attempts to delay —or prohibit— the imminent presidential recall process. This option today represents our right to justice, liberty, civility, democracy, in sum, our right to exist in the 21st century. May it be so.


Guillermo Sucre

Alfredo Chacón

Ana Teresa Torres

Elisa Lerner

Rowena Hill

María Fernanda Palacios

José Balza

Rafael Cadenas

Armando Rojas Guardia

Igor Barreto

Yolanda Pantin

Edda Armas

Gabriela Kizer

Santos López

Carmen Verde Arocha

Alfredo Herrera

Alexis Romero

María Antonieta Flores

Luis Gerardo Mármol Bosch

Patricia Guzmán

Sonia González

Carmen Leonor Ferro

Julieta León

Luis Pérez-Oramas

Vasco Szinetar

Nelson Rivera

Elías Pino Iturrieta

Fernando Rodríguez

Joaquín Marta Sosa

Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza

Antonio López Ortega

Miguel Ángel Campos Torres

Ednodio Quintero

Marina Gasparini

Violeta Rojo

Gisela Kozak

Sandra Caula

Luna Benítez

Luisa de la Ville

Marcelino Bisbal

Tulio Hernández

Jaime Bello León

Raquel Gamus

Víctor Bravo

Miguel Szinetar

Ricardo Jiménez

Diómedes Cordero

Francisco Arévalo

Mario Amengual

Alejandro Padrón

Ramón Ordaz

Luis Miguel Isava

Carlos Sandoval

Milagros Mata-Gil

Mireya Tabuas

Krina Ber

Bernardino Herrera León

Humberto Ortiz B.

Juan Cristóbal Castro

Nela Ochoa

Kataliñ Alava

Ángela Bonadies

Roberto Martínez Bachrich

Luis Moreno Villamediana

Guillermo Parra

Diego Arroyo Gil

Lorena González

Julio Bolívar

Patricia Velasco

Jacqueline Goldberg

Vilma Ramia

Harry Almela

Xiomara Jiménez

Aixa Sánchez

Sebastián de la Nuez

Vince De Benedittis

Norberto José Olivar

Juan Carlos Chirinos

Sonia Chocrón

Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez

Gustavo Valle

Fedosy Santaella

Lena Yau

Rafael Sánchez

Carlos Enrique Guzmán Cárdenas

Alberto Hernández

Miguel Ortiz

Keila Vall

Florencio Quintero

Samuel González-Seijas

Ricardo Ramírez Requena

Santiago Acosta

Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza

Cesar Segovia

Néstor Mendoza

Rubén Darío Carrero

Blanca Rivero

Graciela Yáñez Vicentini

Franklin Hurtado

Luis Perozo Cervantes

Alejandro Castro

Zakarias Zafra Fernandez

Kaury Ramos

Claudia Márquez O.

Lucía Jiménez Perozo

Luis Marciales

Sashenka Garcia

Luis Yslas

Willy McKey

Mario Morenza

Álvaro Rafael

Georges Galo

Víctor García Ramírez

Kelly Martínez

Diosce Martínez

Ramelis Velásquez

Kira Kariakin

Flavia Pesci-Felitri

Sandy Juhasz

Ana Cristina Henríquez

Daniel García P.

Carlos Paris

Michelle Roche Rodríguez

Yoyiana Ahumada L.

Geraudí González

Mariana Fulcado

Johnny Romero

Dira Martínez Mendoza

Keyla Holmquist-Holmquist

Patricia Heredia Pelaca

Anaira Vásquez

Corina Michelena

Virginia Riquelme

Jairo Rojas Rojas



Monday, 29 of August, 2016.

[This English version of the letter includes additional signatures.]




{ Papel Literario, El Nacional, 11 September 2016 }

9.08.2016

A la intemperie / Guillermo Sucre

Open Air

let your eyelids drop

and for an instant

                            in the hearthplate

of the day

               shadow falls

on your face

                        while watching

the hand of the lamp fall


                                    onto

the page I write

seeking itself            and seeking

in the dark calligraphy

                                      transparency




En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1976)




{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

9.03.2016

La memoria inútil / Carlos Ávila

Useless Memory

                    [Collage from the series “Me acuerdo”, by Burócrata]


The death of Alejandro Rebolledo (1970-2016) has evoked an era about which there still doesn’t seem to be any consensus. Visibly opposed reactions in notes and articles about the death of the author of Pim Pam Pum (1998/2010) suggest questions about how we register our nineties. The prevailing opinion recalls that time as being marked by a joyful, luminous and what I’d even call a happy mood. I want to, as they say, propose a question that’s “out of context” and relates to another type of complexities: I’m referring to certain differentiated uses we make of memory.

I’ll start with some of what was said in the note they published in Luster Magazine, where they describe Pim Pam Pum as a novel in which “the nineties shine in all their splendor.” Recently I read or heard a phrase that went something like memory is that thing where we invent all the days of our past. If this is correct, then memory is a necessity; and in that direction, especially because of its subjective nature, it would also end up being an object of dispute. It’s quite clear: there’s no single memory, that’s why our different sense of the past are inherent to the discussion. The question is whether there can be an agreement about certain eras. It seems difficult, in the first place because memory projects towards a space of political struggle, especially conceived “against forgetting” (one remembers so as to not repeat); but also —and above all— because memory is substantial to the moment of strengthening the sense of belonging to sectors and collectivities. Our case sends us once again to a time that was undoubtedly rewarding for many, but adverse and nefarious, without saying more, for others. The struggle seems to be between memory and memory: each one forgetting at its own convenience.

What remains curious is that today, when we reproduce this type of worship of the past, expressed in the consumption and distribution of so many “retro” styles, our “culture of memory” coexists likewise with the brief and the fleeting: on the one hand we privilege the immediate and the present, and on the other we are fabulously nostalgic, fans of the retrospective, almost incapable of generating genuine novelties. The result is this type of tension produced between instant oblivion, let’s say, and the constant presence of the past. I’d even venture to say there’s an inability in that fissure, one that’s especially visible in the youngest generations, the inability to connect certain disinterest for the past/present with future failures. But that’s another part of the discussion.

Going back: in a political sense, the responsibilities for certain eras —we’re still talking about the Venezuelan 90s— are combined with demands, mainly of a moral nature, that due to the conflict they carry aren’t easy to resolve. In Los trabajos de la memoria (2001), Elizabeth Jelin locates the sense of the past directly in the present, but as a function of a desired future, that is, the present contains at once the (past) experience and the (future) expectation. Following her line of thought, we could say that while it’s true that memories are incorporated, they remain dynamic, by which I mean, they modify themselves, vary, transform over time: in part because the experiences absorb other experiences, but also because one’s own experience incorporates the experiences of others —of course, often intervened by the so-called discourses of power—, making the past shrink or expand, according to the case. In this way memory ends up being a process through which we move and orient ourselves in history, but where in the same manner we lose ourselves. It’s the intervention of memory in the social world’s tasks: in it we perceive and at the same time construct society, actively and productively.

And this is where the political use we make of our memories is evident, since all this exaltation and fury about the 90s is created, in this case, for the purpose of despising the present juncture, and I suppose for directing our glance, as they say, towards “a better future.” But careful: I’m not denying how difficult our present scenario is, I’m just trying to note that eventually the reality we live, added to the exacerbation of nostalgia I mention, might be impeding us from making a useful reflection.

If every memory disputes its own sense of the past, then the omission (the forgetting) of fundamental hallmarks for understanding the complex landscape of those years likewise grants meaning; so it seems to me at the very least careless, and a risk for us of slipping time and time again on the perpetual spiral or .gif of forgetfulness —especially amid our current tangled frame—, confusion and illusion, so close to mere nostalgia, on the part of the youngest generations I insist, for the 90s.

Another mode is found in the note published on the website El Estímulo, that speaks of today as an era “in the midst of a nineties revival,” and where Rebolledo is presented as “The only finalist for the Rómulo Gallegos Prize who’s never read Doña Bárbara” (Rodrigo Blanco Calderón brought part of this to the debate a days ago). If I’m not mistaken, from what I understand that was the slogan that accompanied the marketing strategy for the book when it was published, and I presume that what it meant to show was a certain irreverence; in any case, the phrase reveals another side of the operation I’ve tried to describe: now it’s no longer a matter of remembering, happily or not, a certain time in parts, in this case the sights are set on not knowing and forgetting; the gesture —a push that’s typical of the era’s climate, I’d like to think— aspires to diminish and empty the meaning of a specific literary tradition, overlooking what some young writers in the 60s (and even earlier) has already sought, among them Oswaldo Trejo, Salvador Garmendia, Adriano González León, and later on, none other than José Balza: an expressive renovation in the field of fiction that implied expiating the Galleguian model. The consequences of praising these tendencies over extended periods of time are well known: they can be tracked in the programs of Venezuela’s literature departments during the 70s, for example, or in that special issue dedicated to Venezuelan literature (over 600 pages) that was published by the Revista Iberoamericana at the University of Pittsburgh in 1994, where Gallegos’s absence is quite evident. In any case, that really does belong to another discussion.

The truth is that contrary to what the aforementioned slogan suggests, Rebolledo’s readings, at least the ones cited in the Luster Magazine note based on an interview with the author in 1998 by Vicente Lecuna , reveal his preference for stories from the realist tradition, more precisely from 19th century novels: “He was a very classical reader,” Lecuna says, “nothing extravagant, he read the same things Arturo Uslar Pietri might have read.” And further on, when Lecuna asks about the testimonial nature of the novel, Rebolledo not only disdains life in Caracas, which is already quite significant, but he opens and closes a very precise arc, that practically encompasses the decade’s generality, and fits entirely —give or take a few months— within the second terms of presidents Carlos Andrés Pérez and Rafael Caldera (amid the Caracazo disturbances, coup attempts and banking crises). Rebolledo says: “From 87 to 98 the only thing we breathed in Caracas was frustration, ire, resentment, incapacity. The macroeconomic circumstances and politics of that time produced a negative energy that was hard on caracas and was able to get people to be really skeptical, disconnected and bitter. According to that energy Caracas was a city that wasn’t worth loving.”

We weren’t happy and we knew it. That’s why I urge critical distance, which is never, really never, too often, since through those elaborations, as we’ve seen, the possibility for action is acquired over reality. I add myself to the challenge Jelin proposes of taking a certain distance, overcoming the compulsion to repetition, to get rid of oblivion and promote an active reflection and debate about the past and its meaning for the present/future. Useless memory doesn’t proceed: it omits and repeats itself, excludes and repeats itself, dismisses and repeats itself, and this is a mark that insists with a fatal continuity in our time.




{ Carlos Ávila, La Cultura Nuestra, 30 August 2016 }

9.01.2016

Pim Pam Pum / José Ignacio Calderón, Débora Ochoa Pastrán & Adrián Bauza

Pim Pam Pum

                    [Nelson Garrido, “Caracas sangrante” (1993)]


This space for my column has been given given over to two friends of mine who are great admirers of Alejandro Rebolledo and his work: Débora Ochoa Pastrán and Adrián Bauza.


Débora Ochoa Pastrán

There’s a Black Cloud Over this Damned Place

For our generation that’s been denied not just a moderately civic life, but also the space to express ourselves culturally once we’ve matured, what can we hold on to? Are we supposed to admire our leaders in different fields? Follow the line of thought of those who concentrate for themselves all the power or influence, without reaping anything for people beyond more profitable opportunities? Should the sparse words of many of our intellectuals drown our thought and make it submit? How easy it is to fall into a language that’s close to the wordiness of Marxism, some people will think.

Others, like me, will think there are old struggles that still haven’t been vindicated in Venezuela, such as civics, or equality in all its possible human categories. It seems as though, in the process of interpolating those who today make up the Venezuelan cultural syndicate (ironically, the vast majority of them are right-wing, and yes, they behave with profoundly syndicalist unobjectionable support, just like the PSUV party of Chavismo and its activists), one were committing parricide, a grave filial-labor treason which must be paid in blood or its equivalent: literary, academic and even political ostracism; complete oblivion is the threat from the Olympian gods or the old Order of the Phoenix Writer that today seeks to drive the avant-garde carriage of critical thought. I say all this, surprisingly, in regards to the novel Pim Pam Pum (1998/2010) by Alejandro Rebolledo.

One week after Alejandro’s death, there are still many questions about the circumstances of this regrettable event, as well as about his life and work, and especially about his emblematic novel. A certain discordant polemic has exploded in the center of what Jacqueline Goldberg and Yolanda Pantin have called the “little literary world” of Venezuela regarding the opinions and criticism arising, at first, from an article by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón.

In order to avoid turning these words into a gossip column in poor taste, let’s cite Alejandro for a moment: “I know it’s ridiculous, but none of my friends are doing any better. I think we’re all fucked and there’s no place for us in this world, that we haven’t done anything, no one’s done anything, and they won’t ever.” “From above, Caracas seems like a green park, instead of the trash it actually is. [...] From here, Caracas is just like Beverly Hills, it’s a like a novel, another planet. The sky is down below and above lies hell. It’s fucking hilarious. For me, it’s all hell.” These are words that today, resurrected from the death to which they were once condemned, speak of a Rebolledo who was, if not prophetic, then at least sharp, attentive, and with a fine ear. Our generation of young people in Caracas, one that expands and contracts without too much temporal rigor, falls into those hard words of Alejandro, or Luis, his main character. In the Venezuela we know today, young people live off the ass kickings they receive. None of the political parties that dispute each other today on recurring radio ads for a future presidency as alternatives to Chavismo, speak of the universities and students, of those who are supposed to come and rebuild the terrain that’s been eroded after 17 years of discursive failure. No one really cares. And in contrast, we stumble into a closed group of brilliant minds who want to snatch the evident greatness of Pim Pam Pum away from Venezuelan literature in the most selfish way.

By chance I remember that the novel Liubliana (2012) by Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles (a writer who’s very well-regarded in the little literary world) deals with the tragedy of the 1999 landslides in Vargas state, in a way that’s quite shallow and plagued by clichés. In this regard, I’d like to note that Rebolledo creates a climate that predicts the coming of that tragedy at several moments in his novel, with phrases such as: “It’s raining, it’s been raining for months on end and I’m wearing the right clothes for it.” I have to say it: what’s born as a clever observation of several crises and themes by Alejandro, becomes a mere instrument for selling books in the novels of Sánchez Rugeles. The way Rebolledo approaches the revolutionary movement, the underworld, the mafias, the moral corruption of the National Guard, all of these issues that we constantly problematize today in our political analyses are captured clearly in Pim Pam Pum without any roundabouts or shame. I would even venture to say that in a contextual fictional comparison, what Rebolledo proposes is more credible than what we find in the acclaimed novel Patria o muerte (2015) by Alberto Barrera Tyszka.

“There are two versions, the official one for the cops, and the real version that I don’t believe either.” Interpolating the reader, isn’t that how it is now? Isn’t it impossible to know the true dimensions of a crime, because once they pass through our tongues, the official versions distort all reality? Doesn’t the crisis of journalism that we’re living today come from there? It would be worthwhile to at least discuss it.

Regarding the identity this novel can trace, generationally and socially, for its readers, and the portraits it offers, there’s not much to debate. Rebolledo not only speaks repeatedly in his novel about an urban identity, but also a cultural, national, social and even an existential one. It’s a mystery for me how these details, that were so clearly used again in works that came after Pim Pam Pum, are being made invisible by those who today propose a rigorous criticism of the novel. “When you’re a kid you don’t give a fuck about that shit, you think that just because you were born in such and such a city, you already have an identity, an urban one, right? [...] So fuck a Latin American identity. It’s the city and that’s it.” And a further on: “This isn’t California, this is just a bunch of shacks, people listening to merengue and eating cats for breakfast, you know? And you understand an urban identity doesn’t mean shit, that all the punks like you, the ones who listen to the Sex Pistols and go skateboarding, are a minority, that the culture is something else, and you’re living in a dream, in a bubble. You don’t know whether to love or hate these people, the ones who are the majority. Your soul shrinks.”

Now let’s talk a little what some people like to call literary quality, maybe the central reason behind praising or denigrating a work. It’s enough to reread the section of the novel titled “Caracas, Center of the Universe,” included in chapter 3 of the novel. It would be a great pleasure to read how those who affirm that the novels of Sánchez Rugeles “have swept up the kids since 2008, with several editions and many copies sold,” might qualify this section of the book as being of “poor” literary quality. For the sake of curiosity and brevity, I invite you to read it. The beauty of the fragment, at the level of language, evocation and imagery, is undeniable.

And yet the crisis we need to direct our attention to is elsewhere. After nearly two decades of tied tongues, the Law of Social Responsibility for Radio and Television, political restrictions, dead students, ideological betrayals and millions of arguments and affronts, there are those of us who have readings of Pim Pam Pum that are radically different from the impressions proposed in recent days by these champions of Venezuelan literature. The fact that a capacity to respond exists, along with spaces for divulging these responses and the open debates that counter the initial proposals (mistaken, by the way) of Blanco Calderón and his editorial and critical supporters, shouldn’t be a reason for narcissistic tantrums. Time and time again we see that truly bitter phenomenon where some people in the name of the academy, others in the name of criticism and others in the name of literature feel the need to annul or alienate those visions that go against their own. To develop the problem this brings for the growth of each of those fields, along with the political and cultural change that Venezuela so urgently requires, is a task that’s beyond the scope of this article. Because of that, and for everyone’s pleasure, I leave the last words to Rebolledo, instead of me:

“A racial, economic and social master plan that gives power to those with capital, money, culture, a bunch of motherfuckers who build and procure this shitty world where the very few are doing fine and the vast majority have nothing. [...] You stand in the sun, with your head going in circles. You don’t have a plan, life left you stranded, rudderless, with no destination, no prospects. You have no mission to accomplish [...] You hock a loogie, savor it on your tongue for a while, yum, so delicious, you spit forcefully against the embassy wall and, what else can you do, you crack up laughing.”

Pim, Pam... Pum. No doubt, there’s a black cloud over this place, but the light shines through occasionally.


Adrián Bauza

I belong to the generation that grew up listening to Chávez speaking on TV and radio for hours, that came into adulthood with nearly as much disgust for Henrique Salas Römer and Manuel Rosales as we felt towards Chavismo. I drank a lot of Frescolita, I smoked tons of Belmonts while hiding until I couldn’t smoke anymore and I became an adult between Miss Venezuela pageants and murders. Caracas, for me, was always an abusive mother who, in 30 years, between 1980 and 2010, changed only for the worse. Amid so much chaos and apathy, how could I not find an identity in Pim Pam Pum? In a portrait of Caracas that spits in your face. That talks to you about coke and marijuana without any baroque adornments, with no mysticism. That grabs you by the balls and tells you: “Motherfucker, you’re not unique or special.” Rebolledo screamed from the nineties to three generations of young people who in order to survive in Caracas can’t give a fuck about anything.

If this Caracas is as much mine as it was Alejandro’s, what stops me, as a young man, from claiming Rebolledo’s work as my own?

In less than a week, Alejandro’s death has stirred up a dust storm that was brewing for at least a decade. The young people with black-rimmed glasses and País portátil in their pocket are now adults with designer black-rimmed glasses, published books, a couple of prizes and an enormous need for attention. Thirty-something-year-old ephebophiles who try to write novels in the tones of a fifteen-year-old, “young” poets approaching 40, professors who seem to own the absolute truth about what is and isn’t literature. Amid their columns, their classes and their positions of power we see reflected, as in nowhere else, the arrogant and whiny attitude of Luis, the protagonist of Pim Pam Pum. Could it be that the generation that aims to mold culture to their whims finds it painful to see themselves reflected in an odious twenty-something-year-old idiot cokehead without a degree? Could it bother them that a book they despise so much has managed to transcend the underground and now stands out as worthy of serious academic study?

It annoys the establishment that a little novel published by an underground magazine gives people more to talk about than a book published by Gallimard. That a guy with a hoodlum’s rhetoric is remembered and admired more than many scholars. That the little “decadent” novel sells out all its editions and keeps circulating in photocopies while many of their transcendental works are rotting on the shelves of their friends’ bookstores. They can’t stand than we’re so “uncultured,” so “immature” and that we don’t support their official version.

The establishment thinks just like Luis: “A bomb, that’s the solution for this country.” Because we young people are uncultured marginal beings who buy, lend and give away copies of a book that moves us, by an author with very little published work, instead of accepting the fiction of a young poet nearing 40 or the hipster-glasses-wearing professor who says that their friends’ books are better. In the end, the actual young people, not the greying ones with superhero t-shirts they try to sell us, we aren’t idiots.

That’s when the “intelligent ones,” our “professors,” get into position for battle. They open their laptop in Paris or Los Palos Grandes and spit out nearly 1,700 words about an author they never knew and a book they admit they read badly, and which they seem to have never actually read. Readers become upset, the debate begins. The intelligent one responds and tries to step on the criticism by changing the topic to the novels Blue Label and Transylvania Unplugged. “The kids loved them,” one of them says. “What kids?” the readers ask those who make such statements. Yadda yadda yadda, read my buddy the poet with the high heels. Read my other buddy with the beard. Don’t read Rebolledo because we don’t like him, so no one else should remember him.

Despite these efforts, without Pim Pam Pum Rodrigo Blanco Calderón’s The Night (2016) wouldn’t exist. Without Pim Pam Pum his Las rayas and Una larga fila de hombres wouldn’t exist. Without Luis’s coked-up sex there’d be no strap-on experience for Blanco Calderón’s character Ardiles. “Kill your darlings,” Faulkner said, but there was never an addendum granting the writer license to shit on them three days after they die. Opinion, knavery, envy or mere stupidity, the fact is that one book, whether good or bad, settles further into the collective unconscious of caraqueños, while the other fades away amid prizes and an expensive price.

Alejandro died when he had to die. When the current establishment is in retirement homes or cemeteries, we’ll still have a little while to talk about Rebolledo, to crack up laughing and tell the kids that will replace us the mythical phrase: Psss... Que no sea marico nadie.*




* Translator’s Note: “Que no sea marico nadie” is an expression used frequently by both Alejandro Rebolledo and the protagonist of his novel Pim Pam Pum. It is untranslatable caraqueño slang that Venezuelan scholar Carlos Padrón renders as “Fuck everyone.”




{José Ignacio Calderón, Débora Ochoa Pastrán & Adrián Bauza, El Nacional, 30 August 2016}

8.28.2016

Rebolledo dividió el país / Eduardo Febres

Alejandro Rebolledo Divided the Country


1

First Limitation:

I’m writing this near Barcelona, but the one in Anzoátegui state, Venezuela. An old private joke from the year Alejandro Rebolledo wrote Poemas del distroy, Juan Barreto won the elections for the mayorship of Caracas, and Andrés González Camino and I met up in Barcelona, Spain (2004). Diego Sequera, who stayed in Caracas, wrote it: “I’m in Barcelona but the one in Anzoátegui, motherfucker.”

I won’t call you a motherfucker (dear reader), but I am close to the Barcelona in Anzoátegui, and Andrés is in that other Barcelona right now, from where he gave me the news of Alejandro Rebolledo’s death.

2

Second Limitation:

I’m writing this text from memory. Just like the public classes Adriano (González León) gave, and the private rounds of drinking with Adriano, to which an enormous percentage of writers from three generations have had access. From my generation, through his son Andrés. From Rebolledo’s generation, thorough his daughter Giorgiana, I suppose, though not that many. And from Adriano’s, through Adriano himself.

3

Third Limitation:

I didn’t read Pim Pam Pum either. I tried to fourteen years ago and it didn’t hook me. From what people say (that it’s the novel of the nineties) I suppose it’s because the type of rebel I was never quite adapted to the consensual rebellion that Urbe magazine sold.

Later on I got half way through it, when Andrés went to visit me in Buenos Aires and brought it with him. I didn’t finish reading it because I felt it became simply annoying. But I do recognize that at first it seemed alright to me.

4

Fourth Limitation:

Saying Alejandro Rebolledo (1970-2016) divided the country is only true if we’re talking about that minuscule part of the country that’s the radius of influence of Venezuelan literature and bougie-punk nerds. So it’s precisely that minuscule part of the country that I’m talking about, because for that part of the country Rebolledo has been for at least a few days the last name that gives a form to a visceral, ferocious and extensive confrontation, which although it’s mobilized by the affective (and maybe precisely for that reason), seems to determine sides in a logic that doesn’t belong to the omnipresent national polarization.

(For the reader who doesn’t belong to that part of the country: the most successful writer of my generation, Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, wrote a lapidary and vitriolic article against the literary hagiography surrounding the recently-deceased author of the novel Pim Pam Pum (1998/2010) created on social media by his readers and mourners. And the reactions, responses and opinions continue to multiply).

5

Fifth and Final Limitation, and Our Main Point:

It could be that the passions will subside a long time from now or soon. But elements already exist that make us affirm that the Blanco Calderón-Rebolledo affair is the first literary schism of the 21st century in Venezuela, as José Ignacio Calderón suggested to me yesterday.

The first schism in the 21st century Venezuelan literary field, as we all know, wasn’t a literary schism, and it still persists. It’s the schism called Bolivarian Revolution or Chavismo, which didn’t create new readings in the field, or disputes regarding ways of reading and defining what the literary might be, but instead subsumed them in the ideological horizon.

6

The literary aspect in that schism has been functional for one of the groups in the dispute. Because as we proposed a while ago here: the best Chavista writing isn’t literature, and if there are Chávistas who write good literature, the good things about that literature isn’t that they’re Chavistas, in the same way that the good things about their Chavismo isn’t the literary.

Did Gustavo Pereira, Luis Britto García, Earle Herrera, José Roberto Duque or Juan Calzadilla become worse writers because they’re Chavistas? No. Chavismo (auto) expelled them from the spaces of literary valuation.

7

I detect small but significant symptoms in the Urbe-Prodavinci affair, a disposition of logics that subvert and transcend that non-literary schism that’s symmetrical to the national polarization.

For one, I identified almost completely with the article by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón (with whom I don’t have a single political idea in common) when I read it for the first time. First because I reject that postmodern nineties Fukuyama cool cynicism that Rebolledo and Pim Pam Pum represent. And second because of its invitation to look beyond the Los Palos Grandes neighborhood of Caracas and to read two of those writers who by means of their Chavismo were (auto) expelled from the literary scene.

8

Once I understood the affective, social and cultural dimensions of the Pim Pam Pum phenomenon, and of Rebolledo’s non-visible work as a DJ and promoter (just like there’s a non-visible work in Adriano’s drinking sessions, keeping in mind the obvious differences), I reread Blanco Calderón’s article and I understand the concerns it raised among many people. Regardless, the experiment was already made: when I shared the article, I found immediate empathy and resonance among people in my own ideological spectrum. Mercedes Chacín, editor of Épale CCS, shared the article by Blanco Calderón who a few weeks ago told the European press that Chavismo is an illiterate dictatorship; Giordana García Sojo asked me if I have a copy of Blanco Calderón’s new novel The Night, so she could borrow it. In the following hours, I noticed figures from the up until now monochord literary world in Venezuela pushing beyond their limits in the tone of a dispute between the Chavista-dominated Esquina Caliente of downtown Caracas and the opposition neighborhood of El Cafetal.

9

Someone (me yesterday, for example) could say this isn’t a literary dispute but rather a show-business, generational and affective one. But literature is also made of all those aspects, just like it’s made of politics. What’s happening is that the way people understand politics in this dispute is different from the great narratives of war and dictatorship.

The article that unleashes it isn’t the most legible starting point, because it’s an article that rejects reading. But precisely for that reason it reveals the discussion of the literary field in all its crudity: it’s a discussion about what should and shouldn’t be read.

That’s why I don’t rule out that Rebolledo or Blanco Calderón might be good points to begin looking at the only place where (as I already said) the literature of Chavismo can be found: in the ways of reading (or no longer reading in the future).

After all, if the poet Chávez cited in his final speech was Borges, there’s no reason to expect the literature of Chavismo be written by those we call “of the left.”




{ Eduardo Febres, Contrapunto, 26 August 2016 }

8.26.2016

En el ocio / Guillermo Sucre

At Leisure

                                            un homme saute dans le soleil
                                            V.H.


I see beaches a green water fish
your body that’s a golden shadow
    a knife
that splits the sun in half
I glimpse the light trembling of your sex
like algae damp palpitation
and midday’s pulse in my temples
I see a horse on the prairies of Virginia
the edge of the afternoon its breathing
blue and ocher like buffalo from the West
I see an already forgotten forest
in my austral memory
the remotely blind sun
the birds that fled this snow
so familiar so strange already
I see what I see what I write
on this on the other
                                page
where everything’s erased




En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1976)




{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

8.14.2016

Ya uno sólo tiene derecho a muy pocas cosas / Guillermo Sucre

You barely have any right to anything anymore

You barely have any right to anything anymore
     I know or something lets me know that I can’t speak about happiness

     I abandoned my house and I haven’t gone back
now it’ll be covered in vines and in that patio no fire or hand to light it
one day it’ll be erased by the rains and I won’t be there to pick it up again
     (what makes us leave and how can we leave)

     How could you even mention the word that needs shelter fidelity
to be real
     But I know or think I know that happiness exists right there
where it doesn’t exist
     that keeping the warmth of its absence prepares (if) not its gleam
its limpidness
     This is how I can’t speak about happiness but I can be quiet
in it
     travel its silence the vast memory of not having it

     Happiness I now realize isn’t a topic for a speech
but rather the speech itself
     a speech that always separates itself from its topic or that after
being written discovers
               reasons
it has to be written again




En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1976)




{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }

8.11.2016

Guillermo Sucre: “El legado de mi generación se llama Rafael Cadenas” / Hugo Prieto

Guillermo Sucre: “My generation’s legacy is named Rafael Cadenas”

                    [Guillermo Sucre, by Roberto Mata]

The living room in Guillermo Sucre’s apartment has a completely living cell. A table, a reading lamp and a small typewriter, on which rests an envelope full of paper. The table is flanked by two bookshelves, full of books. The three-piece sofa against the wall seems like it was left there, temporarily, they day he moved in. One might say everything else is of scarce and fortuitous utility.

It was on that table that Sucre rewrote and expanded his essay about Neruda, at the end of the 90s, which he finally added to La máscara, la transparencia (1976), a book of essays about Latin American poetry that’s been celebrated abroad and is a cult classic in Venezuela, revealing itself for new generations as an accomplishment of brilliant writing.

The scene might be unsettling for an intruder. Not so much because of the solitude that reigns there, but because of what it conceals, the discovery of a writing transformed into spirituality. Sucre has raised his voice when it’s been necessary and unavoidable. Without regards to being condemned to the ostracism or disdain that politics tends to react with when its power diminishes. He’s done so at his own pace and his sense of humor is the best proof he doesn’t regret anything.

Within the postulates of the “Sardio” group, a poetic and intellectual movement whose name came from a magazine, one sees that the commitment of its members was with “intelligence” and not with politics or a particular ideology. What led you to follow that purpose, that quest?
In those days we were, as they say, on the left. I was in the center, of course, a supporter of the Acción Democrática party. Adriano González León, Francisco Pérez Perdomo, Ramón Palomares, who was truly a pure poet, a poet from the Andes, Elisa Lerner, Luis García Morales, Manuel Quintana Castillo. We never thought there could be guerrillas like in Cuba here. The Cuban revolution marked our generation enormously, for good or bad. I was always against it, because I said that “we (the members of Sardio) hadn’t participated in armed resistance against the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Giménez.” All the attempts made by Acción Democrática were ridiculous. I was in prison in Ciudad Bolívar when Pérez Giménez was overthrown on January 23rd, 1958, with Ramón J. Velásquez. So when we left prison, the fundamental thing was democracy. I wrote many of those manifestos, along with Rodolfo Izaguirre, though he was a communist hippie.

The members of Sardio sought “rigor, discipline, lucidity so as to understand the truth of their moment.” Did you really observe those principles?
I wish we’d been more rigorous. But that was more or less how it was. We’d gather in a café that was next to the Municipal Theater, before the Centro Simón Bolívar (the Towers of El Silencio) was built. We had a bookstore that was run by José Meneses that later became Suma (which still exists on Sabana Grande). It was a very important bookstore for us. In the first issue of Sardio I published a very polemical essay about Neruda, who came to Venezuela in 1958, right after the fall of Pérez Jiménez. Neruda was furious. I tell you, he was an odd fellow. For example, he charged a fee for giving a poetry reading in Barquisimeto, and things like that.

You also defended “a collective dimension of art.” That’s unusual, because the artist, when he develops his work, is on his own, completely alone, naked. How’s that?
When the ideological issue doesn’t intrude, but instead a balanced, shall we say, vision of politics, a certain defense of human values appears. It wasn’t called human values, but that’s what it really was. We couldn’t accept how everyone was being arrested. Well, I know there were excesses committed in the second term of Rómulo Betancourt. But it was also in the context of a guerrilla war that fortunately was never able to become very urban. It blew up, right? Remember there was help from Cuba and from the Soviet Union through the Venezuelan communist party.

There was a clear goal of overthrowing Betancourt.
That was the problem. But in 1968, with the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the so-called orange revolution of (Alexander) Dubcek, Teodoro Petkoff and Pompeyo Márquez said: “We have to support Czechoslovakia,” while Russia sent tanks and Fidel Castro accepted that, which is where he lost his aura of independence and other things.

The intellectual is seen, indistinctly, as an artist who plays a role “as a guide, a critic or counselor for society.” Politics is avoided, but not completely. Couldn’t we call that a pretty comfortable role?
I don’t agree with that part about counselor, nor guide either.

A critic who doesn’t participate in politics?
For us, there were two important figures in French literature that we began to read in those days, Sartre and Camus. Camus was a critic, democratic, but not Sartre. He believed there could be no historic change without spilling blood. In a certain way, without a certain dictatorship. On one occasion Sartre said they had modified one of his plays in the Soviet Union and yet he said nothing, because he understood that for the Soviet Union that’s how things had to be. But not form him, he belonged to a freer world.

That’s been a characteristic attitude of leftist intellectuals... one has to understand the poet, but in this case, the poet is Stalin or Fidel Castro. But none of those intellectuals ever considered (or would consider) living in Russia or Cuba. What’s that dissociation like?
I met Mario Vargas Llosa in Caracas when he came to receive the Rómulo Gallegos Prize after it was awarded for the first time. That was in 1967. Simón Alberto Consalvi was president of the National Institute for Culture and Fine Arts, we met several times with Vargas Llosa, whose attitude wasn’t very Cuban, although he defended the Cuban revolution. But he also didn’t understand very well why Venezuela didn’t have a similar revolution. And really, at that point the Venezuelan guerrillas were already in decline, of course. Gabriel García Márquez also came on that occasion. Simón Alberto brought Vargas Llosa’s acceptance speech to my house, so I could red it, and I told him: “What’s wrong with this speech?” It’s not like President Raúl Leoni was going to be there, but he said no to that speech. So, García Márquez said to Vargas Llosa: “But why do you have to bring up the Cuban revolution here?” Incredible, right?

Sardio also welcomed the Cuban revolution “as the most vigorous hope for democracy’s rebirth.”
No, I didn’t write that. I got very angry about that text. I told Izaguirre: “Rodolfo, what the hell was that?” That was during the early days of the revolution. That was written by Gonzalo Castellanos, an architect who was a close friend of mine. But when I returned to Venezuela, Gonzalo barely even said hello to me. Same with Cristóbal Palacios. Cristóbal would speak horrors about Betancourt. Salvador Garmendia was also very pro-Cuban, but then Czechoslovakia happened and he saw Teodoro Petkoff’s attitude about it and he began to distance himself as well.

The rupture occurred. Was that influenced by the “Padilla affair,” when the Cuban poet “was put on trial and condemned beforehand by Fidel Castro”?
Of course. That was it. And that was also Sartre’s moment of rupture.

Was it a rupture between you and your friends, with whom you’d been imprisoned? How did you face that in personal terms?
The second time we were jailed, my brother Leopoldo and I, we were nearly in solitary confinement (in 1957). We lived near the Cruz del Sur bookstore (two blocks away from Sabana Grande boulevard), Jesús Sanoja Hernández was in jail with us. He was expelled from the country, wandered around quite a bit, in Paris and many other places. Rafael Cadenas went to Trinidad, which is where he learned English so well and after Marcos Pérez Giménez fell we all saw each other frequently. So there was no rupture.

But Jesús Sanoja Hernández was living clandestine during Betancourt’s government.
Ah! I didn’t see him during those days. Years later, when the first edition of La máscara, la transparencia was published by Monte Ávila Editores, I was never mentioned in El Nacional [because of Guillermo Sucre’s critique of a novel by the newspaper’s founder Miguel Otero Silva], but Jesús took up two pages of the Papel Literario literary supplement to review it, and since he was an old friend of Miguel Otero Silva, well, that was that.

The Venezuelan guerrilla struggle didn’t unleash a schism among poets?
Manuel Caballero, for instance, was against the guerrillas. Of course people drifted apart, there wasn’t the same cordiality and the same capacity to get together. But that wasn’t the case with Rafael Cadenas and Jesús Sanoja Hernández. Remember that during the dictatorship Jesús lived near us, he would always stop by the house and ask about my brothers and about me when I was arrested. The only Christmas card I received in prison was from Rafael. When I returned to Venezuela [in the 1970s], I applied to the Central University. Elías Pino was the Dean of the Humanities Department. Nelson Osorio, whom I had met at the Instituto Pedagógico, taught there. He was tremendously pedantic and, of course, a communist who had a certain amount of influence. Someone told me that in the meeting where my application was discussed, Osorio said: “But Guillermo is the brother of Leopoldo Sucre Figarella, the president of the CVG (Venezuelan Corporation of Guyana).” Oswaldo Barreto became furious and said: “That’s no way to criticize Guillermo, I disagree.” And Michelle Ascencio, who was the director of the School of Letters, supported my candidacy. I had to write Luis Fuenmayor, who was the President. Fuenmayor said: “Of course, Guillermo has every right to enter.” They paid me less than I had earned before, I had been a full professor at Simón Bolívar University and at the Central University I was an associate professor. I earned a miserable salary.

I’d like your opinion about a phrase written by Mariano Picón Salas. This is a direct quotation: “Disillusionment or resignation, or a romantic escape from things. These had been the symptoms of a prolonged defeat during the years of civilian eclipse. That it wasn’t worth struggling to break the hard shell of customs and bad habits, because a mysterious autochtonous inertia ended up prevailing over any impulse toward renovation.”
I remember that perfectly, it’s from a series of seven essays in Páginas de Venezuela.

Isn’t it a very pessimistic vision of the country?
It’s basically referring to the Juan Vicente Gómez era and the previous era under Cipriano Castro. Remember that when Mariano Picón writes Los días de Cipriano Castro, during the dictatorship, that book sold out immediately, because everyone said it was a metaphor of Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Then Mariano Picón left the country. There’s a phrase of his, in reference to his trip to Chile, he was on an immigrant ship and in the hold he said: “I always saw my father who was defeated, disillusioned.” And that was because he had encountered economic hardship in the coffee industry in Mérida, since they were land owners. His father, don Pío, died in Chile and through his second marriage there are relatives of Picón Salas in that country. He belonged to a literary group there, but none of its members were as good essayists or historians as Mariano Picón Salas.

Let’s say the phrase offers a clear impression of Venezuelan obscurantism, but from your viewpoint and thinking about times closer to us, does it make any sense to you?
Comprensión de Venezuela is an important book of Mariano Picón’s. He finished writing that book in 1947, after founding the Department of Philosophy and Letters at the University. Rómulo Gallegos had already named him ambassador in Bogotá. Initially, those essays were published as articles in the Revista Nacional de Cultura, which he started. In the early days after the dictatorship, Mariano Picón was the secretary general for the ORVE political party, which included Rómulo Betancourt, but also the communist left and the democratic left. Picón was against certain ORVE initiatives, because he said “that would force Eleazar López Contreras to take radical measures.” He was named ambassador in Czechoslovakia, where he writes “Europa América” and various essays. Of course, he has a very critical vision of what Venezuela was at the time. Picón was about to take up his professorship in Chile, after López Contreras fired him for being a “communist.” There was a polemic between him and Ramón David León, the director of Esfera, who was the one that started accusing him of being a communist. But maybe the phrase had a ring of truth to it, within what would have been the Venezuelan political psyche. He doesn’t use phrases like those of Arturo Uslar Pietry, “we should sow our petroleum.” It’s something quite different.

Speaking of the psyche, there’s another phrase by Picón Salas I’d like you to comment on. “Tragic episodes such as the war to the death or the great emigration of 1814, facing the Spanish advance and reconquest, seem decisive in shaping the Venezuelan soul.”
Well, Mariano Picón effectively warns us that it would be irresponsible of us to not become aware of the damage caused by those episodes. Uslar Pietri would always say to me: “But Sucre, during Gómez’s era there wasn’t a single technician in the petroleum industry.” As if the country’s backwardness were a technical, cultural matter. No. It was also something else. It was this.

What does that phrase mean for a poet? What could it signify?
Well, if you start to look at it, Venezuelan literature hasn’t been very optimistic, right? Mariano Picón has a book called Buscando un camino, I photocopied it from the library at the Central University because there were no available copies. And in it there’s an essay about Nietzsche, dedicated to José Antonio Ramos Sucre. That’s in 1918, it includes an essay about Enriqueta Arvelo Larriva, who was the best poet of her generation, including her brother [Alfredo Arvelo Larriva], who was a supporter of Marcos Pérez Jiménez, and who really did follow the plain path. And Mario Briceño Iragorry, who in those days supported Juan Vicente Gómez. The thing is that Briceño Irragory vindicates himself because he stood up against Pérez Jiménez and really, he was beaten with sticks in Madrid (an attack ordered by the dictator).

In the mid-sixties, you criticize the elites because they weren’t up to the challenges that were facing the country. You refer to those who have the capacity to guide society and make decisions. Could you make that same critique about our current moment?
If you compare the resistance to Chavismo with that against Pérez Jiménez, of course we’ve progressed quite a bit. That’s the truth. One thing is Uslar Pietri, who came back with the same theme of corruption. “Where’d the money go?” That’s how Uslar Pietri would present himself at rallies in wealthier neighborhoods, in El Paraíso. During the 1963 elections, Uslar was elected senator, just like EL Pirujo (Ramón) Escovar Salom, with support from the FNP party, which later formed part of the “wide base” government (1963). But it wasn’t the wide base ORVE had, but rather that of the banker who said he had a castle on Mount Ávila (José Joaquín González Gorrondona). Escovar was the minister of Justice. My brother Leopoldo would say to me: “El Pirujo is good, he knows how make good political analyses.”

It’s true, the resistance isn’t the same, but that doesn’t answer my question. Would you make the same critique of the elites at this moment?
I really do think they’re prepared, if we consider the university (the Central University and the rest of the autonomous universities) where Chavismo hasn’t entered. Those people are prepared. During the days of Pérez Jiménez, of course, people were against him, but no one there spoke up.

A series of articles published in the Mexican magazine Vuelta in the mid-90s (they can be read in the digital archives of the magazine Letras Libres) created a great polemic. I’m quoting directly: “Those who called themselves intellectuals gave up on democratic ideas to join the armed conspiracy, and to even encourage it, without caring very much about the terrible consequences they could bring the country, the chain of coups, the chronic violence, the devastating social turmoil...”
Uslar Pietri, José Vicente Rangel, Juan Liscano, who was a friend of mine, but in the end he joined the conspiracy. Juan Liscano always had an open invitation to see Carlos Andrés Pérez at Miraflores Palace, during his first government. The first president of the CONAC (National Council of Culture), Luis García Morales, told me that Carlos Andrés Pérez would invite him over to dinner on Thursdays and there were Francisco Herrera Luque, who was a type of Chavista of the novel and Rafael Pizano, whose 80th birthday Pérez celebrated at Miraflores. The minister of Interior was my friend from prison, Alejandro Izaguirre, who would also tell me about these gatherings. I remember when I was working at Monte Ávila Editores, Liscano would arrive on Friday mornings and say: “President Pérez says this publishing house is elitist. What does he mean by elitist?” That’s what he’d say.

Violence (more than 20,000 homicides in 2015), social turmoil (looting and lynchings) and institutional coups (in the National Electoral Council, in the Supreme Court).
I saw all that, I had no doubts.

What could be considered your generation’s most important legacy?
I think Rafael Cadenas. Rafael is a magnificent prose writer, he’s written books in defense of language, but also books of essays and his poetry. Perhaps with the exception of his first book. Jesús Rafael Soto made sculptures he called penetrables, but half of that book is impenetrable. For a prize that was named after José Rafael Pocaterra, awarded by the Athenaeum of Valencia, I was asked to be a judge along with Ramón Palomares and Juan Sánchez Peláez. It was unpublished work. I said I couldn’t vote for the other one. I voted for Falsas maniobras, which was Rafael’s second book and from that point onwards the communists began to accept me into their circle again.

What would characterize literary criticism today in Venezuela?
That’s a problem, no just in Venezuela, but all over the Hispanic world and the world in general. Literary criticism, if you look at it, has always been dominated by the big publishing houses. For example, the Goncourt Prize, in France, Gallimard was very influential in that.

That’s not the case in Venezuela, where various publishing houses have disappeared.
What would matter is a bit of sincerity, but not expressed in a primitive way, insulting and sending someone to hell, not like that. And a bit of clarity. Not saying, right away, this is the great work. Eliot said something: “one can speak of an authentic work, but not of an eternal or great work,” because time decides that.

You writing is attained by means of passion, not virtuosity or erudition. Are you an adherent of any utopia?
I think we’re always oscillating between utopia and discontent, disillusionment. But that seems good to me. That we realize that. Because an excess of utopia leads to dictatorship, as we saw in Russia and Cuba. I was friends with Alejo Carpentier. He lived in La Florida, here in Caracas. Of course, I didn’t have a car and Carpentier didn’t drive, but his wife Lilia drove and would come get me on Saturdays, because there was a gathering at their house, we’d eat and have drinks afterwards. Alejo never spoke about politics. But when Castro’s guerrillas took Havana (January 1st, 1959), I remember I went to visit him and Inocente Palacios was there, proposing a champagne toast for the following week and offering to provide the food. A few months later Carpentier went back to Cuba and from there to Paris. Cuba's Communist Party didn’t like Carpentier. The only one who offered him support was Che Guevara. And when the Padilla affair happened, many people said Carpentier kept a low profile so he wouldn’t run into Sartre and his wife, Simone de Beauvoir, on the streets of Paris, because he was so ashamed.

In Mea Cuba, Guillermo Cabrera Infante writes about that anecdote and even claims that Carpentier seemed uncomfortable because he was supporting something he didn’t believe in.
I don’t think it was due to social climbing, because he knew very well he was submitting to a regime. But after men like him enter, it’s very hard for them to get out.

Isn’t that the relation between intellectuals and power?
Yes, of course. There’s some of that.

You’ve included an essay about Neruda in the new edition of La máscara, la transparencia. A great poet who had a dark side. The controversy around Stalin, the matter of freedom and democracy. Has this essay been an act of justice or a deserved acknowledgment of the poet?
I had that essay planned from the very moment I began to write La máscara, la transparencia. But it coincided with Pinochet’s coup and Neruda’s death, a few months later. I thought about publishing the essay, which takes some issue with Neruda, but that would have meant benefiting Pinochet. I decided not to publish it. I continued to edit and expand it. I wrote the final version in 1998. And I included it in this latest edition of La máscara, la transparencia, because I had made a commitment. So, I had always conceived the Neruda essay and I think I enjoyed writing it more that way, slowly, rereading nearly all his work. Except for his final books, which perhaps weren’t works of genius and, worse, used repetitive language.

Neruda held his ground. He never denied his communism, he wasn’t a revisionist.
Because he was very influenced by the French communists, instead of the Italian communists who were more revisionist. And he never thought about dissidents. I don’t think Mandelstam had been translated yet. The poet who reads a poem against Stalin. Stalin calls Pasternak and asks him: “Do you know a poet who gave a reading at which you were present? What do you think of that poet and his poem?” Pasternak didn’t know what to say. He opted for praising the person, not the poem. “I already know your opinion,” he says like a herald of death. The Hispanic world has been very obscurantist in regards to translating the dissidents of communism. I read the memoirs of Mandelstam’s wife in English, when I was living in the United States. And also in French. They weren’t published in Spain until much later.

What do you think of the fact that your book is a reference point for future poets?
The truth is that in Venezuela La máscara, la transparencia hasn’t been discussed very much, except for those two pages Jesús Sanoja Hernández wrote in Papel Literario, not much. It’s been talked about more abroad than here. But La máscara, la transparencia has sold very well in Venezuela, both the Mexican edition published by Fondo de Cultura Económica, as well as the Monte Ávila Editores edition and now the recent one published by El Estilete.




{ Hugo Prieto, Prodavinci, 7 August 2016 }