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 }

8.08.2016

Nocturno / Fernando Paz Castillo

Nocturne

But these rivers that don’t run beneath the moon,
but these rivers, where do they go?
Immobility of the rivers in deep nights:
ecstasy of mobility.
Soul, you’re like these rivers:
you march immutably towards your fatal end;
a strange will turns you into a mirror,
but the mirror isn’t all clear.




La voz de los cuatro vientos (1931)




{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }

8.06.2016

Lo eterno / Fernando Paz Castillo

The Eternal

A leaf in the night,
neighboring a pale star,
almost became a star itself
and at dawn
it became all light with sun and rain.
Leaf, I feel the absent star in you
in the blaze of your water droplets.




La voz de los cuatro vientos (1931)




{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }

8.04.2016

Sorpresa / Fernando Paz Castillo

Surprise

There’s a perfume
you can only sense on clear nights
Could it be a flower we haven’t seen?




La voz de los cuatro vientos (1931)




{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }

8.01.2016

Confianza / Fernando Paz Castillo

Confidence

Above the shadow
of my shadow I watch
life go by quietly.
It persists,
while everything flees,
and it’s memory
that lives in the soul...
Like a night
that can’t find asylum,
as it forgot the way
to the lighthouse;
like an absence
that was lost
because there’s no one
who might fear for it.
Like a whisper that doubled its daydream
before dawn
crowned a song.
That’s why it always guards me
austere,
beside life as it goes by.




Persistencias (1975)




{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }

7.30.2016

Raíz / Fernando Paz Castillo

Root

I

Everyone
loves the flower,
so beautiful;
but few remember
how hard
the deep root
works to find life.


II

How it struggles,
in the tough shade,
to find the trail
to water,
and also
make its sap,
out of hostile
materials.


III

Everyone
loves the flower,
proud and indifferent,
full of beauty,
always young
in its essence,
regardless of time
—persistent—
even though it’s powerless
against the symbol.


IV

Everyone
loves the flower:
but few remember
facing the colors’ suggestion
—rough or sweet beneath the sun—
the dark,
furtive and daily,
anxiety of the deep root.




Persistencias (1975)




{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }

7.27.2016

Reviví caminos en minutos / Jesús Montoya

I Relived the Roads in Minutes

I relived the roads in minutes, bags of trash, eyes, hands. I relived damp roads, empty, imperiously empty. I relived the roads where youth was a glance and nothing more. I relived the roads and sang my undernourished will in silence. I relived roads and felt the accident, the bus, the week’s broken money, I felt the crowd churning, spitting my reflection, I felt the absence of those who loved me and I relived more roads without calling attention to myself, pointing at the sun with a flower, with a hand caressing my shout. Long live the street, the night, the poem, the eternal curse.




{ Jesús Montoya, Las noches de mis años, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2016 }

7.25.2016

Imagino el futuro desde las calles / Jesús Montoya

I Imagine the Future from the Streets

I imagine the future from the streets
cold and hideous like beautiful years
coming to find me on tiptoes,
years kept at sea,
years of foam,
years in the shape a wave
that cross the streets
where I suddenly need
to write and write until I break;
because I always want to write when I can’t,
because the poems open up
like scars on my hands
when I think I’m a filthy
seer who walks like a blind man
without realizing he can’t even see,
because I always seem to be standing on the heights
and I never remember my falls,
because I know my past and its own distance
and I still love it.
I imagine the future,
I imagine its brevity on my skin,
a caress,
a melody hidden in the breeze.
I imagine the future
and I despise it.
I imagine the future
and I only imagine it,
so I won’t have to remember it.




{ Jesús Montoya, Las noches de mis años, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2016 }

7.23.2016

Escriba, escriba / Jesús Montoya

Write, Write

Write, write,
write and don’t be nervous, don’t get hung up,
without any hands.
Write from memory against the morning light,
write about the afternoon at night,
night is the mother of poetry,
of eyes.
Write where the moon would be in your poem.
Write the years and the shades that insist on bending
like smoke on the corners.
Write against sleep from sleep;
write a girl a kiss and a hug for your
friends.
Write because the mountains are also
falling from your eyes.
Write desperately,
write calmly,
Get moving with your legs.
Sit down and go and find yourself and tell me why
you still believe life ends where this poem begins.




{ Jesús Montoya, Las noches de mis años, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2016 }

7.22.2016

Adversario / Rafael Cadenas

Adversary


You live
with simple fruition
though gripped
by your counterbeing.


*

Guided by Lao-Tze you
run errands to find
the route you haven’t lost.

*

Oblivion steps aside,
implants quietude,
corrects posture.

We see each other differently,
as space.




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

7.20.2016

Te has dejado llevar / Rafael Cadenas

You’ve Let Yourself Drift

You’ve let yourself drift.
Maybe another path
waited for you in vain.

You’re a smiling
countermarch.




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

7.17.2016

En una escuela / Rafael Cadenas

At A School

The children’s hands
joined in celebrating poetry
formed a flower I brought home with me.

*

Are you present in this moment?
We let go, but the knots cling
to our neck though we suspend
time, god of fright.

*

José Balza tells me from the heart
of the West, in a patio in Salamanca:
the trip should be pleasant.




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

7.14.2016

Un viejo samurai / Rafael Cadenas

An Old Samurai

An old samurai
laments having dedicated
himself to war, instead of living.




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

7.12.2016

The Night: Rodrigo Blanco Calderón’s Homage to Venezuelan Poet Darío Lancini

                    [Photo: Luisa Fontiveros]


In The Night, Rodrigo Blanco Calderón has one of his characters speak the following phrase many people might easily identify with: “The same thing happens with writers: they offer us a phrase or an image that can eventually change our lives, and when we return from the revelation and want to find its source, it turns out they’ve been dead for many years, like how they say happens with extinct stars and the trail of their brightness.”

When he hears this phrase, the writer evokes the two times he spoke with Darío Lancini. One was at the Chacao Cultural Center and the other was at the El Buscón bookstore. “When I would remember those encounters, they increased my fascination while I was writing the novel. For me he was already a master, but I didn’t really know everything he had done during his life. So when I wrote this type of fictional biography, I was surprised that I hadn’t quite realized who I was so lucky to be talking with.”

As a writer, Blanco Calderón lamented the fleetingness of those encounters with the poet, that weren’t enough to satisfy his interest in a character he kept exploring further and further in his story, where he rescues him and even pays homage to him. “I had been fascinated for a long time with his book Oír a Darío and his palindromes. I began to formally write the novel the day after he died in 2010. Something sparked in me, it was automatic. Intuitively I always thought his life would make a great novel. While I was researching, I realized I was right.”

The novel by Blanco Calderón, born in 1981, is set in various types of chaos, Caracas today, with its routines, darkness and fears, where Darío lived, and where two characters from Blanco Calderón's short stories also live: the former literary promise Pedro Álamo and the forensic psychiatrist Miguel Ardiles.

What’s the reason for the repercussions and interest that have emerged for your novel?

I can mention what I’ve been told and what I’ve read. Obviously, there’s a political interest regarding the situation in Venezuela. A circumstance like the electricity blackouts is incomprehensible in various European countries. It’s sad, but there’s a certain exoticism about our backwardness. Beyond that first reason which is the context, there are also those qualities that aren’t up to me to talk about. I’ve been told that some people are fascinated by Darío’s life. Most of them didn’t know he existed. They searched some of the book’s events on the Internet and were amazed to discover he actually existed, which has also been the case for those readers who’ve looked up the Edmundo Chirinos case.

Could you talk about that encounter between the characters Pedro Álamo and Miguel Ardiles?

Miguel Ardiles appears in my first book of short stories, there’s a continuity. The same with Pedro Álamo, the main character in the short story “El biombo” from Los invencibles (2007). It’s been interesting to see their paths cross. For me the figure of the psychiatrist is the contemporary substitute for what could have been, up to the 19th century, the priest, an authority who receives the confluence of people’s confessions, secrets and trauma. Now, regarding the failed writer, I’m attracted to those types of characters. Both of them have narrative potential.

Some critics classify The Night as a gothic novel. Do you agree?

That’s a classification one of the characters in the novel makes, that he wants to write what he calls gothic realism. A lot of times people are repeating what the character says. If you go beyond the first chapter you realize it’s not quite so, that it’s part of an unfinished project. The Night flirts with being a gothic novel, even a detective novel, but it can’t be classified as either of those. They’re genres with a structure I don’t adhere to.

I noticed that in your acknowledgements you clarify that, despite consulting sources, this is a work of fiction. Weren’t you tempted to let the doubt remain?

That clarification is a symptom of the place where I wrote: Caracas, the capital of a lawless country. Despite being fiction, I reproduce some stories that might certain sensibilities. Also, you never know what someone might use to attack you. Fortunately —or maybe unfortunately— for writers, Chavismo is an illiterate dictatorship. Regardless, I felt the need to safeguard my work.

You’re a short story writer who decided to extend into the novel. At any time did it feel like an uphill battle and did you consider abandoning it?
I never considered abandoning it, but there was a difficult moment. When it came time to write the second part of the novel, Darío Lancini’s life, I thought I had enough with what I had researched up until then, especially in terms of written references. When I began to record testimonies about him I realized what a complex and interesting life he led. I had to do journalistic work, to put it another way, about a person who didn’t leave many traces, someone who was closed and who distanced himself from the literary world.

If you were traveling to Venezuela and they found a copy of your novel in the suitcase at immigration, what would you tell the functionary who asks what it’s about?
I would use labels. I’d say it’s about vampires and wolves, that it has nothing to do with Venezuela.

What do you hope will happen to the reader who finishes The Night?
One hopes that when they reach the last page, that punch you’ve prepared is effective and, as Julio Cortázar would say, knocks them out. And once this happens, the reader goes back to the first page and starts to read again. Of course, these are fantasies that go beyond our capacity for reading, with so many things to read and so little time.

You’re in Paris now. How does one’s perception of Venezuela change when you’re abroad?
Everything becomes sharper. You feel what’s happening with more anguish, you realize the backwardness this government has plunged the country into, especially when you’re amazed at having quality of life. There’s also the anxiety of being far away and not being able to help. My family and my wife are still in Venezuela. But certain cycles have to happen so we can move forward.

Will you return to Venezuela?
My stay here is tied to a doctoral dissertation. I’d love to live in Venezuela again, but I’m still not at the point where I can ask myself if that’ll happen or not. I hope to.

Datum
The Night was published by Alfaguara in Spain, by Gallimard in France and recently by Madera Fina in Venezuela. Two weeks ago it received the Rive Gauche Prize, established in 2011 by the writer and critic Laurence Biava for the purpose of recognizing one French novel, one novel translated into French and a literary journal. The author is currently writing a dissertation at University of Paris 13 about the work of novelist Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez and Venezuelan immigration to Spain.




{ Humberto Sánchez Amaya, El Nacional, 11 July 2016 }

7.02.2016

Salvoconducto: I / Adalber Salas Hernández

Safe Passage: I

Caracas, those about to die don’t salute you.

They have no more hands to lift,
they’ve been cut off, they’ve been torn off
by the dogs walking on two legs at night
or they lost them in some sordid wager
cruel as your name.

And they don’t kneel either, those about
to die, this metallic trembling that
cuts through their backs doesn’t let them,
threading their vertebrae, twisting
their gait. A trembling that seems like it’s
brought from the world’s first cold.

They breathe your smoke, your molasses grass
and decomposed meat and burning
lead beneath the sun, that fills
your bronchioles, overwhelms your palate. Ungrateful
smell of garbage trucks and remorseful tar,
Caracas, all these dry mouths are yours.

We leave you childhood hardened
on a few streets, by the taste of bread,
in the first robbery, the first sunrise
hollowed out by gunshots and rain. It’s all yours,
this breath we own, we’re taking it. Those about
to die watch you like undomesticated
beasts and smile at you, toothless.

We don’t salute you, though we live
in your sand, in the dust that made us
now blending into our skin.
We’ve already sifted through your tired, dirty bones,
pruned by blindness. We know you, Caracas.
Each morning, the stone of your laughter
explodes against our forehead. We know your gestures
like a carnivorous mother, we’ve seen
where you bite your own tail.

We don’t salute you and no one even blinks.
No one notices the accumulated rust in
our voices, no one sees in our faces
how we’ve already understood, that regardless
the prose of our days will be abrupt
like your alleys
and the hour of our disappearance
will have the pity of your stray bullets.




{ Adalber Salas Hernández, Salvoconducto, Valencia, España: Pre-Textos, 2015 }