Over the weekend I've been re-reading Roberto Fernandez Retamar's essay "Caliban: Notes Toward a Discussion of Culture in Our America" (1971). I find that reading poets such as Fernandez Retamar, or Ernesto Cardenal, recently, brings up a wide range of conflicting emotions in me.

I read today, for instance, an excerpt from an interview with Ernesto Cardenal in Mexico last week, where the Fondo de Cultura Economica is publishing 2nd editions of the first two volumes of his autobiography("Vida perdida" and "Las insulas extranas"). In this interview (with the literary news agency Librusa), Cardenal mentions: "I didn't participate in politics, I participated in a revolution. I supported a revolution and the revolution failed. [...] The last volume of my memoirs is called "La revolucion perdida" and it discusses the theoretical struggles of the revolution up to its triumph, and later the years of the [Sandinista] revolutionary government, which were beautiful, and lastly the sad defeat, which was due to the corruption of the central leaders of the revolution."

For many years now, Cardenal has not been a member of the Sandinista political party, choosing instead to focus on his poetry, and claiming differences with party leaders such as Daniel Ortega. Fernandez Retamar's book Caliban and Other Essays (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1989 / trans. Edward Baker) ends with a great essay on Cardenal's poetry:

"In the active reading his poetry demands--and here we can see the author's clear ideological evolution--the universe is real and is now and is beautiful and is love and is struggle." (109)

I find Fernandez Retamar's analysis of language in the Americas to be insightful:

"While other colonials or ex-colonials in metropolitan centers speak among themselves in their own langauge, we Latin Americans continue to use the language of our colonizers. These are the linguas francas capable of going beyond the frontiers that neither the aboriginal nor Creole languages succeed in crossing."

What I'm conflicted about is perhaps unclear even to me. It has to do with my many years of wanting to believe in certain ideals of liberation. I find events in Venezuela (the rise of Chavez, etc.) have brought this idea of Leftist "revolution" to my doorstep. And of course, what I find is that "revolution' ends up being just as bad as capitalism, if not worse.

The conlflict I have is with learning to balance my affinity for many of the literary and political ideas in the work of writers such as Fernandez Retamar, Cardenal and Cintio Vitier, while watching in horror as a "revolution" destroys Venezuela. I see the hypocrisy of writers such as Fernandez Retamar and Vitier, who seem oblivious in public regarding the inconsistencies of leaders such as Castro or Chavez.

First lesson is one I should have learned much earlier: "Don't follow leaders..." Invariably, the idea of Leftist revolution in recent years has always brought with it the specter of Stalin. We could go into a footnote here about tyranny in general, how power corrupts, etc.

So, I find myself hoping (more or less, powerlessly) that the "revolution" in Venezuela fails as soon as possible. I will continue to read and admire writers who support this idea of revolution in Latin America. However, there's a sense of vertigo, or sickness, in my stomach when I think about day to day events in Caracas. When I realize that a large part of this postmodern moment we're living involves the corruption of all political spheres.

But this is so naive. Political spheres have always been corrupted. And ideas of Left or Right at the moment are almost meaningless, since they are constantly being re-defined. Too much to analyze and I'm not up to the task of disentangling these strands (work, living, rent calling me). The "revolution" I read about in Fernandez Retamar and Cardenal is not an ideal I am dismissing as completely untrue. I'm merely pointing to the immense disaster "revolution" is creating in Cuba and Venezuela right now. It is a dead end, and for intellectuals to support such destruction seems ludicrous.

No comments: