Sólo los muertos hablan / Héctor Silva Michelena

Only the Dead Speak

On one occasion, a journalist asked the Cuban writer Roberto Fernández Retamar when they would publish the work of Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a great Cuban writer, well-known beyond borders in the art of fiction. Fernández Retamar replied that they would publish and distribute it after the death of his exiled and execrated compatriot.

Cabrera Infante would be denied the pleasure of having his work circulate in his homeland, the summit of humanity, where the spirit's greatest values endure. The same thing happened to the master of narrative, and the poet, José Lezama Lima, whose work was published by the Castro regime only after his death. The great Severo Sarduy did not have better luck. His Cristo de la rue Jacob was only able to leave the Parisian street and cross the ocean after his crystal figurine fell, torn to pieces. The tides of Cuban sadness rise when the dead cry their words.

In Venezuela, where the spirit of freedom is drowned, something worse than that uncouth response has ocurred. The victims were the poets Alberto Arvelo Torrealba and Ludovico Silva, who were subjected to "revolutionary" surgeries in order to turn them into puppets of the regime.

The children of the great poet from Barinas corrected the uneloquent lieutenant colonel who, in unhappy ignorance, obscenely manipulated the meaning of the poem, which has nothing to do with the half-formed plans that crowd his prosaic brain. The writer Teresa Espar, from the Universidad de los Andes, uncovers the scheme, when she says: "These two archetypes (Florentino and the Devil) of the Venezuelan identity are one and the other of a single legendary and magical voice..." They are a legend of a man and the devil, part of our cultural heritage. I heard the original version from the "Cantata Criolla" by the master Antonio Estévez, which premiered at the Concha Acústica. The lieutenant colonel disfigured the poem in one of his over-excited Sunday performances.

Ludovico Silva also suffered the effects of this military man degraded by his own actions, during the swearing in ceremony for the new Minister of Culture, when he cited phrases from his work regarding culture as a tool for the transformation of consciousness. As my brother's literary executor, I think that Ludovico would be furious hearing his name spoken by such thorny lips. What I am sure of is that it would have bothered him to see himself used as toilet paper by the one who defecates on the country. Ludovico always practiced an open Marxism, so that the world could know the portrait of Marx, without deformations. Ludovico also said: "Culture has come to disgust me when it is the fiction of rulers and flatterers."

Regarding this lieutenant colonel, one can affirm his new habit is reciting the verse by Boris Vian: "I will spit on your graves."

In Venezuela, as in Cuba, only the dead speak. We attend a poor imitation of The Dead Poets Society, and an infinite ailment of melancholy which Sineth Melinkoff tells us.

{ Héctor Silva Michelena, TalCual, 21 June 2004 }

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