Figuras emblemáticas de la cultura / Oswaldo Barreto

Emblematic Cultural Figures

On the occasion of the recent awarding of the national prizes to artists, writers and cultural promoters, we’ve talked here about Renato Rodríguez and Rafaela Baroni as emblematic figures of Venezuela’s cultural life during the previous democratic regimes. Both artists incarnate this representative nature in diverse manners, which we can barely mention in such a brief article. Seen as a completed whole already, Renato Rodríguez’s fiction presents itself to us as an original and vigorous testimony in two different aspects.

On the one hand we encounter, in the plane of his formation as an author and in the elaboration of his work, a person who decides – having spent his youth working in fields completely removed from any formal ties to literature – to consecrate himself to transforming his own experiences and those of his closest fellow beings in material for his fiction. His three novels, Al sur del Equanil, El bonche and La noche escuece, along with that short piece of gastronomical fiction – a pioneer in this genre among us – ¡Viva la pasta!, all seem to be an exposition of not just his experiences, but also of the author’s arduous task of mastering methods, techniques and abilities of the task he practices. And his opening up to the world is complete, in time as well as in space. At the beginning of the sixties – which is when the new democratic regimes began as well – the man who has lived immersed in the changes that have taken Venezuela from being a rural country isolated from the world to another one, each day more urban and more closely linked to the world, also opens himself to the study of other literatures, other tongues and cultures. First South America and then the United States and Europe become for Renato laboratories where he researches the present and past of those literatures, allowing them to penetrate almost imperceptibly his own creations. The vicissitudes of his characters, presented with a humor that is all his own and a very personal type of analysis, can start in a tiny corner of Los Chorros and continue through France’s Normandy, through Hamburg, or resuscitate in New York. Renato’s fiction has no frontiers other than those of his own art, he enacts his creation in complete freedom.

And this brings us to the second emblematic aspect. This creative freedom was a normal matter in those Venezuelan cultural atmospheres, where you didn’t write in pursuit of a determined formula or in an attempt to artistically incarnate a political tendency. The reception of Renato’s work and his publication by state funded editorial houses were motivated by a single quality: its extraordinary quality.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, Tal Cual, 21 August 2006 }

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