Los huesos andantes de Ludovico / Héctor Silva Michelena

Ludovico’s Rambling Bones

He had the privilege of shining in the various fields where he projected his sensitive intelligence. Philosopher, essayist, literary critic, poet and newspaper writer of great importance, Ludovico Silva (1937-1988) was a columnist for El Nacional, as well as the author of an extensive oeuvre that has been translated into several languages.

“If my bones were to perish, make them walk.” Ludovico would speak these chilling words to those of us who were intimate with him, and it is what I, his tutelary brother, aspire to achieve in these lines: to rescue his bones from the folds of my memory and make them walk: full of blood and sun. Yes, the sun because in a letter he sent me in 1956 from Freiburg in Breisgau, as he preferred to call it, he wrote: “Héctor, these sun cymbals bloody the shores of my eyes.”

I’m going to evoke terrible and beautiful splinters of the bones and sun that sustained and animated a tormented existence, which prolonged itself thanks to the spiritual rest he received in the last decade of his life, the love of his wife Beatriz.

Tormented existence? Yes! Together we traveled to alcohol’s chiaroscuro kingdom, together we caroused in the bars and taverns in the whirlwind of the República del Este and the Callejón de la Puñalada, together we gave food and drink to beggars and gangsters at high dawn. We received in the three apartments we shared together numerous friends, poets, actors, painters, novelists, like Darío Lancini, Caupolicán Ovalles, Luis Salazar, Héctor Mayerston, Indio Guerra, Salvador Garmendia and Adriano González León, who wrote, in front of a bottle of rum, a stupendous short story that Guillermo Meneses published in the magazine Cal. One day I arrived at our apartment in El Marquéz, where electricity blackouts were frequent, and I noticed thick smoke coming through the crevices of the door. I quickly opened the door and ran to the room where we slept. I found my brother laid out drunk on his bed, which was on fire on all four sides, a fire that spread to our clothes, which were ruined or scorched. Ludovico had passed out with a lit cigarette. In 1986 he entered the Casa Blanca clinic, where he wrote some moving and hard texts, which the poet Harry Almela published (2002). Four years later I opened my eyes in the intensive care unit of a hospital, where I was taken during an emergency of brain convulsions due to my alcoholism.

Years before, I had diminished the journey, due to my studies. But Ludovico continued his atrocious trip: he had his son, Rodrigo, whom he barely got to know, to his own mortification; Rosa del Olmo, his wife at the time, soon left him; she had grown tired of having to welcome him home drunk on so many nights and of picking him up from their apartment hallway. This initiated a terrible orbit through rented rooms, pigsties, jails, alleys and a few lovers who were fascinated by bohemia and by his dazzling and suggestive words.

Ludovico was born on February 16, 1937 and died early one morning in December of 1988. He was killed by a major cirrhosis of the liver that gave him a heart attack. Death came and took his eyes without agony. Thus ascended to encounter Baudelaire and Machado, his aesthetic fathers, he who had never stopped writing not even while under the lash of his abundant ethyl and psychic crises. From them he extracted his Ars Poetica: “Poetry is the musical combination of symbols.”

I don’t want to continue without clarifying that I write this at the request of my friend, the writer Nelson Rivera, and on the occasion of the recent publication of Ludovico’s book Teoría poética (Caracas: Editorial Equinoccio, Universidad Simón Bolívar, 2008). This is a unique edition in many ways. It was discovered in Maracay, in 2005, in the offices of the Fundación Ludovico Silva, run by his widow Beatriz. We owe the discovery of this manuscript, which he began to write in the mid eighties, to the intimate and tenacious dedication of the high poet Edda Armas, who with admirable diligence “put the pieces of the puzzle together,” on the tough trail of loose and dispersed texts, in order to piece them together with one objective: to reveal what for Ludovico was a great dream: to write a major work, “a vast book entitled Teoría poética de la cultura occidental,” which ranges from Homer to Vicente Gerbasi.”

Nothing better for discerning the great interest of this discovery, than transcribing a fragment from Edda Armas’s stupendous prologue: “Invited by the Fundación Ludovico Silva, I traveled to the city of Maracay to give a reading in the poetry series Cuadernos de la Noche, at the Agustín Codazzi Library. Once the event was over, we gathered in the offices of the homonymous Foundation where the manuscripts, photographs, portraits and art works inspired by the poetic work of Ludovico are housed. Late into the night, when I was ready to sleep, I received from Beatriz Guzmán, Beatrice, his widow, a river blue-green folder, dated 1986, with the heading “Teoría poética,” so that I might look it over. This sparked my curiosity once I was installed in the small guest room and beneath the precarious light of the bedside table I opened and read “Las misteriosas correspondencias,” which is what he titled the first chapter. The original folder contained the original and the carbon copy of this document, composed on a typewriter. He clarifies that these are his notes on Teoría poetica and that he selects as an ideal and concrete door for them the name of the well-known and inexhaustible sonnet by Baudelaire, “Correspondances.” ”

Edda says the text moved her in a particular manner, not because of its yellowed pages no the date but, dramatically, because of what it contained: the topics the poet addressed in the first poetry workshop offered at the Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Rómulo Gallegos (1975-1976), in which Edda participated and never forgot: mainly the poetics of Nerval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Valéry; these were his literary preferences, balanced on the immortal verses of Saint John of the Cross. I drop the curtain here and continue.

Luis José Silva Michelena–Ludovico’s birth name–was the youngest of five siblings. He was born in the house Villa Marietta, located on Argentina Street in the uninhabited neighborhood of Catia. It’s not possible, nor desirable, to follow Ludovico and his family’s steps in life. For that we have the excellent chronology in the book edited by Edda. Nor am I going to analyze his work, for two reasons: first, I lived alongside it intensely; secondly, such an examination has already been undertaken, even if in an unsatisfactory manner because of its fragmentary nature. I could say, for example, that the seeds of Teoría literaria spring from our intense discussions of Aristotle’s Poetics, as well as by a luminous essay by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Poetic Principle,” which greatly influenced Baudelaire’s ideas.

Our family’s life was itinerant, until we entered the San Ignacio School, where we graduated from secondary school. Important things happened there. Truthfully, Ludovico wanted to be a poet since he was a child, and this desire would not have given early fruits had it not been for three decisive factors that came together at San Ignacio: his conversations with me, the stimulus of the Jesuit priest Leopoldo López Guerrero, and the strong influence of the Haitian writer Paul Verna, who instilled in us the divine poison of French poetry in his classes. Paul turned us into fanatics of Baudelaire. Under his warmth, he made us read Les Fleurs du mal and several biographies, among which stands out one I bought in Buenos Aires, by François Porché, which is psychoanalytical and chilling, and which left us forever feverish. This is the reason why Ludovico chose the poem “Correspondances” as an entrance to his Teoría poética, following the teachings of Hugo Friedrich, his professor of Roman Philology at the University of Freiburg.

Ludovico was in Europe from 1954 until 1960. He read voraciously, traveled, took classes and frequented bars and taverns. In none of his letters I received did he hint at any political inclination, although a light air led him to flirt with the right. Many moons passed, unsettling for me. Ludovico returned to Venezuela in 1960, inserted himself in the rebellious literary groups of the 60s. The poet couldn’t find work. He lived with me, a communist activist, for five years, during which, after arduous discussions, I convinced him to go see comrade Pedro Duno, who had an important position at a Marxist institute and who asked him when he visited: “What can you tell me?” Ludovico answered: “All the world’s darkening will never eclipse the light of Being,” a phrase by Nietszche known to Pedro, who hired him. He taught classes on grammar and literature, but he never joined the party; he said it restricted him. But he did become a student of Marx, whose discourse and, in particular, his literary style fascinated him. Ludovico and the PCV, though not the MIR, hated each other, save for a few exceptions. (Jesús Sanoja Hernández, Héctor Mujica, Federico Álvarez, Pedro Duno and Alfredo Maneiro.)

In this manner, the move towards enchantment was produced, which Sanoja briefly describes (2002): “After the dissolution of the group that animated this magazine (Crítica contemporánea) and the confrontation between some of its members (…) and Ludovico having traversed leftist journalism, he made the decision to study philosophy (…) This transitional stage coincided with his magnificent work in the magazine Papeles, funded by the Ateneo.” In August of 1965, Jesús Sanoja Hernández presented in the Ateneo, the Antimanual para uso de marxista, marcianos y marxólogos, which resulted in, according to Sanoja, “not a few complaints that my comrades of inquisitorial nature expressed to me for ideological tolerance.” Honor to Jesús Sanoja Hernández!

Let us make ask ourselves a burning question: How would Ludovico’s stupendous and sharpened pen have written today? Is he be happily listening, in that warehouse full of alcohol and wine that is his grave, to the cheers of imposture that he receives today from a claque under its veil of ignorance? As my brother’s only literary executor, I think his bones would have been walking, without listening to the call of the sirens. Those bones would be like flutes blown by Orpheus, allowing the beautiful prosody of his verses to be heard: “the waters departing from me forever / passing mutely in front of my world.”

{ Héctor Silva Michelena, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 21 March 2009 }

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