Novela y revolución: Ana Teresa Torres / Gisela Kozak Rovero

Novel and Revolution: Ana Teresa Torres

Literature has testified to the strength of the socialist revolutionary myth in Venezuelan consciousness since the sixties in the 20th century until today. This violent passion has been incarnated in the Bolivarian Revolution but its roots are found in the 19th century, in the wars of independence, the civil wars and in the caudillos of rural and patriarchal lineage. Two great novels have explored this historical continuity between 19th-century militias, caudillos and guerrillas: País portátil, by Adriano González León, and Los últimos espectadores del acorazado Potemkin, by Ana Teresa Torres, recently reprinted by the prestigious Mexican publishing house Fondo de Cultura Económica. The extraordinary literary quality of both texts places them among the peaks of the novel in Venezuela and there exists between them a secret dialogue whose pertinence to the national present we must highlight. If País portátil took the pulse of our revolutionary myth as a desirable horizon, Los últimos espectadores del acorazado Potemkin reveals its tragic scars, its radical failure reflected in the mirror of our decadence as a country.

A man and woman without names, solitary regulars at a dive bar, engage in a dialogue about individual and collective pasts, a colloquium that combines with autobiographical text, a story with overtones of a romance novel with mythological and historical implications, love letters and interventions of journalistic and psychoanalytical style. The protagonist’s brother was a guerrilla fighter, with a brilliant amorous resume and a cinematic life, who begins with his admiration for a rural caudillo fallen on hard times, the general Pardo, an admiration moreover accompanied by a contemptuous view of his own father, a successful, orderly and hard-working immigrant. Toward the end of his life, this guerrilla embarks on a plan to assassinate the president.

The narratives that make up the novel correct and contradict one another. The grandiloquent autobiography of the guerrilla fighter, “La noche sin estrellas,” is questioned by his younger brother. The novel La segunda muerte de Eurídice is confronted with the protagonist’s version regarding the disappearance of his wife. The short story “Los subversivos” foreshadows the assassination attempt. A doubt corrodes this entire novel, the radical doubt of the characters regarding the revolutionary myth, national salvation and undeniable truths. This unredeemed left represented in the character of the guerrilla fighter today governs our country with the consequent institutional destruction and the contempt for the achievements of civilian life from the independence to the present. La herencia de la tribu, the title of a successful essay by Torres, emerges once more. In such difficult times for our country, a reading of Los últimos espectadores del acorazado Potemkin imposes itself as much for its literary quality as for its historical and social discernment.

{ Gisela Kozak Rovero, Tal Cual, 5 August 2011 }

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