El universo literario llamado José Balza / Ximena Agudo

The Literary Universe Called José Balza

The bookstore La Bonilla, a warm and obsequious reading space, made the presentation of Red de autores, ensayos y ejercicios de literatura hispanoamericana (2011) by José Balza a special occasion for a gathering and conversation among a distinguished group of Mexican and Venezuelan intellectuals.

Red de autores, the new work by José Balza, recently published in Mexico, joins Las Semanas del Jardín, a collection nourished by Adolfo Castañón, the prominent Mexican poet, as well as essayist, translator and editor of numerous works of literary criticism. He was one of the event’s hosts, along with Benito Artigas, from the publishing house Bonilla-Artigas, who co-published the book, and Josu Landa, poet, philosopher and professor in the Literature Department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), who has no doubt that in Mexico “those who are interested in good literature are already familiar with a great deal of José Balza’s work.” Which is why the appearance of this publication, co-published under the imprint Iberoamericana, “puts in the hands of the Mexican reader another opportunity for an incursion and a stay in the literary universe forged and woven by José Balza, throughout decades of copious and persistent labor.”

Red de autores is a book, as Landa points out, that “contains the knots and threads of a considerable part of the great dialogical web that Balza has been putting together since his youth... So that each one of the texts included in this volume evidence a style without equal, as an expression of an gracious tact, a tone that harmonizes sensibility and thought, passion and reason, pleasure and value, poetry and idea, aesthetic commitment and ethical conscience.”

Landa emphasizes, on the other hand, that José Balza’s way of being current finds its projection “in his fertile link with the great figures of the Spanish Golden Age, particularly with that of Baltasar Gracián, and the one he has maintained for decades with an ample catalog of his contemporaries, among whom we might mention Octavio Paz, Guillermo Sucre, Rafael Cadenas, Eugenio Montejo, Sergio Pitol, Julio Ortega, Alejandro Rossi, Eduardo Milán, Juan Villoro, Carmen Boullosa, Gustavo Guerrero... just from those that inhabit this book’s pages.”

As for the boundaries of his own country, Landa points out that “José Balza’s creative glance fixes on a textuality populated by human shades without relief, interlined with the threads of silent, intra-historical dailiness: a world without totemic dictators, without colonels of scabrous pasts, without true or mediocre epic heroes, without magical daydreams, without marvelous mirages, without ‘great occurrences,’ and convulsions that float over the hard and grey lives of common people.”

Beyond the meaning of the pages in Red de autores that refer to the political and literary homeland of José Balza, regarding which, moreover, as Landa affirms, “he has known how to interweave, in a long string of more or less brief novels and short stories, the intra-history of a vertiginous and ‘oily’ human reality... there are many others in this book that reflect quite well his posture when faced by the expressions of art and culture in Latin America (...) Balza places himself in a continental perspective, without the least trace of chauvinism, a stranger to the folklore and customs that color with ridiculousness the undeniable cultural specificity of Latin America.”

{ Ximena Agudo, Tal Cual, 1 November 2011 }

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