Bibliografía. La torre de Timón, José Antonio Ramos Sucre / Fernando Paz Castillo

Bibliography: Timon’s Tower, José Antonio Ramos Sucre

                  [Fernando Paz Castillo (1893-1981) in Caracas by Vasco Szinetar]

This title is an authentic find. José Antonio Ramos Sucre lives in his tower, anachronically in his tower of books, removed from everyday life and modern literature.

“My teachers come from a long way away,” he says emphatically, with a certain Andalusian exaggeration, when someone points out the resemblance or suggestion between one of his poems and those by any number of writers from the nineteenth century to our days.

But this strange, tough spirit, this ascetic soul, has the sickly emotiveness of a modern writer.

For the author of Timon’s Tower the exterior world doesn’t exist. Life for him is a series of more or less arbitrary cerebrations, I say life and not art, because his art is a faithful transfer of his way of living, incomprehensible and maniacal.

The topics of his compositions seem incomprehensible to many people, and they are always suggested by readings, or by those somewhat bookish emotions that, altered by childhood imagination, eventually form a picturesque world of imps and ghosts, that begin by tormenting us and eventually become our best friends. I always note in his poems something from this world of childhood, any one of those superstitions, like sediment from past beliefs.

“The soul is ancient and knows so many things!” said an old philosopher. Yes the world of evocations has no limits in time nor does it recognize a fixed point in space. We’re each born with a fortune which is all of our patrimony: the East, Greece, Rome, these form part of a beautiful past, you could almost say, of our childhood. Sesostris, Achilles, Brutus end up being, as time passes, the same thing as the disobedient child’s broken sled and Juan, the one whose cap is missing the chin strap. Whoever lacks the reminiscences, whoever doesn’t have a literary tradition that begins, at the very least, on school benches, won’t be able to understand the motives of this writer, or better yet, this scholiast of ancient parchments.

His exalted fantasy moves him to situate himself preferably in the Middle Ages. The spirit of his melancholia enjoys the landscapes of such a sinister era that was called “night.” Isn’t the Gothic tower a product of that past? Isn’t Ramos Sucre’s art rather Gothic? Don’t all his writings have a construction of medieval architecture, somber and fantastical?

The dream of this writer is unity, the annihilation of the will in the great theological mystery. Ramos Sucre is a mystic, though not a joyful pantheist who contemplates nature, but rather a superstitious ascetic, gaunt like a Spaniard from the 1500s.

We can’t forget Ramos Sucre’s early childhood in an ancient city, with narrow streets and bloody legends, where colonial life tenaciously remained up until very recently, that his first years were under the shadow of Father Ramos, an erudite straggler from the nineteenth century, and that the first books that fell into his hands, at that point unable to browse them, were those of Massillon, Bossuet and a few Latin textbooks.

In hours of leisure he wouldn’t go out to the countryside to play with his friends, to wade in the placid ocean in Cumaná, a place toward which he always has a deep affection, to swim in the Manzanares river bordered by palm trees like a sacred river in India, to leap with a naked body in the clear water of dawn, under the clean sky of that tropical Greece. An erudite since childhood, he would seek out eclogues of solitude to read, hidden away from everything, with some thick volume of narrative history, or some entertaining novel by Alexandre Dumas.

Many of his poems, since there’s nothing else these texts could be, are reminiscences more than of reading, of the plates that illustrate those books: Gustave Doré, Albrecht Dürer, etc. This is why those who haven’t seen these illustrations find the text obscure, but, thinking clearly about it, this isn’t really the author’s fault.

Is it a duty for the writer to be understood by everyone? I sincerely don”t think so. It’s hard to understand other people’s thoughts. Even in life itself it happens to us, quite frequently, that the people we feel closest to don’t really know us. Many times we imagine we’re proceeding correctly, because we proceed with sincerity, and we’re interpreted wrongly. Interested feelings, selfish stares, these stain the purity of our dreams and it’s much easier to say “I don’t understand” then to take the trouble to understand.

In order to understand someone in life or art you need some generosity and in order to be generous you have to let go of yourself partly. The fact of not being understood is sad, because the person who is misunderstood feels isolated, without sympathy from the world. Only a strong spirit can construct for itself with the spoils of its dreams a Tower of Timon: a tower of isolation and bitterness, a tower of shyness toward other men, like the one constructed by the misanthrope of Athens.

I said he has a maniacal temperament and this is seen quite clearly: in many of his poems the word that doesn’t appear. Some will say it’s a linguist’s virtuosity; but isn’t linguistics a form of mania in the author?

Undoubtedly he’s not the correct type of author, preoccupied with the purity of language, but rather with the purity of an arbitrary language he himself has formed, with outdated rules of Latin grammar. One notes in many of his compositions gallicized words such as miraje for a mirage and escrutar in the sense of investigating. Does Ramos Sucre know these words are incorrect? Of course. He uses them constantly and if someone notices it, he says:

“They’re Latin and I write from a base of Latin. After all that’s an explanation.”

Now in the latest productions by Ramos Sucre we discover new influences. From the sixteenth century ascetic he was, he has now become a pagan of an Adriatic from the seventeenth century. His new poems are motives of the Renaissance seen through a Nordic fog, with a certain sobriety in the strokes of a Pre-Raphaelite painter.

José Antonio Ramos Sucre is a poetic temperament. Except he lacks a mastery of rhyme and that modern form of art that consists of watching. The modern poet can’t discard the landscape, which is for Ramos Sucre an abstraction: thin pine trees, withered lands, skies with blinding light; but no color, no reality, nothing to give a feeling of life, nor the impression of movement.

Timón’s Tower isn’t a book, like most written today, to get in touch with the public, conquer the sympathy of readers, but instead a book to isolate oneself further. Men forgive everything except not understanding. Revenge is inevitable: they nickname crazy and extravagant whoever they don’t understand.

Locked in his tower, in his misanthrope’s tower, he’ll be able to watch everyone who screams as they pass, everyone who vociferates...

Art wasn’t made for those who won’t take the trouble to understand.

Élite, 3 October 1925

{ Translated from José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra poética, Edición crítica de Alba Rosa Hernández Bossio, Madrid: Colección Archivos, 2001 }

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