Rebolledo dividió el país / Eduardo Febres

Alejandro Rebolledo Divided the Country


First Limitation:

I’m writing this near Barcelona, but the one in Anzoátegui state, Venezuela. An old private joke from the year Alejandro Rebolledo wrote Poemas del distroy, Juan Barreto won the elections for the mayorship of Caracas, and Andrés González Camino and I met up in Barcelona, Spain (2004). Diego Sequera, who stayed in Caracas, wrote it: “I’m in Barcelona but the one in Anzoátegui, motherfucker.”

I won’t call you a motherfucker (dear reader), but I am close to the Barcelona in Anzoátegui, and Andrés is in that other Barcelona right now, from where he gave me the news of Alejandro Rebolledo’s death.


Second Limitation:

I’m writing this text from memory. Just like the public classes Adriano (González León) gave, and the private rounds of drinking with Adriano, to which an enormous percentage of writers from three generations have had access. From my generation, through his son Andrés. From Rebolledo’s generation, thorough his daughter Giorgiana, I suppose, though not that many. And from Adriano’s, through Adriano himself.


Third Limitation:

I didn’t read Pim Pam Pum either. I tried to fourteen years ago and it didn’t hook me. From what people say (that it’s the novel of the nineties) I suppose it’s because the type of rebel I was never quite adapted to the consensual rebellion that Urbe magazine sold.

Later on I got half way through it, when Andrés went to visit me in Buenos Aires and brought it with him. I didn’t finish reading it because I felt it became simply annoying. But I do recognize that at first it seemed alright to me.


Fourth Limitation:

Saying Alejandro Rebolledo (1970-2016) divided the country is only true if we’re talking about that minuscule part of the country that’s the radius of influence of Venezuelan literature and bougie-punk nerds. So it’s precisely that minuscule part of the country that I’m talking about, because for that part of the country Rebolledo has been for at least a few days the last name that gives a form to a visceral, ferocious and extensive confrontation, which although it’s mobilized by the affective (and maybe precisely for that reason), seems to determine sides in a logic that doesn’t belong to the omnipresent national polarization.

(For the reader who doesn’t belong to that part of the country: the most successful writer of my generation, Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, wrote a lapidary and vitriolic article against the literary hagiography surrounding the recently-deceased author of the novel Pim Pam Pum (1998/2010) created on social media by his readers and mourners. And the reactions, responses and opinions continue to multiply).


Fifth and Final Limitation, and Our Main Point:

It could be that the passions will subside a long time from now or soon. But elements already exist that make us affirm that the Blanco Calderón-Rebolledo affair is the first literary schism of the 21st century in Venezuela, as José Ignacio Calderón suggested to me yesterday.

The first schism in the 21st century Venezuelan literary field, as we all know, wasn’t a literary schism, and it still persists. It’s the schism called Bolivarian Revolution or Chavismo, which didn’t create new readings in the field, or disputes regarding ways of reading and defining what the literary might be, but instead subsumed them in the ideological horizon.


The literary aspect in that schism has been functional for one of the groups in the dispute. Because as we proposed a while ago here: the best Chavista writing isn’t literature, and if there are Chávistas who write good literature, the good things about that literature isn’t that they’re Chavistas, in the same way that the good things about their Chavismo isn’t the literary.

Did Gustavo Pereira, Luis Britto García, Earle Herrera, José Roberto Duque or Juan Calzadilla become worse writers because they’re Chavistas? No. Chavismo (auto) expelled them from the spaces of literary valuation.


I detect small but significant symptoms in the Urbe-Prodavinci affair, a disposition of logics that subvert and transcend that non-literary schism that’s symmetrical to the national polarization.

For one, I identified almost completely with the article by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón (with whom I don’t have a single political idea in common) when I read it for the first time. First because I reject that postmodern nineties Fukuyama cool cynicism that Rebolledo and Pim Pam Pum represent. And second because of its invitation to look beyond the Los Palos Grandes neighborhood of Caracas and to read two of those writers who by means of their Chavismo were (auto) expelled from the literary scene.


Once I understood the affective, social and cultural dimensions of the Pim Pam Pum phenomenon, and of Rebolledo’s non-visible work as a DJ and promoter (just like there’s a non-visible work in Adriano’s drinking sessions, keeping in mind the obvious differences), I reread Blanco Calderón’s article and I understand the concerns it raised among many people. Regardless, the experiment was already made: when I shared the article, I found immediate empathy and resonance among people in my own ideological spectrum. Mercedes Chacín, editor of Épale CCS, shared the article by Blanco Calderón who a few weeks ago told the European press that Chavismo is an illiterate dictatorship; Giordana García Sojo asked me if I have a copy of Blanco Calderón’s new novel The Night, so she could borrow it. In the following hours, I noticed figures from the up until now monochord literary world in Venezuela pushing beyond their limits in the tone of a dispute between the Chavista-dominated Esquina Caliente of downtown Caracas and the opposition neighborhood of El Cafetal.


Someone (me yesterday, for example) could say this isn’t a literary dispute but rather a show-business, generational and affective one. But literature is also made of all those aspects, just like it’s made of politics. What’s happening is that the way people understand politics in this dispute is different from the great narratives of war and dictatorship.

The article that unleashes it isn’t the most legible starting point, because it’s an article that rejects reading. But precisely for that reason it reveals the discussion of the literary field in all its crudity: it’s a discussion about what should and shouldn’t be read.

That’s why I don’t rule out that Rebolledo or Blanco Calderón might be good points to begin looking at the only place where (as I already said) the literature of Chavismo can be found: in the ways of reading (or no longer reading in the future).

After all, if the poet Chávez cited in his final speech was Borges, there’s no reason to expect the literature of Chavismo be written by those we call “of the left.”

{ Eduardo Febres, Contrapunto, 26 August 2016 }

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