Τετάρτη, 9 Μαΐου 2018

Διεθνής Έκθση Βιβλίου Θεσσαλονίκης μεταφράσεις στο εξωτερικό

Μεταφραστές ελληνικής λογοτεχνίας από την Αίγυπτο, Γαλλία, Βουλγαρία, Ουκρανία, Σερβία συζητάνε για την προώθηση της ελληνικής λογοτεχνίας στο εξωτερικό. Για την αγάπη που έχουν αλλά και τις δυσκολίες στο έργο τους, τις περισσότερες φορές αβοήθητοι από την ελληνική πλευρά. Να τονίσουμε ότι το Κέντρο Μετάφρασης της Αιγύπτου έχει την πιο ολοκληρωμένη και συγκροτημένη παρουσία στον τομέα αυτό στην Έκθεση μέσα ενώ το Ίδρυμα Πολιτισμού στην Ουκρανία προγραμματίζει δύο βιβλία το χρόνο.
Ανάμεσά τους οι Andriy Savenko και Khaled Raouf .
Ο Χάλεντ Ράουφ είναι και ο δικός μου μεταφραστής στην Αίγυπτο αφού μετέφρασε το μυθιστόρημα "Αλούζα χίλιοι κι ένας εραστές" στα αραβικά το 2017. Όπως είπε το μυθιστόρημα έχει μεγάλη επιτυχία τόσο εμπορική όσο και κριτική. 
Πολύ καλά επίσης πάει και το βιβλίο του Δημήτρη Δημητριάδςη "Πεθαίνω σαν χώρα" σε δική του επίσης μετάφραση. 

Πέμπτη, 3 Μαΐου 2018

Υπήρχε άραγε queer πριν το queer;

Γράφει σε ανάρτηση ο επίκουρος καθηγητής νεοελληνικής λογοτεχνίας ΑΠΘ Τάσος Καπλάνης μια μέρα πριν την συζήτηση στην Έκθεση Βιβλίου Θεσσαλονίκης, την Παρασκευή στις 9μμ στο Φιλολογικό Καφενείο, Περίπτερο 13¨

"Υπήρχε άραγε queer πριν το queer; Πολύ μεγάλο θέμα, αλλά αν υπήρχε, τότε η επιτομή του είναι ο Dr. Frank'n'Furter (Tim Curry) από το Rocky Horror Picture Show του 1975, η sweet transvestite from trans-sexual Trans-sylvania:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQRjhZyXJFg
Αλλά πάλι μιλάμε για τα 1970s: την εποχή του Παζολίνι, του Ντέρεκ Τζάρμαν, της Λίντα Λάβλεϊς από το Βαθύ Λαρύγγι που είχε την κλειτορίδα στο λαιμό της (!). Αχ αυτά τα 70s (φυσικά όχι τυχαία το Παρτάλι διαδραματίζεται στα 1970s). Και τι ωραία και αποτελεσματικά που τα ρούφηξαν και τα απονεύρωσαν τα 1980s...
To ενδιαφέρον με το queer στα 1990s πια είναι ότι δεν ονειρεύεται πλέον μια επανάσταση (το έχουμε ξαναδεί το έργο και την κατάληξή του...), δεν αμφισβητεί το θέαμα και την κοινωνία του θεάματος, όπως έκαναν οι καταστασιακοί το Μάη του 68, αυτοσυστήνεται ως θέαμα αμφισβήτησης και, πολιτικά, στην Αμερική τουλάχιστον, γίνεται έτσι πολύ πιο αποτελεσματικό. Φυσικά όχι χωρίς αντιστάσεις. Οι στρατηγικές πολλές και συχνά καταστασιακές: σκάνδαλα, δημόσιο outing (που καταλήγει συχνά σε φυλλάδες και "μεσημεριανάδικα"), ανοιχτή προβολή και δημόσια συζήτηση, που όμως δεν ταρακουνάει τα θεμέλια της ετεροφυλόφιλης καπιταλιστικής κανονικότητας. Απλά διεκδικεί το δικαίωμα της ύπαρξής του, στο φως, όχι στο σκοτάδι.
Σε μας έρχεται, ώριμο και αγαπησιάρικο, το 2001 με το Παρτάλι του Γρηγοριάδη και το 2009 με τη Στρέλλα του Κούτρα στο σινεμά. Το σημαντικότερο στοιχείο και των 2 δεν είναι ότι οι κεντρικές πρωταγωνίστριες είναι τρανς (που δεν είναι ούτε λίγο ούτε άσχετο βέβαια): λέω ώριμο και αγαπησιάρικο γιατί έχει ξεπεράσει τον θυμό και την καταγγελτικότητα και προβάλλει την αποδοχή και την αγάπη μέσα από δύσκολες καταστάσεις (στην περίπτωση της Στρέλλας μάλιστα απίθανα δύσκολες!) ως μοναδική και αλίμονο συχνά μόνο πρόσκαιρη διέξοδο της ανθρώπινης κατάστασης από τις μιζέριες της.
Φυσικά, όλα είναι σόου. Διαρκές μάλιστα. Όπως γράφει και ο Μάικ στο ημερολόγιό του μιλώντας για τη Ζωή και τον Μανόλη, που πρωταγωνιστούν στα άλλα δύο βιβλία της τριλογίας: "Έπειτα, αυτός [ο Μανουήλ] αισθάνεται ότι τελείωσε η ιστορία. Χαχα, επειδή τον έπεισε η Ζωούλα; Ποια ιστορία, Μανουήλ μου; Τώρα αρχίζει το show! Don't dream it, be it!" (με όχι τυχαία αναφορά στο εμβληματικό τραγούδι του Rocky Horror):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEYjZL7WWKc
Και η ιστορία συνεχίζεται κάπως και στα άλλα δύο βιβλία της τριλογίας, που πέρα από την ακτινογραφία της ελληνικής επαρχίας στα 1980s και της αθηναϊκής πρωτεύουσας στα 1990s, προσφέρουν αγάπη και αποδοχή για την Ζωή και τον Μανόλη, με τα ελλείμματα και τις διαψεύσεις τους (κυρίως με αυτά). Δεν είμαστε υπεράνθρωποι, δεν είμαστε τέλειες/οι, δεν είμαστε καν (πετυχημένες/οι) επαναστάτριες/άτες, ακόμη κι αν προσπαθούμε, τι να κάνουμε; Όμως αυτές/οί είμαστε, αποδεχτείτε το κι αν μπορείτε αγαπήστε μας (κι αν δεν μπορείτε, χεστήκαμε, θα την βρούμε κάπως την άκρη!). Πράγμα που ισχύει για όλες και όλους μας! :)
TRHPS Sweet Transvestite
youtube.com

Δευτέρα, 30 Απριλίου 2018

Το Παρτάλι στην Έκθεση Βιβλίου Θεσσαλονίκης

Γράφει σε ανάρτησή του στο fb ο καθηγητής νεοελληνικής φιλολογίας στο ΑΠΘ Τάσος Καπλάνης με τον οποίο θα παρουσιάσουμε το Παρτάλι και την τριλογία:


"H ποιητική του Γρηγοριάδη τόσο στη μυθιστορηματική του τριλογία (Παρτάλι, Ζωή μεθόρια, Καινούργια πόλη) όσο και σε ολόκληρο, θα τολμήσω να πω, το μυθιστορηματικό του έργο συνοψίζεται σε δύο φράσεις από το Παρτάλι:
"Κι η πόλη έγινε σώμα του και το σώμα του έγινε πόλη, όπου φώλιασαν μυστικά, άνθρωποι και ιστορίες" και
"Πίσω στο χρόνο, που είναι ένας".
Και από αυτή την άποψη, η ποιητική του είναι έντονα μπαχτινική και σε ό,τι αφορά το χρονότοπο και σε ό,τι αφορά το καρναβαλικό, ενώ την ίδια στιγμή αναδεικνύει με τον καλύτερο δυνατό τρόπο (που θα πει: χωρίς εξαλλοσύνες) το θέμα των ρευστών ταυτοτήτων, έμφυλων, σεξουαλικών, και άλλων.
Το Παρτάλι ειδικά -ένα κείμενο που εμφανίστηκε στις αρχές του 21ου αιώνα (2001)- ήρθε μάλλον νωρίς για το νεοελληνικό αναγνωστικό κοινό και δεν είχε ούτε τότε ούτε σήμερα ακόμη την ευρεία αναγνώριση που του αξίζει: γιατί παραμένει το καταστατικό κείμενο της σύγχρονης νεοελληνικής κίναιδης (queer) λογοτεχνίας - κίναιδης με όλες τις δυνατές σημασίες της λέξης, μα ιδίως με την παρετυμολογική: κινεί την αιδώ, βγάζοντας στο φως πολλά από αυτά που θέλουμε ως κοινωνία να κρύψουμε κάτω απ' το χαλί ή μέσα σε ντουλάπες, ανεπιτυχώς και ανοήτως βέβαια.
Το σημαντικότερο όμως είναι ότι δημιούργησε έναν αυτόνομο λογοτεχνικό μικρόκοσμο και μια σειρά από ήρωες και ηρωίδες, που παλεύουν διαρκώς ανάμεσα στα πρέπει και τα θέλω τους (όπως και οι περισσότερες/οι από μας άλλωστε), ανάμεσα στο προσωπικό δράμα και την καθημερινή επιβίωση, ανάμεσα στο κοινωνικό περιθώριο και την κοινωνική καταξίωση, που είτε τους αντιπαθήσεις είτε τους αγαπήσεις, δεν μπορούν να σε αφήσουν αδιάφορη/ο.
Για αυτό και από το αινιγματικό Παρτάλι, περνάει κανείς ευχαρίστως στη βραβευμένη Ζωή μεθόρια (την ιστορία της δυναμικής αστής Ζωής) αλλά και στην Καινούργια πόλη (την ιστορία του πιο απογοητευτικού στο Παρτάλι, αλλά αλίμονο μάλλον πιο συνηθισμένου νεοέλληνα ήρωα, του Μανόλη). Και φυσικά, αναμένουμε ανυπόμονα τη συνέχεια της ιστορίας του επικού Μάικ που ελπίζω να αποτελέσει κάποτε το επόμενο βιβλίο της τετραλογίας. :)
Το καλό με τον Γρηγοριάδη, όπως και με άλλες/ους συγγράφισσες/είς που αγαπώ, είναι ότι μου δίνει πάντα την αίσθηση, όταν τελειώνω ένα βιβλίο του, ότι δεν είπε ακόμη όλα όσα έχει να πει. Και αυτό με κάνει να περιμένω με ανυπομονησία το επόμενο!


Δευτέρα, 16 Απριλίου 2018

Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Queer Novel "Less"

Around the World in 50 Years




LESS
By Andrew Sean Greer
263 pp. A Lee Boudreaux Book/Little, Brown & Company. $26.
Convulsed in laughter a few pages into Andrew Sean Greer’s fifth novel, “Less,” I wondered with regret why I wasn’t familiar with this author. My bad. His admirers have included John Updike, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers and John Irving. “Less” is the funniest, smartest and most humane novel I’ve read since Tom Rachman’s 2010 debut, “The Imperfectionists.”
The setup: Nothing is going well for Arthur Less. He’s about to turn 50. The mysterious narrator tells us that Arthur is “the first homosexual ever to grow old. That is, at least, how he feels at times like these.” Arthur is a novelist, and that’s not going well, either. His first book, now distant in the rearview mirror, was a “moderate success.” A big-name critic reviewed it in these very pages. “But every author can taste the poison another has slipped into the punch,” and the critic ended by calling Arthur “a magniloquent spoony.” Staring at this odd phrase, Arthur asked his lover at the time, a distinguished older poet, “What the hell was a spoony?” “‘Arthur,’ Robert said, holding his hand, ‘he’s just calling you a faggot.’”

Photo

Andrew Sean Greer Credit Kaliel Roberts

Years later, Arthur is nominated for a prize he didn’t even know existed: the “Wilde and Stein Literary Laurels.” He thinks his agent has told him, “Wildenstein.” Arthur replies that he’s not Jewish. The agent coughs and says, “I believe it is something gay.” “‘How did they even know I was gay?’ He asked this from his front porch, wearing a kimono.”
Now, on the cusp of the dreaded 50th birthday, Arthur finds himself in a sort of authorial Sargasso Sea, “too old to be fresh and too young to be rediscovered, one who never sits next to anyone on a plane who has heard of his books,” reduced to accepting gigs like interviewing a mega-best-selling author named H.H.H. Mandern, who has made zillions writing “space operettas” of “tin-ear language and laughable stock characters.” Arthur knows that the event sponsor has made the calculation: “What literary writer would agree to prepare for an interview and yet not be paid? It had to be someone terribly desperate. How many other writers of his acquaintance said ‘no chance’? How far down the list did they go before someone said: ‘What about Arthur Less?’”
It has come, finally, to this. But wait — the crowning humiliation of “our gay Job” is that his boyfriend, having dumped him, is now getting married.
As Hunter S. Thompson used to say, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Rather than submit to the ultimate humiliation of attending the wedding, or even of finding himself in the same time zone (nonspoiler alert: the San Francisco Bay Area), Arthur decides to accept a series of invitations to literary events that most self-respecting authors would probably toss into the wastebasket.
Off he goes, around the world, wearing his treasured blue suit, hand-tailored years ago in “humid, moped-plagued” Ho Chi Minh City. His itinerary will take him to New York, Paris, Berlin, Morocco, southern India and Kyoto. His current project is a novel titled “Swift,” about which the lover who has spurned him sniffed censoriously, “All you do is write gay ‘Ulysses.’”
Maybe. But “Ulysses” was never this much fun. Arthur’s wanderings as he makes his way from disaster to disaster are hilariously, brilliantly harrowing. But laughter is only a part of the joy of reading this book. Greer writes sentences of arresting lyricism and beauty. His metaphors come at you like fireflies — or like the “pygmy hummingbird moths” that delight Arthur amid his latest gloom, at a golf resort he fears he has visited accidentally (in place of a vacationing Austrian doctor in red shorts and suspenders).

Photo


Delights of language abound. On a turbulent night flight into Mexico City, “the plane convulses in the moonlight, like a man turning into a werewolf.” And in another fraught venue, “an eel of panic wriggles through him as he searches the room for exits, but life has no exits.” Even Arthur’s random observations are entertaining. Why, he bitterly wonders, do today’s young gay men insist on marrying? “Was this why we all threw stones at the police, for weddings?” And as for quaaludes, “is there any more perfect spelling than with that lazy superfluous vowel?”
In France, Arthur is taken to a remote area on the German border where his schedule consists of “visiting a school during the day and a library at night, with sometimes a monastery in between. … Later: He read aloud to coal miners, who listened thoughtfully. What on earth was everyone thinking? Bringing a midlist homosexual to read to French miners?”
At a literary festival in Italy, where he’s in the running for yet another award he’s never heard of, Arthur recalls being ambushed on stage once, excoriated as an “assimilationist” gay writer. His crime? In Arthur’s debut novel, the gay protagonist returns in the end to his (female) wife. Arthur is not a gay enough writer, it appears.
In Piemonte, where the Italian festival convenes, the big prize jury turns out to consist of a dozen teenagers. Again, Arthur has a bad feeling. “How has it come to this? What god has enough free time to arrange this very special humiliation, to fly a minor novelist across the world so that he can feel, in some seventh sense, the minusculitude of his own worth? Decided by high school students, in fact.
Yet what bubbles up amid all these disasters isn’t self-pity but Arthur’s warm humanity. Pace E. M. Forster’s famous dictum, Arthur connects, especially with young people.
The creative writing seminar he gives in Berlin is so inventive and engaging that it could be used as a template at any college, as a model of how to get kids to fall in love with literature. He has them cut up a paragraph of “Lolita” and reassemble the text any way they want. “He gives them a page of Joyce and a bottle of Wite-Out — and Molly Bloom merely says ‘Yes.’ A game to write a persuasive opening sentence for a book they have never read … leads to a chilling start to Woolf’s ‘The Waves’: I was too far out in the ocean to hear the lifeguard shouting, ‘Shark! Shark!’” His students “learn to love language again, something that has faded like sex in a long marriage. Because of this, they learn to love their teacher.”
By the time Arthur reaches Japan, the reader isn’t just rooting for him but wants to give the poor guy a hug. And by now, good things are starting to happen. A crisis prompts a phone call to the former lover/mentor, the older poet, who informs Arthur that turning 50 “isn’t all bad. It means now people will think you were always a grown-up. They’ll take you seriously. They don’t know that you once spent an entire dinner party babbling about Nepal when you meant Tibet.” “I can’t believe you brought that up again,” Arthur replies.
Like Arthur, Andrew Sean Greer’s “Less” is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.

Παρασκευή, 13 Απριλίου 2018

2018 Man Booker International Prize Shortlist

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The Man Booker International Prize announced their 6-title shortlist — shortened from their 13-title longlist. The prize, which awards translated works of literature, considers both novels and short story collections translated into English and published in the UK. Here the 2018 shortlist (with bonus links where available):
The winner of the Man Booker International Prize will be announced on May 22, 2018.

Τρίτη, 3 Απριλίου 2018

Richard Ford , Paris Review The Art of Fiction No. 147

NTERVIEWER
What is the exhilaration of writing, if any?
FORD
Primarily, the chance to make something new, which might be good and beautiful, and which somebody else could use. For me, that’s come to be the most important thing. Put most succinctly, to write for readers. I’ve never thought of writing as principally a way of learning about myself, or even as self-expression. Anybody who writes books learns a lot about himself just by seeing what his preoccupations are, what generosities he has or lacks, what his abilities are to invent something out of nothing. I never think about being a writer as being in any interesting way self-psychologizing. That just doesn’t interest me.
INTERVIEWER
So you think of the reader when you are writing.
FORD
I wouldn’t be a writer just for myself. If I were going to do something for myself, I’d do something else, something more practical and pleasurable, and probably easier.
INTERVIEWER
That’s quite rare, I think.
FORD
I want to write, partly at least, for the kind of reader I was when I was nineteen years old. I want to address that person because he or she is young enough that life is just beginning to seem a mystery which literature can address in surprising and pleasurable ways. When I was nineteen I began to read Absalom, Absalom! slowly, slowly, page by patient page, since I was slightly dyslexic. I was working on the railroad, the Missouri-Pacific in Little Rock. I hadn’t been doing well in school, but I started reading. I don’t mean to say that reading altogether changed my life, but it certainly brought something into my life—possibility—that had not been there before.
INTERVIEWER
What was it about Absalom, Absalom!?
FORD
The language—a huge suffusing sea of wonderful words, made into beautiful, long paragraphs and put to the service of some great human conundrum it meant to console me about if not completely resolve. When I was old enough to think about myself as trying to be a writer, I always thought I would like to write a book and have it do that for someone else.
INTERVIEWER
An Absalom, Absalom! for some nineteen-year-old kid in Georgia.
FORD
Or Ohio. Or France. I heard someone say the other day, You have to write for yourself. What shit, I thought. Write for yourself—why? (Though I guess if that produces wonderful work, who am I to argue over conceits?) But I once said that to an audience in France and several people got up and left the room. They said, Hummmph. You’re letting down your vocation if you’re willing to admit that you write for other people. But that’s just not my view. To me, it’s the thought that you can make something out of words, which organizes experience in the way Faulkner is talking about when he says that “literature stops life for the purpose of examining it.” To be able to do that for another person is a good use of your life.

Πέμπτη, 8 Μαρτίου 2018

Κρατικό Βραβείο Μυθιστορήματος 2016

Η απονομή για το Κρατικό Βραβείο Μυθιστορήματος 2016 έγινε την Τετάρτη 7 Μαρτίου 2018 στο Μέγαρο Μουσικής. Το βραβείο που δόθηκε στη "Ζωή μεθόρια" απένειμε ο πρόεδρος της κριτικής επιτροπής Αλέξης Ζήρας.
Ήταν η όγδοη υποψηφιότητα βιβλίου μου, η τρίτη για το Κρατικό βραβείο και η πρώτη βράβευση.




Τρίτη, 27 Φεβρουαρίου 2018

Ο Γιώργος Χειμωνάς απεβίωσε στις 27 Φεβρουαρίου 2000 στο Παρίσι.



Ο Γιώργος Χειμωνάς γεννήθηκε στην Καβάλα (1936) και μεγάλωσε στη Θεσσαλονίκη. Εκεί έζησε και τελείωσε την Ιατρική. Αργότερα, μετά τον στρατό, έφυγε στο Παρίσι.. Στη Γαλλία ειδικεύτηκε στην Ψυχιατρική και τη Νευροψυχολογία. Έπειτα, γύρισε μόνιμα στην Αθήνα όπου εργάστηκε στο 'Αιγινήτειο Νοσοκομείο'. Έχει εκδώσει εννέα πεζογραφήματα: 'Πεισίστρατος' (1960), 'Η εκδρομή' (1964), ' Το μυθιστόρημα' (1966), 'Ο γιατρός Ινεότης' (1971), 'Ο γάμος' (1975), 'Ο αδελφός' (1976), 'Οι χτίστες' (1979), 'Τα ταξίδια μου' (1984) και 'Ο εχθρός του ποιητή' (1990). Επίσης, έχει εκδώσει επτά βιβλία-δοκίμια πάνω στον Λόγο, και μεταφράσεις έργων των: Σαίξπηρ, Σοφοκλή, Ευριπίδη.

Τον Γιώργο Χειμωνά πρόλαβα να τον γνωρίσω κι εγώ, δυο φορές μιλήσαμε στο σπίτι της Κάτιας Λεμπέση. Την τελευταία φορά μου μίλησε όμορφα για τον «Ναύτη» και με συγκίνησε πολύ.
Αργότερα ο Βασίλης Βασιλικός χαρτογράφησε την λογοτεχνία της Καβάλας βάζοντας στα δύο άκρα αντίθετα εκείνον και τον Γ.Χειμωνά. Εμείς ανάμεσα. Τι σημασία έχει πια...
Για να κρατηθώ σε ένα σεβαστό ύψος απέναντι στην απουσία του και να μην γράφω τις αναπόφευκτες-αυθεντικές- συναισθηματολογίες προτιμώ να αναδημοσιεύσω ένα κείμενο του Δ.Μαρωνίτη.

Δ.Ν. ΜΑΡΩΝΙΤΗΣ


Σφραγισμένος
Η μεγαλειώδης μανία του λόγου του Χειμωνά σκανδάλισε, και σκανδαλίζει ακόμη, τη λογοτεχνική μας αγορά
ΠΕΡΑΣΕ κιόλας ένας χρόνος (και κάποιες μέρες) αφότου ο Γιώργος Χειμωνάς σφράγισε, όπως σφράγισε, τα μάτια του στο Παρίσι· αφήνοντας σε δικούς και φίλους σπαραγμό για τον αλλόκοτο χαμό του, που συμπαρέσυρε στον αφανισμό και όλα τα χαρτιά του. Ανάμεσά τους και το αφήγημα «Γερτρούδη», που ο ίδιος, όσο ξέρω, το φαντάστηκε σαν κορυφή και σαν χαράδρα της ζωής και της γραφής του. Κάποιοι βολικά μιλούν για βιβλίο-φάντασμα· αλλά οι κοντινοί του Γιώργου ξέρουν πως η «Γερτρούδη» είχε γραφεί, έστω γραφόταν, αφού είχαν ακούσει να τους διαβάζει ο ίδιος κάποιες σελίδες της. Τι έγινε στο μεταξύ το χειρόγραφο, ένας θεός το ξέρει. Οπως κι αν έχει το πράγμα, μαζί με τον Γιώργο Χειμωνά, χάθηκε και η «Γερτρούδη», με τρόπο μάλιστα που ο διπλός αυτός χαμός θα μπορούσε να γίνει μυθιστόρημα ­ αν ζούσε ακόμη, θα το έγραφε ο ίδιος ο Χειμωνάς.
Το λέω αυτό, γιατί ο Γιώργος έπαιζε μια ζωή με τον θάνατο: έβαζε ενέχυρο σ' αυτό το παιχνίδι τη ζωή του, για να κερδίσει ένα γραφτό, κάθε φορά το τελευταίο. Σαν τον ιππότη στην «Εβδομη Σφραγίδα» του Μπέργκμαν, φορώντας πάντα μαύρα, περήφανος κι ωραίος. Ετσι τον είδα κι εγώ την τελευταία φορά έξω απ' το σπίτι του: μετά την οδυνηρή καλοκαιρινή περιπέτεια του νοσοκομείου, γερό, όσο ποτέ, ξανανιωμένο· σάμπως να ετοίμαζε το σώμα του για την τελευταία θυσία, και το ήθελε ακέραιο.
ΑΝ ΔΕΝ φοβόμουνα τη λέξη, θα έλεγα τον Γιώργο Χειμωνά μεγαλομανή· εννοώντας την αξεχώριστη σύνθεση ενός αθώου μεγαλείου και μιας βασανιστικής μανίας, στοιχεία που αποτυπώθηκαν ευθέως στα πρωτότυπα λογοτεχνικά του κείμενα και κάπως λοξά στις μεταφράσεις του.
Αυτή πάντως η μεγαλειώδης μανία του λόγου του Χειμωνά σκανδάλισε, και σκανδαλίζει ακόμη, τη λογοτεχνική μας αγορά· όχι μόνον γιατί είναι τόσο σπάνια στα γράμματά μας, αλλά γιατί προπάντων ελέγχεται, στην ουσία και στον τύπο της, απλή. Απλή ως γραφή, απλή ως νόημα, απλή ως χειρονομία αλληλεγγύης προς τον αναγνώστη. Παρά ταύτα η απλότητα του Χειμωνά μπέρδεψε πολλούς, που την αναποδογύρισαν σε δυσκολία και επιτήδευση.
Ετσι προέκυψε, κατά τη γνώμη μου, η πρώτη παρεξήγηση για τα κείμενα του Χειμωνά: πως είναι τάχα στη σύλληψη και στη γραφή τους μεγαλόστομες αλληγορίες. Η προσωπική μου όμως αίσθηση είναι πως λίγοι συγγραφείς, δικοί μας και ξένοι, στοχάστηκαν και έγραψαν τόσο κυριολεκτικά, όσο ο Χειμωνάς. Μόνο που εδώ πρόκειται για κυριολεξία που βυθίζεται πρώτα στο χώμα του λόγου, σκορπίζεται μετά στον αέρα του, αναμετριέται τέλος με το κενό, στήνοντας ένα δικό της, και δικό μας, ικρίωμα.
Το ζήτημα είναι να συμφωνήσουμε για το νόημα της λογοτεχνικής κυριολεξίας, ξεπερνώντας τα στερεότυπα της ρητορικής. Αναρωτιέμαι: είναι αλληγορίες τα μυθιστορήματα και οι νουβέλες του Κάφκα; είναι αλληγορίες τα πεζά κείμενα και τα θεατρικά του Μπέκετ; ή μήπως πρόκειται για το ακριβώς αντίθετο; για ένα είδος οριακής κυριολεξίας, που κάνει το αφηρημένο συγκεκριμένο και το συγκεκριμένο αφηρημένο, την εικόνα πράγμα και το πράγμα εικόνα, το μικροσκοπικό μακροσκοπικό, και αντιστρόφως· όπως συμβαίνει κάποτε με τον χρόνο, όταν μας κοιτάζει κατάματα και ειρωνικά, αλλάζοντας τη βεβαιότητά μας σε απορία ή και απόγνωση.
Η άλλη παρεξήγηση θέλει τον Χειμωνά αριστοκράτη και τη γραφή του ελιτίστικη. Ωστόσο ο Γιώργος Χειμωνάς είναι, κατά την αίσθησή μου, βαθύτατα λαϊκός συγγραφέας· φτάνει να προσέξει κάποιος και να εκτιμήσει σωστά την παρατακτική του γλώσσα και την προσωπογραφία των κειμένων του, αρχίζοντας από τα κύρια ονόματα. Αλλά και εδώ ισχύει το μπέρδεμα ανάμεσα στο λαϊκό και στο λαϊκίστικο ­ πάλι ο νους μου πηγαίνει στον Κάφκα και στον Μπέκετ.
Πέρασε κιόλας ένας χρόνος (και κάποιες μέρες) που ο Γιώργος Χειμωνάς βρέθηκε ξαφνικά κι αλλόκοτα στην άλλη όχθη· αφήνοντας τη σχεδία του να αντιστέκεται στο ρεύμα του ποταμού, προτού εκβάλει στην ανεξάντλητη θάλασσα ­ για να θυμηθούμε τον Αισχύλο, και τον Σεφέρη που τον μετέγραψε.



Το ΒΗΜΑ, 11/03/2001 , Σελ.: B62

Παρασκευή, 23 Φεβρουαρίου 2018

Rulfo: Immortal Scribe of the Dead

| by Ariel Dorfman |

The New York Review of Books



How to explain that the centenary of the man who was arguably Mexico’s greatest writer passed last year with barely a notice in the United States?
Juan Rulfo (1917–1986), rightly revered in Mexico and outside, is regarded as one of the most influential Latin American writers of all time. In the United States, too, he has been hailed, in The New York Times Book Review, as one of the “immortals,” and acclaimed by Susan Sontag as a “master storyteller” responsible for “one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century world literature.”
One reason for the surprising neglect of Rulfo today may be that his reputation rested on a slender harvest of work, essentially on two books that appeared in the 1950s. Yet it is no exaggeration to say that with the magnificent short stories of El Llano en Llamas (1953) and, above all, with his 1955 novel Pedro Páramo, set in the fictional town of Comala, Rulfo changed the course of Latin American fiction. Though his entire published work did not amount to much more than three hundred pages, “those are almost as many, and I believe as durable,” Gabriel García Márquez said, “as the pages that have come down to us from Sophocles.” Without Rulfo’s groundbreaking work, which blended the regional realism and social critique then in vogue with high-modernist experimentation, it is hard to imagine that Márquez could have composed One Hundred Years of Solitude. Nor, probably, would we possess the marvels created by Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rosario Castellanos, José María Arguedas, Elena Poniatowska, Juan Carlos Onetti, Sergio Ramírez, Antonio di Benedetto, or younger writers such as Roberto Bolaño, Carmen Boullosa, Juan Villoro, or Juan Gabriel Vásquez, among others.
What beguiled all these authors was Rulfo’s uncanny ability to give a lyrical majesty and distinct rhythm to the terse colloquial speech of the poorest Mexican peasants. That achievement may also explain why Rulfo is less esteemed in North America today, for it led to a literary style that was, alas, difficult to translate; the English versions of his work rarely preserve the magic of the Spanish original.
Another reason for Rulfo’s being overlooked may have been his own reticence and publicity-shyness, a refusal to play the celebrity game. Rulfo cultivated silence to a degree that became legendary. My friend Antonio Skármeta, the renowned author of Il Postino, told me that when he was about to be interviewed for a TV show one day in Buenos Aires, he saw Jorge Luis Borges and Rulfo coming out of the studio. “How did it go, maestro?” Skármeta asked Borges. “Very well indeed,” Borges replied. “I talked and talked and once in a while Rulfo intervened with a moment of silence.” Rulfo himself simply nodded at this account of his conduct, confirming the discomfort he felt at putting himself on display.
In the few interviews he gave, Rulfo attributed his reluctance to speak to the customs and reserve of the inhabitants of Jalisco, where he grew up—though other factors, such as the unresolved traumas of the author’s childhood, cannot be discounted. Jalisco, a vast region in western Mexico, has been the scene of an almost endless series of clashes and uprisings. Rulfo would carry with him all his life images of the carnage that followed the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Between 1926 and 1929, the young Juan witnessed the abiding fratricidal violence of his country, specifically of La Cristíada, the Cristero War. That popular revolt, an insurrection of the rural masses that was aided by the Catholic Church, began after the revolutionary government decided to secularize the country and persecute priests. (Readers may recall these events as the setting for Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.) Jalisco was at the very center of the conflict, and the frequent military raids, volleys of shots, and screams kept the young Rulfo shut inside his family’s house for days at a time. Outside, men without shoes were dragged before firing squads, prisoners were strung up and hanged, neighbors were abducted, and the smell of burning ranches singed the air.
The terror was compounded when Rulfo’s own father, like the father of Pedro in Pedro Páramo, was murdered over a land dispute. A grandfather, several uncles, and distant relatives were also killed. Then Rulfo’s mother died, supposedly of a broken heart. In the midst of this mayhem, the future author found solace in books. When the local priest went off to join the Cristero rebels, he left his library—full of books the Catholic Index had forbidden—with the Rulfo family, paradoxically providing a vocation for a boy who would grow up to write about characters who felt abandoned by God, whose faith had been betrayed. Rulfo must have understood, somehow, during those years of dread, that reading—and perhaps, someday, writing—could be a form of salvation. Inspired by the ways that Knut Hamsun, Selma Lagerlöf, Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, and William Faulkner had given expression to the people of the marginalized backwaters of their homelands, he found the means to describe the terror he had endured in the stories collected in El Llano en Llamas.
In these gems of fiction that English-language readers can enjoy in a recent, vivid translation by Ilan Stavans with Harold Augenbraum, Rulfo immortalized the derelict campesinos whom the Mexican revolution had promised to liberate but whose lives remained dismally unchanged. The men and women he described have been wedged into my memory for decades. Who could forget that group of peasants trekking through the desert to a useless plot of land the government had granted them? Or that bragging, drunken, fornicating functionary whose visit bankrupts an already starving pueblo? Or the idiot Macario, who kills frogs in order to eat them? Or the father who carries his dying son on his back, all the while reproaching him for the crimes by which the son has dishonored his lineage?
Crimes haunt most of these characters. A bandolero is tracked down for hour after hour along a dry riverbed by unknown pursuers. A prisoner pleads for his life, unaware that the colonel who commands the firing squad is the son of a man whom the prisoner killed forty years earlier. An old curandero (or healer) is corralled by a coven of women in black, bent on forcing him to confess to his many sexual transgressions against them. But, as always in Rulfo, the greatest crime of all is the destruction of hope, the orphaning of communities like the forsaken town of Luvina:
People in Luvina say dreams rise out of those ravines; but the only thing I ever saw rise up from there was the wind, whirling, as if it had been imprisoned down below in reed pipes. A wind that doesn’t even let the bittersweet grow: those sad little plants can barely live, holding on for all they’re worth to the side of the cliffs in those hills, as if they were smeared onto the earth. Only at times, where there’s a little shade, hidden among the rocks, can the chicalote bloom with its white poppies. But the chicalote soon withers. Then one hears it scratching the air with its thorny branches, making a noise like a knife on a whetstone.
This description not only gives us a distant taste of Rulfo’s style, but is also a metaphor for how he envisions his invented creatures: smears on the earth, hidden among the rocks, scratching the air in the hope that they will be heard—though it is only a remote, timid writer who listens and affords them the brief dignity of expression before they vanish forever. The bleak world depicted in Rulfo’s stories was on the verge of disappearing in the mid-1950s, with the migration of peasants to the cities and, from there, on to El Norte—victims and protagonists in a global trend that John Berger, for one, so movingly explored in his novels and essays. To read Rulfo in our times, when so many refugees pour out of Central America fleeing violence and thousands of lives are lost in Mexico’s ongoing drug wars, is to become painfully aware of the kind of conditions from which those people are escaping. Migrants who leave their own infernal Comala behind still carry inside its memories and dreams, its whispers and rancors, as they cross borders and settle into new streets. Rulfo’s fiction reminds us of why El Día de los Muertos, Mexico’s Day of the Dead, is more important today than ever as a link to the ancestors who keep demanding a scrap of voicehood among the living.
My own immersion in the hallucinatory world of Pedro Páramo and its evocation of the realm of the dead may illustrate how strongly Rulfo’s fiction affected Latin Americans and, particularly, the continent’s intellectuals. I first read Rulfo’s novel Pedro Páramo in 1961, when I was nineteen and studying comparative literature at the University of Chile; I was so mesmerized by it that, as soon as I finished, I started to read it over again. Years later, during a lunch with García Márquez at his house in Barcelona, he related that his encounter with Rulfo had been similar to mine. He had devoured Pedro Páramo, reading it twice during one long, enraptured night in Mexico City.
From its opening lines, the novel takes the reader on a mythical quest: its narrator, Juan Preciado, has promised his dying mother that he will travel to his birthplace, Comala, and find his father, “a man named Pedro Páramo,” who had sent the mother and her newborn child away and must now be made to pay for that betrayal. That journey, related in concise, poetic fragments, turns out to be even more disquieting than expected. Abundio, the muleteer who guides Juan down into the valley of Comala, acts strangely, suggesting that nobody has visited this place in a long time and that he, too, is a son of Pedro Páramo. The town itself, far from being the lush paradise of greenery that “smells like spilled honey” evoked by Juan’s mother, is miserable and mostly deserted. The only resident is an old woman, who gives the traveler lodging. Although nobody else appears in those parched streets, Juan hears voices that ebb and flow in the oppressive heat of a tormented night, phantom murmurs so stifling that they kill him.
As Juan descends into an eternal realm populated with the ghosts that suffocated him, the reader pieces together the parallel story of his father: how Pedro Páramo rose from the dust of a disadvantaged, backward childhood to become a caudillo whose toxic power destroys his own offspring and the woman he loves, finally turning the town he dominates into a burial ground swarming with vengeful specters. Juan himself, we gradually realize, has been dead from the start of his narration of these events. He is telling his tale from a coffin he shares with the woman who used to be his nanny and wanted to be his mother; we are struck with the petrifying knowledge that they will lie there forever in that morbid embrace, alongside the corpses of others whose lives have been snuffed out by this demonic caudillo.
Pedro Páramo realized as a child, after his own father was murdered, that you are either “somebody” in that valley, or it is as though you have never existed. If he was to thrive in turbulent times, he had to deny breath and joy to everyone else. We meet his victims: the many women he bedded and abandoned, the sons he scattered like stones in the desert, the priest he corrupted, the rivals he killed and whose land he stole, the revolutionaries and bandits he bought off and manipulated. Of particular significance are a couple, a brother and sister living in incestuous sin, their inability to conceive a child symbolizing the sterility to which Pedro Páramo has condemned Comala. Unlike Telemachus in The Odyssey, Juan is never reunited with his father, only finding the inferno that his father, like a fiendish demiurge, has created and ruined, a world made with such cruelty and mercilessness that there is only room for one person to thrive.

Behind Pedro’s ascendancy there is more than merely greed and a will to power. He has accumulated money and land and henchmen so that he may, like a Satanic Gatsby, some day possess Susana San Juan, the girl he dreamed of when he was a boy with no prospects. But Susana, now a grown woman, has gone mad, and her erotic delusions have carried her beyond Pedro’s reach. The reader, along with the ghosts of the town, have access to her voice, but not the husband who has sold his soul to make her his bride. Nor can Pedro control the destiny of the only other human being he loves: Juan’s half-brother, Miguel Páramo, the spitting image of his progenitor, callous toward men and abusive of women, who is thrown from his horse while jumping over the walls his father erected to protect his land from poachers. Instead of inheriting Pedro’s domains, Miguel joins the souls who wander the earth in search of an absolution that never arrives. Pedro himself is killed by his illegitimate child, Abundio. The novel ends with the death of the despot, who “collapses like a pile of rocks.”
Pedro Páramo is a cautionary tale, one that should resonate in our own era of brutal strongmen and rapacious billionaires. According to the wishful fantasies in Rulfo’s imagination, all the power and wealth that the predators of his day have accumulated cannot save them from the plagues of loneliness and sorrow. Many Latin American authors later emulated Rulfo’s vision of the domineering macho figure who terrorizes and corrupts nations. Faced with the seeming impossibility of changing the destiny of their unfortunate countries, writers at least could vicariously punish the tormentors of their people in what became known as “novels of the dictator.”
What made Rulfo exceptional, a fountainhead for so much literature that was to follow, was his realization that to tell this tale of chaos, devastation, and solitude, traditional narrative forms were insufficient, that it was necessary to shake the foundations of story-telling itself. Though modernity was denied to his characters, isolated from progress by the tyrant of his tale, Rulfo expressed the plight through an aesthetic shaped by the avant-garde art of the first half of the twentieth century. This twisting of categories and structure was indispensable for him to express how a Comala that dreamed of beauty and justice, a place pregnant with hope, could be transformed into a bitter, confusing graveyard. What other way was there to portray the disorder of death? Linear, chronological time does not exist in death, nor in the deranged psyches of those who live as if they had already died. From the perspective of the afterlife, everything is simultaneous, everything has already happened, everything will happen perpetually in the restless minds of the ghosts. Rulfo’s technique of scrambling time and place, this and that voice, his characters’ inner and outer landscapes, imposes on the reader a feeling of helpless anxiety akin to the anomie the specters themselves suffer.
Today, we live in a world where the version of an encounter with the dead that confronts us occurs in a very different form than the one that Rulfo described in his work. Last year’s hit Pixar movie, Coco, celebrated the cultural heritage of the Mexican tradition of El Día de los Muertos with humor and a heartwarming message. In Pedro Páramo, the young man who ventures into the Land of the Dead in search of his origins does not return, as Miguel Rivera does in the Disney film, with a song of optimism and redemption. The purveyors of mass entertainment are certainly aware that most audiences would rather not be fed tales of anguish and despondency. Who can blame moviegoers for preferring happy endings instead of terrifying ghosts murmuring from their tombs that there is no hope?
But life is not a movie, and life always ends in death. Rulfo posed vital questions about the dead and how we can grasp their departure without succumbing to despair. When Latin Americans first read the novel, they were enthralled by it. While each wisp of a scene is presented with the minute implacability of matter-of-fact realism, like a series of images captured by a camera, the cumulative effect is to give a tortured, transcendent, trance-like allegory of a country, of a continent, of the human condition. Such an extraordinary feat of the imagination would be impossible had it not been for Rulfo’s remarkable prose, incantatory yet restrained. Against the grain of the baroque, overwrought style that had seemed to define Latin American literature, each word emerges as if extracted from the soil, leaving readers to apprehend what is held back, to divine the vast unspoken world of extinction, the final silence that awaits us all. Juan Rulfo spoke so eloquently not just for the dead, but for those among us who never really had the chance to live.