lunes, 27 de febrero de 2006

Ignorantia imperatrix mundi

So I should write something about Javier Marías, to honour Jago's question in a comment below.

I always knew that this moment would come. Because as one gets older, and hopefully also becomes adult in a sense, he is increasingly and rightly assumed to have opinions about everything. That's not really my case.

There's a friend of mine who likes to know my opinion about nearly everything. Once, some years ago, he asked me what I thought about Marías. Marías and another Spanish novelist, Pérez-Reverte, were then writing columns for the weekend supplement to the El Correo newspapers. There was Pérez-Reverte's column, then a one-page advertisement, then Marías (and then another ad). I guess people must have been paying an extra fare to have their ads exactly there, for they became quite notorious as a duo of columnists (independently of their individual share of popularity).

My friend was very keen of Pérez-Reverte's novels, to the point of being insistent on my having to read them (which I never did, but that's another story worth a post). After a thoughtful discussion of their comparative merits left me unimpressed, he asked whether at least I liked his columns. He had a lot of people on his side because of his frequent use of `objectionable language' addressed at people groups he didn't like; I find this funny and harmless, but not a game that can be played for too long.

He went on to ask me about Marías, and I thought: "Well, I should do something about this. I don't have anything to say, and he's a renowned writer so sooner or later I will have this question on my face publicly. I must find something witty to say then."

But I actually never did. Every time I find a book of his in a shop, I say to myself: `I really should be buying it. This is a hole in my culture and sooner or later--'

The fact is that I had never read a page of Marías's novels, I had never been able to read complete one of his opinion columns, and I ignored everything about his thinking.

As of now, only two of these remain true. I have visited a blog collecting Marías's recent short writings, and others' praise about him, and I have forced myself to go through a number of such posts. Btw, in the most recent one he says: "En cuanto a Gran Bretaña, la lista de disparates y de atentados contra las libertades del Gobierno de Blair no tiene fin (...)", a choir Jago would gladly join, I presume.

It does take me (even if more than ten years have passed) an effort to read his columns entirely: the first lines seem to contain all the message. Then why read or even write the rest? The answer may be `literature', `journalism', `journalistic literature' or whatever, but I guess I am a sort of impatient reader.

However what he writes is nice, in the sense that I'm happy to see that people are allowed to defend their ideas that vehemently. I'm not optimistic that this will continue to be the case in the future (UFO seekers, other `mystery investigators' and anti-science lobbyists not included.)

There are some extremely nice columns, like the one for The New York Times where he begins identifying the anti-tobacco wave in Spain with a remainder of dictatorial ways:

For far too many years, almost 40, the people of Spain were treated like minors by Franco's dictatorship. But it seems that some people among us still yearn for that era. The new antismoking law in Spain (...)

How elegantly he pretends not to realize that `anti-smoking' came from the US, and the obvious implication of this fact in the light of his reasoning.

But, as regards his intellectual thinking, I'm still not in a position to say anything.

(Of course, he proves to be most sensible when somewhere he says `collective memory' instead of that awful `historical memory' [for `memory'] which together with the equally awful `thermal sensation' [for `cold'], `human person' [for `person'] and `semantics' [for `euphemism'] now plague Spanish journalistic language)

4 comentarios:

Jago dijo...

That is fascinating, and you write English beautifully, as indeed does Marías - he is not exactly snappy or populist, but I think Corazón tan blanco and - I think it's called Manana en la batalla piense en me, are wonderful novels; and for a start could I recommend - no, sadly I can't, I can't find it - it's a longish short story about a bloody murder with a spear.
I've read a couple of novels by Pérez-Reverte but I don't think he's in the same league.
I winced when you mentioned P-R's "frequent use of `objectionable language' addressed at people groups he didn't like." I too am guilty.
But then I felt a little better after your quote from Marías.

Pedro Terán dijo...

That's flattering, but the compliment is undeserved.

I'll definitely try some Marías. I agree that Pérez Reverte and him are not in the same league.

I have no objections to such language. In the current world, even if you just say that a film, a novel or something is no good, someone will find it right to be deeply upset. This makes no sense. A discussion progresses much faster if people concentrate on the meaning of what is said, not on pretending that something else (very horrible!) was meant.

Jago dijo...

I re-sent that email, I now see the first time it did come back as "mensaje de spam" but this one hasn't, yet. (If it does arrive it doesn't matter, it's not earth-shatteringly significant.

Pedro Terán dijo...

I was sort of kidding about the spam filter!

When I was at another university, the server was programmed to bounce back *all* emails received from whole countries like China or India, on the basis that "those guys don't know what Internet security means!"

Administrators are sometimes amazing.