Evaluator, by Noé Jitrik

Image: Marcio Costa
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By AFRANIO MENDES CATANI & ANA PAULA HEY*

Commentary on the soap opera about university evaluation

“That's how research is, reality escapes everywhere: three-quarters of conjectures and a fourth of disenchantment” (Speech by Professor Hermógenes Goldstein).
In memory of dear friends Alberto Pla (1926-2008), Pedro Krotsch (1942-2009) and Horacio González (1944-2021), who helped us to get to know Argentina better.

1.

University of the Center of the Province of Buenos Aires, Tandil, August 30, 2007, opening conference of the V National and II Latin American Meeting, “The University as an object of investigation”. Crowded audience. On the stage of the auditorium, the coordinator of the table, Pedro Krotsch, welcomes and introduces the lecturer, professor and Argentine literary critic Noé Jitrik (1928), who is also the author of short stories, novels, critical, literary and historical essays.

From 1960 on, Jitrik published more than 50 books, founded and directed literary magazines, in addition to teaching at several universities at home and abroad and writing screenplays for films. Since 1997 he has directed the Institute of Hispano-American Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. He was also awarded several literary prizes. Jitrik pulled the text from “a folder” and, after thanking the warm reception, he read the work with touches of roguery and parallel comments “Speculative report on tips and tricks from the university".

The conference lasted less than 40 minutes and everyone enjoyed it. After the session, we went to talk to him. We asked for authorization to publish his speech in Brazil, we exchanged our e-mails and, the next day, he wrote to us giving his OK. When we said goodbye, in a rather cunning way, he asked us if we knew the telenovela Evaluator, that he had published in 2002. Faced with our refusal, he smiled and added: “If you read it, I think you'll like it. And funny!" We returned to Buenos Aires and, on the same day, we bought the book. It is this book that we are now going to talk about.

 

2.

Evaluator has as its epigraph an expressive extract extracted from The castle, by Franz Kafka, which is as follows: “In short, as could be seen from afar, the Castle met K.’s expectations. two-story buildings and a large number of small houses, built next to each other”.

The back cover reads that justice, as well as its strange effect on human beings, was a great obsession of Kafka, leading him to write texts relevant to world literature. “Something less universal, the 'judgment' – not justice – about actions and intellectual values ​​– which affects hundreds of thousands of people, researchers, academics, writers and mere applicants –, what was imposed with the name of 'evaluation' and that grew like a parasitic plant in contemporary society”, is the object of the Argentine writer's novel. the pages of Evaluator outline a delirious situation in which intelligence is the great loser and power, as a metaphor for dementia, is seen with its obscure and asphyxiating networks.

Divided into nine chapters with practically homogeneous lengths – Ads; The castle; The One Center; Each time fewer; Science put in check; Two different gardens; The president; The return of the waters; Time spins in a circle –, Evaluator features a dispassionate narrator who observes a double-sided happening, which is meaningless and, at the same time, has full meaning: an ironic, devastating sense and, quoting Nitrik once again, “a wheel of fortune in which all value disappears”. in the sea of ​​exactness of language and extreme control of its unusual plot”. The narrated judgment is constituted in sarcasm, “power in an illusion, the characters in grotesque caricatures and reality in a broken mirror”.

 

3.

In the first chapter, “The Ads” (p. 9-26), we are introduced to the narrator, Professor Segismundo Gutiérrez, a former professor who has retired from his job at the university after a lifetime devoted to teaching and research. As we begin reading, we learn that he dedicates most of his time to his activity to the “Council”. It is not explicitly detailed what this bureaucratic body is, but it is soon known that it is a research promotion agency. His workdays are consumed in “reading texts without interest, requests, varied and pretentious memorials, but also preparing reports, issuing opinions, giving opinions, deciding the fate of people he did not know and who wanted to, almost always through ready-made phrases. or common places, get a position, a promotion, a subsidy for vague tasks that they would never complete…” (p. 9-10). In short, Professor Segismundo was an evaluator, who carried out the painful, but prestigious and complicated activity of issuing opinions (p. 10).

After retiring, the exercise of carrying out assessments constituted a powerful dose of work that, like a drug, kept him alive and active but, at the same time, “emptied him, exterminated him, challenged him every day with new impossibilities” (p. 11). He understood his task as endowed with a nature that seemed useless to him. However, he said that “sometimes he came across something of value, someone who, in fact, should be rewarded… (p. 12-13).

Professor Gutiérrez, a year before starting the “honorary and honorable” task of evaluating the texts of others, as well as the evaluations of other evaluators, was working with papers and documents of the legendary Gumersindo Basaldúa, involving a whole set of myths about him , in addition to the various loopholes and blackmail attempts. Research on Basaldúa pointed to controversial paths: either they indicated that he had lived part of his life among the Indians, or that he had supposedly written a book to which no one had (or had) access, entitled Brief description of landscapes and customs of the natural people of the pampeana region, or even that he would have been a hero of civil strife in Argentina (p. 14).[I]

He was talking about the uncertainties in his investigation involving his elusive character with Eugenia Fioravanti de Gutiérrez, his wife of thirty years, when he received two letters: the first, from the University of California, with information about the disappearance, from the institution's libraries (and also from the United States Library of Congress), of the supposed book authored by Basaldúa – only the record of the work is found, but as having been written by another unknown, Gustavo Bazterrica; the other letter, from the Presidency of the Republic, contained a letter signed by the “Director of Expedient of the General Secretariat of the Presidency” (p. 23), accompanied by a decree, whose first article was the following: “Creates the Single National Center of Assessment (CNUA) that will bring together all the dependencies and agencies that currently carry out this function” (p. 23) – the other articles clarify that the Center was subordinate to the General Secretariat, as well as its integration, physical installation, budget, etc.

The author's ironic narration will explore the recitals of the decree, which explains the need to concentrate the set of evaluation activities existing in Argentina in just one centralized body. “Everything leads to concentration; first, to concentrate applicants' stories in such a way that it is always possible to know what they have done, in order to avoid overlapping and direct their steps in just one, precise and documented direction; then, to concentrate the most capable evaluators in a suitable place to be able to comply with all the activities of the present decree and, finally, to concentrate all the activities that, in one way or another, require evaluation: scientific investigations, literary contests, applications for admission to jobs, scholarships, awards, honorary titles, organization of teaching structures and everything that requires an authorized opinion” (p. 24).

There were other papers in the envelope, one of them being his designation, after much praise, as “active member of the National Single Assessment Center”, further clarifying that the assessor, through a complementary resolution, would receive a fair gratuity for his services , so that he could concentrate exclusively on such functions.

In his bewilderment, Gutiérrez did not pay much attention to another piece of paper that was also in the envelope, which read “Transfer Plan to the National Single Assessment Center”, in which he was given 24 hours to prepare a simple piece of luggage and provided other details for that he could reach the Presidency's helipad and, from there, in a reserved helicopter, travel to the Center's headquarters (p. 25-26).

“The castle” (p. 27-45), the second chapter, begins with the teacher getting ready for the trip. how good scholar, has a small suitcase that is easy to prepare: some clothes, her diary, lexotans, digestive pills, calming teas (p. 27). He carried with him a folder containing the documents he had managed to gather about Basaldúa, in order to continue working. He experienced an ambiguous feeling: at the same time that he felt apprehensive about the trip, he felt considered for the first time in his long career as an appraiser, as he would be traveling in a special helicopter, with everything very organized, places marked, soldiers picking up luggage and putting them on the ships. There was virtually no time for farewells and no information was given as to where they would be taken (p. 27-30). Upon arriving at their destination, after about two hours of travel, they found that the CNUA, which was located in an old residence in the countryside, which had belonged to the Santainés family, had been completely restored and adapted to be the headquarters of the governmental body dedicated to the evaluation . It was located in a very green meadow, dazzling and well-kept, which had enchanted everyone, with the house prepared to house 135 evaluators, women and men (p. 35-36). Professor Segismundo Gutiérrez and his colleagues – with first names such as Rudecindo, Etelfredo, Benigno, Hermógenes, Epigmenio, Artemisa, Calixto, Saturnino, Epifanio, Telesforo, Emérito – are welcomed by the graduate Antenor Sepúlveda, the center’s new administrative director, at the entrance of the building -seat, originally built by Hermenegildo Santainés in 1915 and, as highlighted, now belonging to the State. The director and his three assistants (Anselmo, Antonio and Anacleto) welcome the evaluators; the four are well combed, well dressed, with very similar clothes, making all the movements in a synchronized way and provoke an observation from Gutiérrez: “the four names start with the same syllable” (p. 38).

Antonio Errázuriz, one of the assistant directors, explains that the evaluators will soon receive the documents relating to the organization of the center and goes on to say: “You already know: there are 135, not one more. Five for each letter of the alphabet: five raters whose last names begin with A, five with B, and so on; We were even able to combine the final letter groups with five evaluators, the X, the W, the Y, the Z. It wasn't easy, but it was managed (…) corridor where the 135 rooms are located. The workrooms form the heart of the floor. It will be enough for you to leave the dormitory to enter directly into the one that belongs to you, without further hesitation. This is the physical layout: the important thing is, from the outset, the concept. In each room, themes or processes whose initial letter is the group's room will be analyzed; room A evaluators will evaluate requests or topics from people whose last name begins with A, and so on” (p. 39-40).

Reactions to Errázuriz's speech were varied, with some taking notes (which is uncomfortable when done standing up), others nodding and many with expressions of astonishment. Professor Gutiérrez yelled, “This is crazy!” Professor Epigmenio García, in turn, defended the procedures, noting that with this system “each evaluator group could see the entire history of an applicant, all the requests it is filing with different institutions, all the successes or failures it had in every grant, fellowship, or appointment you've won; every candidacy you've applied for; finally, each case could be examined as a whole and, therefore, each resolution will take into account the previous ones and the whole of his personality” (p. 40).

Errázuriz ignores the demonstrations and continues his delirium, adding that in each room there will be a table and six chairs, necessary to accommodate the evaluators and an assistant, as well as some small tables containing the processes to be examined and a large, modern, state-of-the-art computer , in which all the antecedents of each case will appear (p. 40-41). For him, the modus operandi adopted in the evaluation process carried out by the Center is “simple and clear”. This system will make everything easier, there will be no more overlaps, contradictions, protests or pressures: you have the whole system in your hands, you have all the power” (p. 41).

To a query by professor Benigno Castorena, who says he cannot assess topics that are not his area of ​​expertise, and that this could be due, for example, to the last name of a given applicant starting with a C (“it may be that I don’t be in epistemological conditions to give an opinion” – p. 42), Antenor Sepúlveda replies that there will always be someone in the group who can resolve dilemmas of this nature (p. 42).

However, Professor Gutiérrez was disappointed that there were no questions about the clandestine or reserved nature of the Center, as apparently no one, apart from the evaluators and bureaucrats, knew that the UNCSA existed.

The chapter concludes with a confusion triggered by the employees who had removed the bags and only returned them if they received tips – and this is complicated, since most of the suitcases did not have labels that identified them (p. 43-45).

“The Unique Center” (p. 46-64), the third chapter, details the origin of the house that housed the CNUA, whose owner, Hermenegildo Santainés, was a very rich “Estanciero”. He built the place using materials from almost all parts of the world, providing the residence with countless rooms, rooms and environments of the most varied kind. He inaugurated it with a Nababesque feast. However, Hermenegilgo had one weakness: he loved the game. During the inauguration party “he lost everything, the house just finished, the fields where the property was located, the furniture, in short, everything. Defeated, he left the place that same night, without saying goodbye, and his guests did not even realize that the party had lost all meaning” (p. 47).

From then on, no one inhabited the mansion, nor those who had won it, as the taxes were astronomical. The sale also became impossible, as there were no customers for such an absurdity – the debt had grown in such a way that the State kept the house, even without knowing what to do with it. It was closed for decades, until the idea of ​​UNCSA emerged, after a radical restoration process (p. 47).

The 135 evaluators invited by letter by the President of the Republic had their names on the door of the rooms, arranged in strict alphabetical order, starting on the right of the stairs with the letter A and ending on the left with the letter Z. The place was stunning , with wonderful woods, the rooms being well arranged and equipped with everything needed (p. 52). The restaurant had 20 round tables with 7 chairs, tablecloths and cutlery (p. 54). The waiters, the same ones who had collected the bags and who had a somewhat brutalized look, passed by repeating the same chant: “We have ham and cheese empanadas, pizzas, Milanese sandwiches and apple pie. Each unit costs one peso” (p. 56). The environment became heavy and somewhat depressing, since in addition to not being able to choose their table companions, they were still obliged to pay to eat (p. 56).

Questions and discussions arose all the time: Segismundo Gutiérrez wanted to know where they were, what was the exact location of the castle; Professor Carmela Gandía, a classmate, emphasizes that the system to which they were subjected “allows us to be safe from any type of pressure; no applicant will know who evaluated him and if he protests, he must do so in front of people who do not need to make efforts to protect their anonymity. I believe that for this reason, not even we ourselves should know where we are and, even less, and with even less reason, the applicants” (p. 58).

The evaluators' communication with their families or with their offices was, in practice, almost impossible, as there was only one device in the administrator's office, but a defect in the line, it was alleged, prevented its use. Apparently, another way would be through the internet, but it couldn't be counted on either – throughout the chapters it is verified that the messages reach their destination or are answered when they are of interest to the administration. Thus, the only way to send messages “abroad”, suggests one of the assistants to the director of UNCAS, is to write notes or letters and the administration takes care of sending them (p. 59-60). Professors Gutiérrez and Goldstein and Professor Arminda Guerra conclude that they are trapped in an unknown location (p. 63-64). Gutiérrez writes to the President of the Republic through his bedroom computer. He needed the basic explanations to understand what was happening, what it was all about (p. 64).

In the fourth chapter, “Cada e menor” (p. 65-82), one reads that Gutiérrez, Hermógenes Goldstein and Arminda Guerra were part of the same evaluation committee, despite the different disciplines to which they dedicated themselves: Gutiérrez was a literate focused on To the story, Goldstein was a marine biologist, while Professor Guerra worked in the field of social anthropology (p. 67).

Another 100 people arrive at the castle to work with the evaluators, exercising the role of supervisors and assistants with each of the 27 commissions (p. 68). These novices are called by Gutiérrez as “the assessment aid troop” (p. 72).

While trying to walk around the garden for a while, the two teachers and the teacher whose last names begin with the letter G are interrupted in their reflections by screams and running around: two very thin men and a woman, dressed in rags, with huge, staring eyes, stooped and barefoot, they are chased and insulted, screaming, by two other robust men: “I'm going to get you”, “shit crazy” and other less edifying speeches are heard by the evaluators, who are astonished (p. 72).

On his return to his room, Gutiérrez, when opening his computer, is faced with a message from the President of the Republic. The highest authority in the country clarifies that Gutiérrez should not be concerned about the state of health of Dona Eugenia Fioravante de Gutiérrez, and also with regard to her assets and bank accounts. He comments that his wife was in “recovery”. The old professor is almost in shock and tries to use the phone in the administrator's office. Useless, as the device was still faulty. Upon returning, he finds his bedroom door wide open, as well as that of his friends (p. 76-77 and 79).

He then receives a letter on letterhead from the University of California, Irvine, saying that the institution has the book. Brief description of the country's landscapes and customs natives of the pampeana region, by Gumersindo Basaldúa, but that he had disappeared. In the letter one can still read that Professor Gutiérrez's correspondents were disciplined for having retained the work in their possession – later the book reappeared. They try to charge a fortune to provide a photocopy of the volume, sending excerpts from it. Gutiérrez soon realizes that this is a gross forgery (p. 80-81).

In the chapter “The questioned science” (p. 83-100), there is a more detailed description of the 5 components of commission G, later expanded to 7, like all the others. Professor Carmela Gandía was a specialist in non-relativistic physics and ecology; Professor Epigmenio García was a physiologist and chemist; Professor Artemisa Galán, materials engineer; professor Benito Galeana, specialist in celestial bodies (p. 83) – to them were added professors Gutiérrez, Goldstein and professor Guerra.

Gutiérrez wonders how it would be possible for them to understand each other, coming from such diverse disciplines, from a personal or human perspective? (p. 83). With the professors Goldstein and Guerra had gotten along well, in personal terms, but it didn't go much beyond that. Add to that the fact that the employees were more like the security guards, which contributed to a great sense of anguish (p. 84).

But what most shocked most raters was the explanation that Dr. Calixto provided information about the evaluation procedures: there were processes marked on the cover with a small blue circle, which indicated that in previous evaluations, carried out by experts, had already been considered at a good level, were fully justified. Thus, “you will simply have to, out of respect for the preliminary work, approve the respective decisions through reasoned judgments. With regard to the processes that have not been marked, there is no further decision to be taken, as they have been scrupulously examined and it has been determined that they cannot, in any way, benefit from a subsidy, or award, or appointment, or promotion; you have the important responsibility of explaining why you are denied, since the philosophy of the Center is to always explain, to face the frustration of a few instead of denying it and later bearing the harmful effects of the decision…” (p. 85) -86).

Some evaluators fully agree with the regulation and start work immediately, while others are against it and end up not carrying out their tasks. The contradictions become notorious: there are interesting projects, which demand small financial sums, but which must be rejected. On the other hand, there are other completely absurd ones, which ask for a lot of money and were already approved in advance. The evaluators consulted with Dr. Aurelia, who explains in detail that they cannot be approved under any circumstances (p. 88). The atmosphere becomes increasingly tense, Professor García thinks the criteria are fair and Professor Gutiérrez asks himself: “If the decisions have already been taken, why do they need us?” (p.89). Professor Goldstein replies: “perhaps they don't need us” (p. 89). “What is wanted is to put an end to science and hand over the few funds that exist to charlatans who are close to power” (p. 90). In almost all of the committee rooms, and not just the one marked with the letter G, confused shouting could be heard, which must have been the same movement of revolt and perplexity (p. 91).

Professor Castorena is sick and is helped by supposed nurses (p. 91-94). Goldstein and Gutiérrez look for him throughout the castle and cannot find him. They end up going through the archives and out again into the gardens, close to the railings that isolate the building from outside space. When he got there, Gutiérrez identified his wife, Eugenia, outside, and immediately, as if some projectile had hit him in the head, and “before even checking if it was her and asking himself what he was doing in that place, he fell down. straight to the ground, he neither heard nor saw anything else” (p. 100).

Professor Gutiérrez's attendance by fellow physicians and his transport to his rooms, where he is administered a saline solution and prescribed a lighter diet (p. 101-104), marks the beginning of the chapter “Two different gardens” (p. 101-119) ). Next to his headboard, a brief dialogue is established between his closest colleagues. Professor Guerra comments that for years they fought to improve the evaluation system and, given the situation they are in, she vents: “I feel completely useless, everything seems to be resolved elsewhere, everything is so grotesque” (p. 104). ). Professor Goldstein agreed: “I don't think much can be expected from this tremendous mistake; this house looks more like a prison, some archives that are of no use, some employees whose criminal appearance does not match the dignity of science; in fact, I'm quite baffled. Did you see the projects they showed us? It's ridiculous. A master's degree in a deluxe spearmen's troop! (…) What I believe is that we are witnessing a radical change of civilization (…) Old forms are attacked and what replaces them is insane, as if the forms and relationships were going wrong, all crazy…” (p. 104-105).

Dr. Vélez also goes to Professor Gutiérrez's room and asks him to sign some resolutions, arguing that everything "was already resolved when he arrived and what has to be done now is to evaluate them." Goldstein flares up: “What? The master's degree in a luxury lancer troop, Armo Gómez's scholarship for his thesis on the intermittent dreams of the president's private secretary, the mechanics of the slot machines to be installed in primary schools...?" “Yes,” Dr. Vélez said, lowering her eyes. “I don't subscribe to that rubbish,” said Professor Goldstein” (p. 109). Dr. Vélez, after venting, leaves Gutiérrez's quarters without having obtained the signatures.

Gutiérrez receives another message from the President of the Republic, who wishes him better, informs that Mrs. Eugenia Fioravanti de Gutiérrez disappeared and Professor Benigno Castorena, who had been hospitalized, “was unable to physically overcome the decompensation he suffered. As a tribute to his memory, he will be buried in the garden of the house…” (p. 112). Everyone wonders how the President knew everything and mentions the romance 1984, by George Orwell (p. 113).

They go to Professor Castorena's supposed funeral. There is nothing in the garden where he would have been buried, apart from a hole with dirt beside it. The people preparing the tomb disappeared. Suddenly, unpleasant voices and screams are heard and they come to see again people dressed in rags, thin, almost cadaverous, toothless, all screaming in unison and clinging to the wire, “arranged in a concentrationary composition or typical of flamenco painters, which they tried to show and explain at the same time the excesses of madness (p. 115-116). Such people, adds the narrator, “reminded the survivors of concentration camps” (p. 116).

There is a general rush when a group of vigorous men dressed in lab coats appears, running from the house and shouting. “Some had small whips in their hands and others had sticks, and it was clear that their target was the people grouped next to the flowerbeds” (p. 116-117). Some men were the same ones who had collected the bags when the evaluators arrived at the house, as mentioned in previous lines, also acting as waiters and acting truculently (p. 117).

One of the employees had given Professor Gutiérrez a few days before, a small note in which he said that Professor Castorena was at the gate when Gutiérrez collapsed, as well as his wife. This left him disconcerted and even more insecure. His thoughts, however, are interrupted by a heavy rain, which disperses the group and forces him to return in a hurry to the Center, to take refuge from the storm (p. 119).

“The President” (p. 120-138), the seventh chapter of Evaluator, it is practically a chronicle of rain and incessant storm; “the garden is already impassable” (p. 125). The evaluation works continue, with the need to evaluate several other projects that had the blue circle on the cover and that were totally absurd in their themes and content. The processes received the support of professors Galeana, Gandía and García, but were rejected by the others. The following reports narrate the heated clashes between the two factions existing in commission G. When professor Gutiérrez is about to leave the room, due to the absurdity of the discussions, the graduate Antenor Sepúlveda enters who, all well composed and dressed in the typical manner of bureaucrats from public bodies in the field of education or scientific domains, he said: “Evaluators: the flood continues and has already covered the garden; there is a risk that the water will reach the archives (…) I gave instructions to al master Venancio Aguirre to pick up the files and take them to a safe place; at the moment all the archive personnel are working on it” (p. 130-131).

It was Sunday and Professor Gutiérrez was in his room, trying to work on the computer, finding himself completely bored and thinking: “If there is anything opposite to hope, this is a Sunday afternoon” (p. 133). In front of the computer, he comes across a message from Alexander Moore, identifying himself as coming from the University of California, who tries to apply a scam to him, asking for U$S 3.000 so that he can send him the book by Gumersindo Basaldúa (p. 134-135).

On this tedious Sunday start thinking about the President. What is your name? His first name is Apollodorus, which didn't say much. He was a military man, a general, although he was a colonel even before taking power (or, perhaps, he was a lieutenant colonel or lieutenant general). If the first name said little, the last name didn't add much either: Ibarlucía, “of undoubted Basque reminiscences. Basque like Basaldúa? Relatives, perhaps? Perhaps a remote kinship (…) Gutiérrez wonders if the President's last name might not be Ibarlucía Basaldúa (p. 138).

Through the computer, the President announces the evacuation of the Center, saying that everyone should go to a “safe place”. Knocks on the door of Professor Gutiérrez's room, accompanied by shouts and statements of command indicate that it was time to leave the building – it was not known where or how they were going to leave. Anyway, he grabbed his few belongings and the folder containing the documents about the almost non-existent life of Gumersindo Basaldúa (p. 138).

In “The return of the waters” (p. 139-160) it can be seen that it was no longer raining and everything was dry in the streets and roads that surround the CNUA (p. 139). Gutiérrez walked with the other evaluators along an unpaved route that developed between wire fences that surrounded vast tracts of land (p. 140).

Professor Gutiérrez makes another series of remarks about Gumersindo Basaldúa, perhaps a distant relative of the President. There are even interpretations that assign Basaldúa the role of traitor. Was that what the President wanted to hide? But maybe he hadn't betrayed anyone (p.144-145).

The walk continues and some evaluators are talking and discussing about the continuity of the work. Professor Galeana looked disconsolate and Professor Gutiérrez tried to calm him down, saying that the most likely thing was that they would continue their work somewhere else. Professor García, a vehement defender of the views of the current system, loses control and shouts at Gutiérrez: “You don't understand! Do you not understand that the foundation of the scientific edifice lies in the elimination of intelligence!” (p. 148).

The discussion is interrupted, as the hikers reach an almost crossroads and try to decipher the sign that was missing some letters. After much parliamentary action, they discovered that they were five kilometers from Puelche (p. 149), which is the country's largest water reserve. They were on millions of cubic meters of water. Professor Rudecindo Funes, geologist and volcanologist, clarifies that the large amount of water “in the depths of the earth fertilizes it and prevents it from becoming a desert. What is called 'humid pampa' is simply Puelche, but few know it. This flood is Puelche, who comes out of his cave and occupies what was his” (p. 150).

They arrive at a new building and the licensed Antenor Sepúlveda is the one who welcomes them but, strangely, he says: “I am Doctor Telesforo Zapata, director of this establishment” (p. 152). Gutiérrez and Galeana looked at each other in fright, as they saw the same black mustaches, the same slicked-back hairstyle, “the glittering but somber eyes and dark clothing and a way of speaking that evoked, for Gutiérrez, echoes of familiar voices or situations” ( p. 152). Doctor Zapata gives the preliminary instructions, explains that each one will receive a number, there will be a bed to be occupied in a collective housing (p. 153). Each evaluator receives a card with a number – Gutiérrez received the number 425; from now on, he understood that it should be treated as a number, exactly 425 (p. 154). An employee tells him the following: “Put the card on your shirt, on the left side, so that you can see it well”. The 425 complies.

They are forced to move in the rain and on the soggy ground to go to another building, ending up getting dirty (p. 156-158). Arriving at the new establishment, an employee said in a loud voice that they should eat something, however, it was necessary to bathe before occupying the seats that had been assigned to them. When the attendants arrived with the trays, they only brought mate and biscuits (p. 158). They take a shower in a collective bathroom, men on one side, women on the other, all of whom are forced to undress, get rid of their respective clothes – which would be cleaned and dried by the administration, in time for them to be able to go occupy the places that had been assigned to them. assigned when they arrived. (p. 159).

In the last chapter, “Time turns in a circle” (p. 161-179), it is revealed that things were not going well for the evaluators, precariously housed in beds with mattresses without sheets ( p. 161-162). In the new and precarious facilities, the work of the evaluators restarts, and a small table on wheels and “full of folders” (p. 164) is placed in front of all the members of group G, with the order that everything be analyzed. 425 complains, alleging the impossibility of working in such conditions; others agree with him, but 413 accepts to continue and the activities start again, with the processes being examined by the evaluators sitting on the beds, with the folders on their knees (p. 166). 425 revolts against the projects that are given to him to evaluate and that he must endorse, as they were marked with the blue seal. Other evaluators also revolt and say they are making a fool of themselves (p. 167). The confusion spreads, Gutiérrez throws all the files he can to the ground and tramples them. The work is interrupted (p. 168).

The Doctor. Fleischmann enters the room, censures the rebelliousness of the evaluators and announces that the “Mr. President”, Apolodoro Ibarlucía Basaldúa, will visit them shortly (p. 169). Gutiérrez describes the arrival of the representative: “the scene was extraordinarily similar to that of the arrival at the National Unified Evaluation Center, only now they did not descend from a helicopter that the president had placed at the disposal of the evaluators to take them to that place where all the problems related to the evaluation would end, but the president had descended from his own helicopter as they were not starting a task tending to consolidate the scientific development of the country; they simply dragged their bodies as if they had emerged, barely alive, from a catastrophe” (p. 171-172). The evaluators watched everything a little disoriented, without being bathed and without completing the work for which they were summoned (p. 173).

They meet with Mr. President and with the asylum inmates in the same physical space, in a deteriorated environment and with the evaluators with very low self-esteem. The inmates generally had “disformed and half-naked bodies, pointed skulls of toothless women, almost all of them barefoot and emitting grunts that indicated that the members of this concentration or, what is the same thing, the permanent inhabitants of this place, were crazy (… ) assholes, devoid of reason and genetics, forgotten by society and by life” (p. 173-174).

However, Professor Gutiérrez asks himself: “What could the President tell them?” (p. 174). He obtains the information that the son of the representative was part of that mass of underprivileged people, he was trapped in this hell, unpresentable but not forgotten (p. 174). He comments that almost everyone knows about the boy's syndrome, the General Staff of the Army and, above all, the Episcopate, "because both the president and his wife frequently order masses for their son's health" (p. 174).

When the president speaks, he addresses “fellow citizens”, “evaluators”, “dear sick people”. General Ibarlucía Basaldúa talks about the sick, who are very important to him, because “among you there is a being who is very dear to me, a reproduction of my lineage whose suffering affects me deeply. I saw him a few moments ago and he is happy in this place, where he is treated like all of you, without privileges, with love and concern, without sparing the minimum of resources for a recovery that allows him to communicate again with his poor mother” (p. 176).

The president continues, refuting comments that he considers to be absolute irresponsibility: that in the place where they were, there is trafficking in organs. He vehemently denies it, saying that only people without feeling and without heart “can claim that the natural deaths of some dearly ill people were not for that reason”. People are not killed here to sell their healthy livers and kidneys (p. 176).

Faced with such a situation, when Gutiérrez observed that everyone was talking, he took advantage of it and left quietly, without any obstacle having intervened: it was possible to leave through a door of the Hall of Acts, through which they had entered – he was accompanied by professors Goldstein and Guerra (p. 176-177) and began to run to the opposite side of the house that they could now define as “asylum or hospice and which for them, neither inmates nor insane, could become a prison” (p. 177).

They think that no one is watching them, but they are wrong, because someone sees them, “although not from the house they left, but from the other side of the enclosure, which is at the edge of the land where they run” (p. 178). They arrive at a building that looks like a castle, with four floors. Then they find two men and a woman, well dressed and well combed, clean and beautiful, who look at them as if they wanted to understand who they were and what the anomalous beings who were shouting for help were saying, while looking back. , to where they came from. Also running, “there were other people in worse conditions, who howled or moaned, not being able to know how far away, some dragging themselves, especially a being who was pure trunk, without legs, mounted on a cart that propelled with only one foot. arm, sheltered in a kind of black cloak, followed at a short distance by a group of men, equipped with whips, who shouted 'Go back, you crazy fucks' and who cracked the whips as if to say that they would strike them against their backs” (p. 178-179).

The story concludes in a no less frightening way: “The shitty lunatics deviate from their path and march in the opposite direction, towards a pile that seems to be made of thorny plants, hirsute and rebellious to any criterion of pleasure or utility, pursued by these guardians or, perhaps, they were sick or doctors, they discover the three who are next to the pen, they approach them with the same threatening attitude and, without saying a word (...) they begin to push them, not without first pulling them out of their hands from one of them a folder (…) in such a way that the papers that were in it spill out and start flying everywhere…” (p, 179).

 

4.

Throughout this text, we let Noé Jitrik's novel practically speak for itself, revealing his sharp and ironic criticism of a process of evaluating academic production that reached a stage that could be called almost pathological. completed by reading the wonderful article by Nitrik himself, “Relato speculativo sobre dichas y desdichas de la universidad” (2011).

*Afranio Catani He is a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and is currently a senior professor at the same institution..

*Ana Paula Hey Professor at the Department of Sociology at USP.

Reduced version of the article originally published in Evaluation: Higher Education Evaluation Magazine. RAIES v Uniso, v. 16, noo. 3, November 2011.

 

References


Noah Jitrik. Evaluator. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2002, 182 pages.

 

Note


[I] Jitrik goes on, between pages 14 and 18, raising a series of amusing conjectures about Gumersindo Basaldúa: who he was, what his actions were, his hypothetical escapes, the removal of any information about him by the army, his participation in an anti- rosista, her career Latin lover etc.

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