Horacio Gonzalez

Fritz Wotruba (1907-1975).


Commentary on the book “Los asaltantes del cielo” by the recently deceased Argentine writer

Among the many things that fascinated them in the classes of the Argentine master for whom they felt great sympathy, the students who in the 1980s attended his courses at the Free School of Sociology and Politics in São Paulo (free because, existing since before the University of São Paulo and the federal bodies of the Ministry of Education, which would impose norms and rules to all higher education institutions in the country, it cultivated the pride of following its own orientation) would remember many years after one that was a unique experience.

With Horacio González they practiced a method he invented, the Leopold Bloom Method, which consists of “walking, observing, remembering”. The main characteristic of the Leopold Bloom Method is that it is not a method, proclaimed its inventor, shortly before taking his students, literally, to the streets, where they dispersed through the corners and hiding places of the city, collecting impressions in all ways and through all the means. I keep to this day (waiting for the moment to finally offer it to Horacio) a volume of the results of a day of application of this non-method, in which Robert Park's Chicago mingled with James Joyce's Dublin in a game of mischievous allusions that deep down, they referred to another relationship, this one more serious, which gave meaning to Horacio's work in his Brazilian exile: Buenos Aires and São Paulo, two references with a great affective charge.

In my opinion, it is part of Horacio's greatness not to have wavered for a moment on the primacy between these two beloved cities of his: as soon as it was possible to suspend the exile that had brought him to Brazil, he acted in the name of a commitment that surpassed anything his friends and colleagues from São Paulo could offer him, and he returned to Argentina, his place in the world, which deserved and demanded to resume in new terms the old political and cultural militancy.

And how much work he accumulated in those years back home! Not satisfied with his decisive presence in the brilliant team responsible for an enterprise of real scale such as the magazine El Ojo Mocho, Horacio published an important series of books during this period. Books that are reread with pleasure after a decade, like The picaresque ethics, 1994 (subtitled “secret”: Pretext and tragedy in the origin of politics), whose source, already somewhat remote, is the thesis with which he had won the title of doctor in Sociology from USP, in a rare case in which everyone thought he should be a doctor, except himself, refractory as he always was to the routine game of institutions.

Occasional result of a mere academic work? No: the background reference in the book (it would be interesting to examine the extent to which it is already present in the thesis) is, as Horacio reveals to the unsuspecting reader, Argentine politics, “although perhaps it is not noticed”. There is Horacio in one piece, and he would like to insist on this. There is a hard core in Horacio's writings: Argentina, in all its forms and metamorphoses. (Would it be too indiscreet to remember that there is a constant interlocutor, to whom book after book is dedicated, who she reciprocates with beautiful songs?).

However, the luxuriant proliferation of references and ideas that appear as a conversation (the Horatian model of intellectual production, the “simple kind and generous conversation of friendship”, according to the expression of an author that Horacio appreciates) requires a particular type of discipline. in reading, in order to avoid a double loss: the one that consists of getting lost in this network of cross-references and letting the core of the argument escape, and the greater loss that consists of giving up the experience of following the threads of apparently erratic digressions, but which are later revealed to be essential to the argument.

Or else, that extraordinary book that is Pampean remains. Science, essay and politics in the Argentine culture of the XNUMXth century, where he takes forward, in great style, the recovery of the debate on the Argentine historical condition, through a vein as dear to Horacio as he is the public figure of the intellectual. Or also then Rhetoric and madness. For a theory of Argentine culture, four Parisian lectures given by this hardened porteño, and one more (“About the idea of ​​death in Argentina”) who, to the delight of his Brazilian friends, pronounced in São Paulo, after having examined at USP the remarkable doctoral thesis by Eduardo Rinesi, whose Horatian affinities are already revealed in its title: Politics and tragedy.

In this book, the allusions are no longer toys as in his São Paulo classes, although everything is allusive, sinuous and subtle, as always. What we are dealing with is nothing less than reflections oriented towards a theory of Argentine culture, something that, far from exile, it would not have occurred to him to do. The return to Argentina was already provoking what could be called the “commitment paradox”. For it is precisely when the physical distance in exile, with all the personal distress that it entails, is replaced by physical proximity and the demand to reflect and take sides, that distancing becomes possible, which is a condition for criticism.

Between these two books, a more ambitious essay must be highlighted, The chrysalis. Metamorphosis and dialectics. At this point, I suspect, a new stage in Horacio's intellectual production opens. Luckily I can use the old excuses and say that this is not the place, or that there is not enough space, or that the necessary time is lacking to develop the question here, and limit myself to leaving it marked.

The idea is that the theme of metamorphosis makes explicit an old line of Horacio's concerns, and does so in a new and stronger register, which projects into a new dimension (in fact, into two, since it is the tense relationship between metamorphosis, this process always driven by extrinsic references, and dialectics, governed by an intrinsic dynamism, what is at stake) his great theme in the period of exile, which is that of movement, of path, of traveled – an idea that never ceases to emerge, but that now appears as sublimated.

Metamorphoses and dialectics are discussed in this book as ways of thinking, in a change of focus from the previous more “sociological” register, which focused on intellectuals and their situations, to the “philosophical” register of ways of thinking as an object of study. a reflection that, however, does not forget the social and the political. One more step, finally, in the great project, never spelled out in all letters (except in the slightly ironic subtitle of rhetoric and madness), to produce a theory political of Argentine culture, a project to which experiences such as that of the remarkable cultural magazine  El Ojo Mocho, and now that of the National Library, as well as the more “monographic” books by Horacio, such as The outgoing philosopher, about Macedonio Fernández, or politics and madness, about Roberto Arlt.

I spoke of books with a more monographic content. The three that are gathered in this volume, on Camus, on Marx and on the Paris Commune, have this characteristic. Between Marx and the Paris Commune it is possible to establish a clear thematic continuity (although Horacio is not a “Marxist” when reading the Commune). Next to them is Camus, who constitutes an old challenge for Horacio (as we remember when we were lucky enough to hear him talk about it at the small and friendly theater Ágora, in São Paulo). There is something of a “picaresque ethic” (and a hint of the “Leopold Bloom method”) unfolding in all of this.

The elementary question of mobility and its setbacks is projected to great historical scenarios in the cases of Marx and the Commune, and to an existential trajectory when talking about Camus. The paths Horácio follows with delicate detail are not linear: they are more like meanders intersected by ravines where different currents converge and produce diverse transfigurations (to use the term he himself uses at the end of his analysis of the Commune), transfigurations that in turn, they affect the very historical space where the action takes place, changing or fixing the faces of the characters, narrowing or dilating the time of events.

Of course, the great theme of metamorphosis and its pair, the dialectic, is already present in this. And there is also the idea, which guides the brilliant “cinematographic” construction of the book about Camus, that linear paths (in this case, that of the car that transports Camus over a time span hour by hour) lead to disaster, because prefigure more than transfigure: provoke a destiny, as Horacio writes in another context. It is this vision that allows him, in the book on Marx, a fine analysis of The 18th Brumaire, where its true meaning is restored to that famous phrase, with an orthodox historicist appearance, according to which “men make their own history, but…”, revealing that this meaning resides in the idea, entirely non-historicist-conservative, of the oppression of the past over the past. minds of those who try to chart their own paths.

For all these reasons, the Spanish edition of these three small books gathered in this volume constitutes an important contribution to the knowledge of the work of Horacio González, by allowing the Argentine reader access to some of the most important pieces of his activity in the years of exile from São Paulo , when his own path was defined.

*Gabriel Cohn is professor emeritus at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Weber, Frankfurt (Quicksilver).


Horacio Gonzalez. The criminals of the sky: politics and emancipation. Buenos Aires, Editorial Gorla, 2006, 180 pages.


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