Horacio González: a 40-year friendship (*)



Horacio reminded me of the Baudelairean flâneur, attentive to details, looking at what was going on around him, inevitably with newspapers and books under his arm

“I once heard Horacio say that in a class, to tell us what sociology was: 'understanding people's lives'” (Juan Laxagueborde).

“I didn't go to the funeral. Because some people never die” (Clarice Lispector).

It's not easy to talk about my friend Horacio González (1944-2021). I write with difficulty, even though more than a month has passed since her disappearance, and my hands don't always obey my thoughts. Each engraved word can be considered as a great breakthrough. I met him in his Brazilian exile, in São Paulo, at the end of the 1970s – more precisely in 1979, around October or November, the same year that Bárbara, my first daughter, was born, an important emotional milestone. It was an unshakable friendship that lasted more than four decades.

However, our two initial meetings were not very auspicious. I explain. I published my first book by Editora Brasiliense in early 1980, having delivered the originals in the second half of the previous year. I started collaborating with the newspaper read books, an undertaking by the publishing house itself, which contained loads of reviews of releases from the Brazilian publishing market, then booming. The editor-in-chief, or the boss, was Cláudio Abramo, but Caio Túlio Costa, secretary for Marina, was in charge of the editorial office.

At the time, almost all of us who wrote reviews and articles in the press went to newsstands waiting for the newspapers to arrive. From Friday to Saturday I stayed up until dawn to grab copies of the Afternoon Newspaper; from Saturday to Sunday, from The State of S. Paul, from This is and Folha de S. Paul. The paper was still warm, with our reviews printed on it; a wonderful feeling...

Well, Horacio and I met like that, waiting for the read books to arrive. Brasiliense occupied the upper floors of a building on Rua Barão de Itapetininga, in the center of the city. In one of them, in a cramped room, Caio Túlio and Marina edited the raw material. We knew the day of arrival, usually in the middle of the month, around 3 or 4 pm. At 2 or so we sat on a kind of cement ledge near the windows, which froze our bottoms, and waited. We received 2 or 3 copies and also, when there was one, the check for the previous month's collaboration.

The first two times we crossed paths like this, I thought Horacio was far from radiating sympathy. Half-tied face, mustache, long hair, resembled a Spanish bullfighter. He kept reading some book and taking notes on some crumpled sheets. It was no use trying to make conversation: the best you could get in response was a vaguely defined snarl. That reminded me of Antonio Candido, who told me that he and Florestan Fernandes were still young and Fernando de Azevedo's assistants in the Education Section of the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters at the University of São Paulo. Candido said it was almost impossible to talk to Florestan, who was holed up at his desk, surrounded by books and index cards, writing with his fountain pen, which I think was filled with rock ink.

Faced with Horacio's behavior, I thought: "Damn, what an arrogant Argentinian!" However, I read and enjoyed his reviews. I think it was on the third date, still with a cold ass, that I commented on something I had written in a newspaper, expressing some disagreement – ​​from then on the dialogue began to flow, long explanations and controversies arose and we became friends. Our little books started to go out on Brasiliense and, sometimes, we ran into each other here and there.

Horacio taught at the School of Sociology and Politics Foundation and enjoyed great success with his students. He innovated in his teaching and research methodology, making the sorcerer's apprentices walk around the central region of São Paulo, carrying out fieldwork. Gabriel Cohn, who supervised us (Horacio on his doctorate, and I on his master's), wrote about it on the website the earth is round about.[1]. But Horacio went further: he organized debates, edited theoretical books with texts by students, as well as poetry anthologies. My Portuguese friend Almerindo Janela Afonso, now a professor at the University of Minho (Braga, Portugal), at the time a student of Horacio, still regrets the loss of the little book that contained his verses and those of dozens of colleagues.

When the checks read books and from Brasiliense arrived, we would run to cash them at a nearby bank branch and take the opportunity to drink something in the center and eat something in which the calories were sovereign, such as pastries, breaded provolone or pieces of pizza. Needless to say, the conversations lasted for hours.

But there was a problem: the salary in Sociology and Politics was low and invariably late. Thus, Horacio defended himself by writing one text after another, in addition to translating (in a short time from Brazil he mastered written Portuguese), surviving from his work as a skilful handler of ideas and words. In our relationship over the following years, I noticed something spectacular: the speed with which he wrote. On one occasion he was staying at his house in Buenos Aires (Avenida Santa Fé, Palermo) and we were going to a dinner party to which we were invited. We were getting ready to leave when the phone rang. Horacio answered and turned pale: he had forgotten to send a four-page note to a certain newspaper – at the time there were practically no computers, and a courier would pick up the articles at the collaborators' homes. He told me that we would be a little late. He sat down, put the pages on the old typewriter and typed 70 something lines in about 40 minutes. He folded them up, put them in an envelope, and left it with Mr. Héctor, an affable and mocking janitor.

Among the huge number of articles dedicated to him on the occasion of his death, on June 22, I found in one of them the happy observation of Alejandro Horowicz: “He wrote copiously. We can say that Horacio thought with his fingers.[2] Another by Adrián Cangi: he “speaks as he writes and writes as he speaks”.[3] Or that of Eduardo Grüner: his thought process is “a permanent effort, developed with surprising naturalness, by placing emphasis on the thought process (someone said of Miles Davis that he composed when he played; Horacio thought when he spoke, or wrote)” .[4]

This way of writing, always fighting against time, in an act of combat or resistance, reminds me of a small text by Virginia Woolf, written in 1940 during the bombings of Nazi planes over London, and published posthumously. Virginia could be killed at any moment, “because a bomb could fall in this room, One, two, three, four, five, six…the seconds pass”,[5] she writes. Urgency set the tone for Horacio. He, like the title of his book on Marx, in the “Encanto Radical” collection of Brasiliense, was a “signal catcher”, attentive to everything, to the variables of the social reality he experienced.

Suddenly I couldn't find Horacio anymore; he disappeared. The redemocratization of Argentina took him back to Buenos Aires. Gabriel Cohn wrote about it this way: “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 that his friends and colleagues from São Paulo could offer him, and he returned to Argentina, his place in the world. world, which deserved and demanded to resume in new terms the old political and cultural militancy".[6]

Emir Sader recovered Horacio's ironic statement about his stay among us: “I went to Brazil brought by the winds of politics, in 1977, and I stayed there; coming and going. I published a few things and passed the time. I almost didn't buy controversies. I would have liked to buy some. I don't know which one."[7]

I only met him again in January 1990, when I was in Buenos Aires with the whole family. A year later, in January 1991, I spent almost twenty days in his apartment on Avenida Santa Fé, with my two daughters, Bárbara and Júlia. Very kindly, he traveled to Rosario, Liliana's house. On that occasion he proudly showed me more than 20 numbers of the Notebooks of the Commune, editorial project he directed, edited by the municipality of Puerto General San Martín, Province of Santa Fé, a city bathed by the Paraná River, 30 kilometers from Rosario and with a population of 12.500 inhabitants. The progressive mayor financed this political-cultural intervention publication, which was distributed free of charge in the main bookstores in Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities.

Soon afterwards, with a group of intellectuals and disciples, he created The ojo ojo,[8] cultural criticism magazine, whose first issue came out in 1991, having been published until the beginning of the 2000s. In addition to Horacio, the editorial group remained with few changes over the years, namely: Eduardo Rinesi, Federico Galende, Esteban Vernik, Christian Ferrer, María Pía López, Facundo Martínez, Emilio Bernini, Jung Ha Kang, Guillermo Korn. The journal formulated and discussed relevant questions, always interrogative, such as: did Social Sciences fail in Argentina?; no more cultural criticism?; what does it mean to discuss?; can the theory be saved?; what do we call politics? etc. Essays, interviews, reviews: this was the way chosen to intervene in the Argentine cultural debate.

From 1991 until 2017 – the last time I went to Ezeiza – I stayed dozens of times in the houses where Horacio lived: in the aforementioned one, in Palermo, on Calle Brasil (Parque Lezama), on Calle Maza (Boedo ) and at Liliana Herrero's home in Rosario. Horacio, on the occasion of the defense of his doctorate, in the early 1990s – which resulted in his book The picaresque ethics (1992) –, he stayed at my house in São Paulo, in addition to other occasions he returned to the country, to participate in conferences, stalls, colloquiums.

Horacio reminded me of flâneur Baudelairean, attentive to details, looking at what was going on around him, inevitably with newspapers and books under his arm. I lost count of how many times we went to Palermo Viejo and Palermo Chico in search of a grill that only people from the neighborhood knew, that we frequented cafes and small bookstores, that we ate pieces of pizza when “El Cuartito” was still just a small door that served cheap tidbits, that we walked through the region that later became the sophisticated Puerto Madero, that we went read the diaries at Bar Britânico, on the corner of Brasil and Defensa streets – it was one of his offices where he held meetings, held debates, seminars and congresses, bringing together seven or eight tables.

Two events that took place in that bar deserve to be highlighted: the preparation of the days on John William Cooke, “el gordo Cooke”, politician and Perón's trusted man. Horacio, plus four or five male and female students and two other professors, managed to schedule the sessions right there, between cut and medialunas. The second event took place at the end of 2004, when then-President Néstor Kirchner called Britânico inviting him to become associate director of the National Library.

Over the years, from 1992 to 2014, I received and transferred Horacio's copyright to Brasiliense. Not infrequently, Brazilian and Argentinian friends on their way to Buenos Aires brought little envelopes, most of the time rather skinny, for him. Even the singer and composer Fito Páez joined in the dance and also helped to bring some twine.

I participated in a number of academic activities in Argentina, traveling through most of its provinces, in addition to closely following much of what Horacio was doing, which allowed me to meet intellectuals who were active in the country's culture and politics, such as Pino Solanas, Fito Páez, David Viñas, Beatriz Sarlo, León Rozitchner, Martha Rosenberg, Ricardo Piglia, Oscar Landi, Teresa Parodi, Rodolfo Fogwill, among others, as well as musicians and composers who interacted with Liliana Herrero.

The last time I watched Horacio participate in a live debate was on November 17, 2017 at a cultural center in the Boedo neighborhood, close to his home. The honoree was the journalist and writer Osvaldo Bayer (1927-2018), already 90 years old, on the occasion of the launch of the facsimile edition of La Spark, name of the newspaper he owned, which was short-lived (December 1958 to April 1959). In it, Bayer denounced the action of landowners, merchants and politicians from Cushamen, Chubut Province, in Patagonia – Cushamen, in Mapuche, means “place of solitude”–, for the theft of land, in addition to defending the Cuban revolution and attacking the policies economic consequences inherited from the 1955 coup and continued by what the spark calls “the great Argentine theft” (government of Arturo Frondizi).

Bayer is also the author of a classic, Los avengers de la Patagonia tragica, in 4 volumes, written between 1972 and 1974, narrating the military repression of union movements that took place in the Province of Santa Cruz in the early 1920s. Bayer was represented at this event in Boedo by one of his sons. The interventions of Horacio and Christian Ferrer were excellent, as well as the other two debaters. Afterwards, lots of conversation, wine, pizza, empanadas and folk music performed by young people.

Horacio, according to a somewhat precarious survey that I carried out, in addition to at least 7 books written in his Brazilian exile, was the compiler of 11 books, author of 3 novels – kiss to death (2014) captive editorials (2015) and take up arms (2016) –, coordinator of “PuÑaladas Collection - tip tests”, at Editora Colihue and author of another 31 works, not to mention dozens of book chapters in collective works, articles for literary or scientific magazines, texts for newspapers, catalogues, book covers and prologues, CD inserts… It is also important to mention , that several of his books are quite extensive: Pampean remains. Science, essay and politics in the Argentine culture of the XNUMXth century (1999), have 444 pages; Perón: reflections of a life (2004), 456; Philosophy of the conspiracy: marxists, peronists and carbonarios (2004), 380; Writings in carbonilla: figurations, destinations, portraits (2006), 362; Lengua del outraje: de la generación del 37 a David Viñas (2012), 318; History and passion. The willingness to think about it all (2013), written with José Pablo Feinmann, 424; Damned translations: the experience of the image in Marx, Merleau-Ponty and Foucault (2017), 432.

The best image I can keep of my friend González is that of a fighter in his “personal trench”, in the happy expression of Karine Micheletto, in his office, among his papers and “his books, in piles of dubious balance”.[9] There he is, writing urgently. “Horacio wrote like a desperate person” and his grandchildren said: “the grandfather is writing an eternal and infinite book”[10] – like Macedonio Fernández, to whom he dedicated a passionate essay. I like this image, it is strong and corresponds to the nature of his work.

Elsewhere, writing about Florestan Fernandes, Octavio Ianni and Pierre Bourdieu, I stated that “the three remained faithful to their classes of origin. Ianni taught until the eve of his death; Bourdieu, interned, wrote; Florestan, before undergoing the liver transplant that killed him, left articles ready for Folha de S. Paul".[11]

The Portuguese writer Manuel Alegre visited fellow writer Miguel Torga from Trás-os-Montes in the hospital, narrating his visit in this way: “Holding his notebook and pen as someone who, on the battlefield, mortally wounded, does not let go of his weapons. His strength was already low, but his hand remained firm on the pen and the notebook. He didn't want to be caught off guard (or disarmed) if that first verse came to him again, which we are always given, as they used to say. I was prepared, because you never know, as they say in the Bible, when the breath is coming and which way it's blowing. The earth breathes in many ways. Through the mouth of the Santiago volcano, through Camilo Pessanha's flute, through the poet's handwriting that wrote into the night, through the first and last words of Sophia [de Mello Breyner Andresen, poet] and, above all, through her intonation of a rhythm already alone rhythm. And by the wrist of Miguel Torga, by that ancient hand holding the notebook and wielding the pen until the end”.[12]

Perhaps we could say the same about Horacio, comparing him to Ianni, Florestan, Bourdieu, Sophia, Torga. Our friend Manuel Costa Pinto remembered that in Camus: the debauchery of the sun, González, between modesty and self-irony, presented himself to Brazilian readers this way: “Who could care that the author of this book was born in Villa Pueyrredón, any neighborhood in the city of Buenos Aires? I didn't say much to you".[13]

Horacio, in the sense alluded to in some previous paragraphs, when talking about Ianni, Florestan and Bourdieu, also remained linked to his origins, He, who was born in 1st. February 1944 and who seemed to have read all the existing books, as Silvina Friera recalled, he was not a boy who had a voluminous library and a comfortable family life. “His father had abandoned the house in Villa Pueyrredón and was raised by his railway grandfather, who was born in Recanati, the city of the poet Giacomo Leopardi. As his mother worked in a popular library, he began to borrow books and read voraciously ”.[14]

Anyway, this is Horacio, my generous friend, as generous as Maurício Tragtenberg, to share his knowledge and talk to everyone about everything. Perhaps one of the most porteños of the porteños, which he wrote to the limit of his strength before being interned in the Güemes Sanatorium last May 19th. He was unable to complete the project he was developing with singers Teresa Parodi and Liliana Herrero, as well as musician and composer Juan Falú.

At the National Library, he received a posthumous homage from former employees, friends and family of the Asociación Taxista de Capital (ATC) – “You will always continue traveling on our side. Hasta siempre Maestro” – and 13 Argentine human rights organizations. The family decided that the handkerchief “de las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo”, offered by Hebe de Bonafini, would accompany it, in addition to the box where this handkerchief was kept with a photo of a “March of the Mothers” and an old photo of Horacio with a blackened mustache, as well as a typewriter given to him by his teacher, deputy and activist Alcira Argumedo.[15]

PS: Thanks for the tips, sending materials and technical support to Gladys Barreyro, Ricardo Musse, Eduardo Rinesi, Gabriel Cohn, Marcos Picolo, Renato Queiróz, Mário Azevedo, Francisco Alambert, Débora Mazza.

*Afânio Catani, First and foremost a friend of Horacio, he is a retired professor at USP and a visiting professor at UFF.


[1] Gabriel Cohn. Horacio González: comment on the book 'Los asaltantes del cielo' in The Earth is Round <https://aterraeredonda.com.br/horacio-gonzalez-comentario-sobre-o-livro-los-asaltantes-del-cielo>, 24.

[2] Alejandro Horowicz. Horacio on the history boat. “Ignorantes – Revista de Apparición Esporádica” – Specials: Horacio Gonzalez https://rededitorial.com.ar/revistaignorantes/horacio-gonzalez>, 2021.

[3] Adrián Cangi. Write the reverse of history. “ignoranthttps://rededitorial. com,ar/revistaignorantes/horacio-gonzalez>, 2021.

[4] Edward Grüner. The language of an Argentine.” Ignoranthttps://rededitorial.com.ar/revistaignorantes/horacio-gonzalez>, 2021.

[5] Virginia Woolf. Thoughts of peace during an air raid. Trans.: Ana Carolina Mesquita. São Paulo: Editora Nós, 2021, p. 5.

[6] Gabriel Cohn, cit., note 1.

[7] Emir Sader; The radical charm of Horacio González. Page 12 <https://pagina12.com.ar/353741-el-encanto-radical-de-horacio-gonzalez>, 10.07.2021.

[8] About the magazine, see Adrián Pulleiro. A call to dissidence. The construction of a heterodox intellectual position in the emergence of The ojo ojo (1991-1994). Faro Magazine, v. 2, no. 22, II Sem./2015, p. 133-165. Faculty of Social Sciences. University of Playa Ancha. Valparaiso, Chile.

[9] Karina Micheletto. Horacio González and his eternal and infinite book. Page 12.https://pagina12.com.ar/349976-horio-gonzalez-y-su-libro-eterno-e-infinito>, 23.06.2021.

[10] Karina Micheletto, cit., note 9.

[11] Afrânio Mendes Catani. In the cradle does fate take care of men? In: Origin and destiny; thinking Bourdieu's reflective sociology. Campinas, SP: Mercado de Letras, 2013, p. 93.

[12] Manuel Alegre. The kid who drove nails into a board. Alfragide: Don Quixote, 3rd. ed., 2010.

[13] Manuel da Costa Pinto. Horacio González with Camus in Brazil. Ignorant <http://rededitorial.com.ar/revistaignorantes/horacio-gonzalez>, 2021.

[14] Silvina Friero. Murió Horacio González. Page 12 <https://pagina12.com.ar/349872-murio-horacio-gonzalez>, 23.06.2021.

[15] Karine Micheletto. Adiós al hombre que pensó la patria. Farewell to Horacio González at the National Library. Page 12 <https://pagina12.com.ar/350286-la-despedida-a-horacio-gonzalez-a-la-library-national>, 24.06.2021.

Throughout the text, several articles about Horacio were cited that appear referenced in these notes. I have not addressed here a series of dimensions involving his work as a political activist, embodied in his leadership of “Espacio Carta Aberta”, as well as his tenure as director of the National Library. Such dimensions can be verified, among others, in the articles listed below, which constitute a brief critical fortune that appeared in the Buenos Aires press between June 22 and 30, 2021. I indicate only a few sources and authors easily located in a search through the Google:

- Page 12: articles by María Daniela Yaccar, José Pablo Feinmann, Federico Galende, Eduardo Jozami, Juan Laxagueborde, Facundo Martínez, Ernesto F. Villanueva, Eduardo Rinesi, Beatriz Sarlo, María Pía López, Atílio A. Borón, Mario Wainfeld, Ricardo Forster.

- Clarin: texts by Susana Reinoso.

-Amphibious Magazine: article by Micaela Cuesta.

– Ignorant Magazine: collaborations by Alejandra González, Daniel Campione, Diego Tatián, Hernán Sassi, Ariel Pennisi, Miguel Benasayag, Senda Sferco, Gastón Salcedo, Samuel León, Márcio Seligman-Silva, Elena Donato, Valentín Díaz.


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