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By WALNICE NOGUEIRA GALVÃO*

Two libraries; Two literary critics; and Larzac and ecology

Two libraries

Allow allowance for the Eurocentric and Anglo-Saxon conception of the book entitled Library – A world history, in a sumptuous edition of Sesc. No library in India, imagine! one of the first and greatests civilizations on the planet... Not even in the Middle East, when it is known that in the medieval period the largest in the world were in Baghdad, Cairo and Córdoba in Andalusia. Aside from that, there are occasional references to a library in Japan, Korea or China: for example, the National Library in Beijing, a “2005st century library”, fully computerized and with modern architecture, opened in XNUMX.

Since this book brings to the fore the library of Alexandria in the past, it should talk about today's library, which demands its place among the most modern. This was already fully computerized and digitalized, in the same city, in partnership between Egypt and UNESCO, with a Norwegian architectural design. With the ambition of following the example of its ancestor, constituting a research and scientific production center like it had been, the building includes two hundred study rooms, classrooms, various laboratories, a science museum, a planetarium, a cybernetic library and many more wonders. This is a commendable effort to rebuild one of the most renowned heritage sites of humanity.

Even Brazil appears, very modestly, in a tiny and poorly made photo of the facade of our beloved National Library. But almost nothing appears from Latin America, the birthplace of a famous librarian called Jorge Luis Borges.

In the long and illustrious history of libraries, one does not know what else to admire. The first of them, which belonged to the Assyrian emperor Ashurbanipal (12th century BC), in Nineveh, today in Iraq, was made up of clay tablets covered with cuneiform characters, which archeology brought to light some time ago. It is the oldest known and the first that is properly a library – the others, witnesses of the empires of the most remote Antiquity, were mere storeroom archives.

It is there that writing originated, 5.500 years ago for the rudimentary signs of these accounting balances, or 3.400-3000 years ago for writing with the alphabet. And precisely because it was unitary and already more developed than a mere archive, it was this library that allowed the decipherment of cuneiform writing. And, from there, the reconstruction of large panels of universal history, and in particular of Mesopotamia and its Sumerian, Chaldean, Akkadian and Babylonian inhabitants. It also illuminates their relations with other nations of the Fertile Crescent, such as Egypt and Crete, two powerful ancient civilizations, or even with less enlightened peoples, such as many of the Bible.

It was there that humanity's first work of fiction literature was discovered, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which, prior to Iliad, à Odyssey and Bible, left marks on them. In the two Greek epics, what will have a long life in literature reappears: the Journey to the Kingdom of the Dead (nekiya), which will also appear in the Aenida and Divine Comedy, among others. At Bible, the Garden of Eden and the Flood come straight from the same source.

The most famous in history, that of Alexandria, has the reputation of being the largest in Antiquity. Near that of Ashurbanipal is a newborn, for the Christian era is almost in sight. Of uncertain age and debatable destiny, it corresponds to the monarch's ambition to gather all the books in the world, so well allegorized by the same librarian Jorge Luis Borges in The library of Babel. These are not yet public libraries, but private collections of the king or emperor, in this case one of the pharaohs of the Greek dynasty of the Ptolemies, who then reigned in Egypt. One of the achievements of this library was to have promoted the first complete translation of the Bible Hebrew into Greek, the work of seventy sages who became known as The Septuagint.

To this day, the Egyptian institution is considered the archetype of all libraries, giving rise to endless legends that culminate in a fire, deliberate or accidental according to the narrator. The Italian historian Luciano Canfora is the author of an excellent book, The missing library – stories from the ancient library of Alexandria, which reviews and analyzes the many versions and even speculations to which it was the subject.

Two literary critics

Recently, Sesc hosted the Edward W. Said International Congress, marking the 20th anniversary of the death of this great intellectual. His widow and daughter came from the United States to participate, who made presentations and enchanted everyone.

Edward W. Said (1935-2003) and Susan Sontag (1933-2004) dominated the literary criticism scene at their time. The two are at the root of the renewal of not only literary but cultural studies, with the creation of post-colonial and decolonization studies still in force today being attributed to them. They drew attention to multiculturalism and diversity, trying to combat ethnocentrism and xenophobia. Thus, new trends of thought originated in literary criticism and fertilized other fields of knowledge, from two graduates in Literature and literature professors.

Both had a similar profile because, for the first time in history, the country's two greatest literary critics were not from wasp, that is, white people from a traditional family who came from Mayflower: on the contrary, they had immigrant origins. And they belonged to minorities: she was Jewish and gay, as well as a woman, he was Palestinian-Arab-Christian. Therefore, they have always been at the epicenter of controversies.

They were not exactly marginalized, as they belonged to a bourgeoisie that was able to provide them with schools in the Ivy League, the best. outsiders, Yes. And, if it would be inaccurate to say that they are excluded, without a doubt they are the subjects of an exclusionary insertion, which sharpens their vision and makes them produce a work of high critical content.

As for his education, Edward W. Said graduated from Princeton and Harvard, becoming a lifelong professor of comparative literature at Columbia. While Susan Sontag has a more varied path, with degrees at Berkeley and Chicago, followed by postgraduate studies at Harvard and Oxford, she went to the Sorbonne. Alice Kaplan's book Dreaming in French studies the period of “finishing school” in Paris by three eminent women: apart from Susan Sontag, Jacqueline Kennedy and Angela Davis.

Before the gay Jew and the Palestinian, the most influential North American literary critic was, undisputed and for 30 years, Edmund Wilson (1895-1972), who was a typical WASP. A Princeton man, he took literature seriously, combining erudition with refined taste: a legitimate scholar. He was the biggest name in culture in the United States and, as he wrote assiduously for the media, and was also the official literary critic of the prestigious magazine New Yorkers, its reach was enormous. He denounced imperialism, the Vietnam War and the Cold War, being a leading figure in the opposition in his country.

In the meantime, the winds of history had changed direction and opened the discussion on ethnic and sexual diversity, while feminism emerged in the second wave. It can be said then that, although Edward W. Said and Susan Sontag had training in elite universities, their origins made them public intellectuals, but divergent, or dissidents and, in general, faced with exclusionary criteria.s. Not excluded in any way, but with an inclusion that could be called biased, or problematic, anyway. And they will know very well how to explore, producing a rebellious, out of line and innovative work.

That said, both were literary critics and literature professors who had a career at the University and participated intensely in the debates of their time, teaching courses, publishing books and articles.

Even more, both of them, not even because they were great specialists in literature, stopped being interested in other areas of knowledge. Susan Sontag has classic books on photography and illness, an area of ​​study that she practically invented. Edward W. Said is the author of mandatory works on music and his masterpiece is orientalism, which includes many arts and knowledge. This book, which subverted the angle of vision, shows how the high cultured tradition of the West invented the representation of a barbaric and violent East, in order to be able, by contrast, to propose itself as the source of all civilization. He himself tells how he was surprised by the success of the book, which in a short time was translated into 50 languages ​​and had sold out successive editions. And it continues to hover on the horizon of culture.

Larzac and ecology

1.

In 1971, the French government declared that it intended to expand a military training camp, located on a stretch of the Larzac plateau, in Occitania – in the center-south of the country. The televised communication added that the perimeter was almost a desert, barren and rocky lands where, in a “medieval” environment, a few shepherds still raised a handful of sheep.

It was a bomb for the 107 families who owned small plots of land, specialists in breeding purebred animals, suppliers of milk for the famous Roquefort cheese, made in the city of the same name, nearby. Catholics and conservatives, they had no idea about politics, not even remotely. The most they did when it came to politics was voting in elections, and on the right, of course. They will learn everything in the fight, as we will see.

The first step was to get together and decide that no one would leave, no one would sell their land, no one would accept expropriation. And no one would take up arms to resist, because they were not inclined to do so, nor did they have a character or tradition of violence.

But in that isolated corner of the country, there was no repercussion of the events. And they decided to go on a tractor march to a nearby town. Then the news slowly spread.

To their amazement, allies began to arrive. The year was 1972, therefore just four years after May 68, which had put the country on a war footing. Its libertarian aftermath went to Larzac to help. The Maoists, the non-violent (peasants heard about Gandhi for the first time, and identified with his ideas), conscientious objectors (strong in France: you refuse to do military service and in return do another task) arrived. ), the pacifists, the LIP workers in self-management, the feminists of the rising second wave, the anarchists, the supporters of civil disobedience, the hippies...

The May uprising had been strangled, but the flame had been rekindled in Larzac. And everyone started working in the field. It was necessary to make food for all those people, wash clothes, pack sleeping bags, take care of the children, and so on. In the reminiscences, the spectacle of colorful sleeping bags emerging from the morning mist, dotting the lands as far as the eye can see, occupies a privileged place.

It was summer, and to the happy scandal of the peasants, the adventitious took off their clothes and wore swim trunks to work – which was logical, since they were sweating profusely, but something never seen there. Just as they had never seen a man with long hair.

And the movement grew. At a certain point, it was necessary to create committees in several locations – and that's how José Bové ended up there, coming from another region. The actions multiplied and expanded their scope.

And the repression did nothing? Well, well... He started by buying the surrounding land, to which the peasants counterattacked by buying others too. The soldiers occupied a large empty house, thus giving the insurgents a good idea, who occupied other empty houses. There was no shortage of people for the occupations.

They decided to go to Paris, because only then, they thought, would they become better known and gain support. And they chose the Champ de Mars, under the Eiffel Tower. They went on foot (700 km!) and on one occasion even took their tractors and livestock with them. They camped under the tower, lit fires and welcomed reporters, until they were expelled by the police.

At one point, there was a rally for crowds in Larzac – at that time, a rally in Larzac was attended by 50 thousand people. In this case, François Mitterrand appeared, who was secretary of the Socialist Party. They started throwing stones at him, and he was hurriedly removed. The peasants recognized one of the stoners as a police officer who had already appeared in other acts of repression in Larzac.

An unmarked helicopter flew overhead. But the peasants had learned to interfere with police transmissions and heard orders come from the air to remove the twenty agents provocateurs, infiltrated cops who had already accomplished their mission, from the ground. It wasn't just fair play.

2.

In Larzac, major discussions involved the decision to rebuild a sheep pen that had collapsed. They requested permission from the city hall, which they denied. They then discussed the difference between legality and legitimacy: it was illegal, but it was not illegitimate, the sheep could not be left out in the open and the winter was harsh, they would all die. With the help of all those people, they built a huge building, well made, made of stone blocks, so beautiful that it even looks like a church. And there they sheltered their animals.

They also created a newspaper, Lo Larzac, because they realized the need to publish their own news, and not the slander that the bosses' media attributed to them.

But the repression intensified and one of the houses was bombed with a plastic bomb, which partially demolished it, but fortunately didn't kill anyone – not that they cared. It was the home of the largest family in Larzac, with seven small children who escaped with minor injuries, in addition to the couple and a pastor they hosted. The investigation led nowhere.

After that, without obtaining information from the city hall about deeds and land ownership, they decided to invade it during the night and remove, and if necessary destroy, the land grabbers' papers. They got what they wanted, but were arrested, tried and convicted. The wife of one of the leaders received 15 days in prison, but not her husband, who was extremely humiliated. The peasants realized that it was a strategy of repression: the natives got light sentences, like this, but the outsiders who were there to help got longer sentences, of two or three years. The aim was to divide them, play against each other.

The electricity, water and telephone were cut off. They reacted creatively to everything, and even managed to make the phone only work locally. With the unused poles, they built a beautiful wooden house. According to what they say, they never called so much, because it was free. After things calmed down, and they had to pay for usage, they stopped calling, only in case of emergency...

When they had been fighting for 10 years, they were exhausted, because, as they found out, with so much militancy in the defense of Larzac there wasn't much time left to shepherd.

In 1981, they all voted for the left and helped elect Mitterrand president. He had made a campaign promise to put an end to the army's pretensions – which he did immediately.

From the movement came the leadership of José Bové, who became known throughout the world when he demolished a McDonald's store near Larzac with his tractor. Thus, he drew attention to what industrialized food was for: to destroy local, subsistence agriculture, which is good for health.

Little by little, the movement incorporated other agendas, always out of internal necessity, and expanded to defend small producers, becoming environmentalist and concerned with healthy food, without pesticides and without GMOs. To achieve this, it is necessary to fight against global warming and fossil fuels, in search of natural and renewable energy. Ecology came to predominate.

José Bové would have a political career, becoming spokesman for Via Campesina. He would be elected deputy to the European Union for the Europa Ecology party and the Greens, and more than once, starting in 2009. He would also run for president of France in 2007, without success, but getting 800 thousand votes.

In 2001, he came to Brazil for the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and was interviewed on the program Roda Viva, from TV Culture – always good-natured, with his mustache and his coolness. He visited the MST and became a friend and ally. In Rio Grande do Sul, he participated in the invasion of a Monsanto genetically modified soybean plantation, uprooting all the seedlings. The Federal Police gave him 24 hours to leave the country.

In conclusion: this is how it was born in France, where it remains to this day, one of the focuses of the environmental and ecological movement.

The French had the good idea of ​​filming a documentary, Tous au Larzac, directed by Christian Rouaud, who gives the history of the movement. There are beautiful restorations of images from the past, full of vibrancy. Currently, it features interviews with the main leaders, which are lessons in wisdom and human warmth.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue). [amzn.to/3ZboOZj]


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