Lives interrupted

Image: Khalil Rabah


The war of fascism in Benjamin Netanyahu, Lula's compassion in William Faulkner

Roberto Bolaño published a strange book (Nazi literature in America, Companhia das Letras), which is not “about” literature (it is “pure” literature), does not deal with Nazism (it is much more complex than that), does not only deal with literary types – in that sense typical of György Lukács – but of situations analogous to conservatism and Nazi fascism, with imaginary writers and invented titles. The book is, in a way, a metaphor for our times of fascism, ideological manipulation and tiredness of liberal democracy, caused by the dominance of networks with the monsters that resurface at the end of utopias.

Here are some by Roberto Bolaño: Luz Mendiluce, who “sunk in despair has adventures with Buenos Aires characters of the worst kind”, publishes a courageous poem “With Hitler I was Happy”; the (invented) Brazilian writer Amado Couto, who wrote short stories “that no publisher would accept, then went to work in the death squads”; the incredible poet Daniela Montecristo, who describes a female IV Reich based in Buenos Aires and training camps in Patagonia, which appear implausible, but believable, when she awakens in our memory.

When reality is too harsh, dreams fade, utopias get tired. The landscapes become just frames for recovering the history that does not reveal itself. Reality – too harsh – is a torment that sometimes becomes a senseless report of the spirit, sometimes a work of art pending the reader's complicity with the author. These sometimes do not connect, as they form a link identical to the one that thrives between a buyer astonished by prices and a seller desperate for a way out of his aimless life.

A random friend once told me that fascism, on the plane of pure subjectivity, was the torment that combined billions of irritations that gradually corroded the human spirit and installed a kind of antivirus, which immunized people, both to receive and to give. solidarity and empathy. Javier Milei and Benjamin Netanyahu, propagators of this antivirus, are neoliberals, populists and violent, with an extreme hatred for the humanism of the Enlightenment.

Just remember – for example – that Javier Milei is against free public education and that he doesn't mind not only sowing poverty and ignorance, but also starving people to death, to save the “market” and “adjustment”. ”. It is also necessary to remember that Benjamin Netanyahu stated, clearly, that “Hitler did not intend to kill the Jews” and also committed to carry out (and does) a massacre in Gaza and that – a commitment fulfilled – will be remembered for many generations.

Furthermore, Benjamin Netanyahu demagogically used the Holocaust Museum to try to exercise a monopoly on the pain of an entire people, in a special gesture of extremist provocation, aiming to cover up – in the attention of the world press – the war crimes he has been committing against the Palestinian community in Gaza. What's more, he meant to say that Lula didn't care about the barbarity of the Holocaust. Liar, fascist and manipulator.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry claims that the expressions used by Lula to refer to the Holocaust offended Jewish sensibilities around the world, which may be true, but how can the words be interpreted within the pain acquired in the history of those who said it - such as Benjamin Netanyhau – that Hitler “didn’t want to kill the Jews”, should have been more restrained to respect the collective mourning of Gaza and the pain of his own people.

The murders of the terrorist action of October 7th against Israel would be – for the Israeli right – the motivation for the mass murders in the Gaza Strip, but what the unmeasured violence of the State of Israel aims at is the legitimization of colonial-imperial expansion, which happened – procedurally – after the Oslo Accords “under the eyes of the West.”

Enzo Traverso’s thesis in “Las nuevas caras de la derecha” (intellectual key, Siglo Veinteuno, p. 33) maintains that classifying someone as “populist” says more about whoever uses the concept than who is attributed as such. The word has become an “empty shell”, more precisely a gigantic “mask” of political manipulation and the exercise of mental domination.

The political category populism, says Enzo Traverso, has become a weapon of political combat that is aimed at stigmatizing adversaries. Saying that someone is a populist is the same as saying that this person cannot unravel the concept behind the social massacre of neoliberalism. Nicolas Sarkozy, Lula, Bernie Sanders, Hugo Chavez, the Kirchners, Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini, Melanchón, Evo Morales and Jair Bolsonaro have already been classified as populists, which in essence – continues Enzo Traverso – indicates that, beyond “ elasticity and ambiguity”, the concept that is used without any criteria must pay attention – in particular – to the meaning of its use.

It is already very evident that whoever uses the “offense” contained in the word “populism” intends, preliminarily, to say the following, regardless of who the opponent is: I am far from social democracy, I think the Welfare State is nonsense and democratic humanism – which may or may not flow into a populist policy – ​​cannot be respected as “public policy”. The anathema of populism then functions as a hiding place for those who don't want it or don't know that it has already become an opportunistic barrier of ignorance.

Let us observe how neoliberal commentators in the mainstream press play this game, which requires, at the same time, approximation and distancing from centrist figures like Lula, and tolerate – many of them – also Jair Bolsonaro as a former head of state who made mistakes, but I wanted the good of the country. Note that they do not accept calling Benjamin Netanyahu a war criminal or a “serial killer”, or a bloodthirsty populist operating in the international politics of militarized globalism.

But there is an elementary mask of reason for the market, which is at the basis of this disturbing behavior of those who use populism within the wake of the hatred of militant fascism. Aldous Huxley stated that “the mask is the essence” as an “empty shell” as disinformation or as a certificate of mental laziness that requires no justification: whoever uses the word populism against others – its users think – only defends modernity and “freedom” and whoever is “accused” is excluded from being heard about the future.

I use the word populism, in this text, to pass judgments on those who – in order to attack opponents or enemies – manipulate words, resources and historical situations, to irrationally conquer the minds of their people, aiming to exercise power through war in the name of falsifying nation.

The use of words or their suppression, in a debate of great moral and political scope, as in the recent controversy over Lula's words about the war crimes being committed by the Israeli government – ​​in the name of its State – did not There was no time when Benjamin Netanyahu was singled out as a dangerous serial killer, nor as a populist head of state who values ​​war, not peace.

William Faulkner was living in New Orleans when he met Sherwood Anderson (1876-1871), who was a manual laborer – a soldier who went to war – an employee of publishing houses and then of advertising agencies, who became one of the great masters of the American short story. Novelist and poet, he was the paradigm of an entire generation of writers who emerged in XNUMXth century American literature.

In the streets on long walks, the “mature” writer who was Sherwood Anderson, without knowing it, talked to someone who would be an exponential figure in world literature and who would become a more imposing writer than Anderson: he wrote hard in the morning and then talked , walking and drinking, with the then obscure William Faulkner. One day the walks stopped, which generated a magnificent episode of chance and irony, already told as a parody of the birth of a novelist.

One day Sherwood stops by the residence of Faulkner – who had been away from their joint outings for a few days – to ask why he, William Faulkner, had disappeared, when he heard an unexpected answer from him: “I'm writing a book”. “My God!” – said Sherwood Anderson and walked away. Mrs. Anderson a few days later meets Faulkner on the street and gives him a message about the said book (Soldier's Pay) – in production: “he said that if he doesn’t have to read the manuscript he will tell his editor to accept it”. “Done!” said the future Nobel Prize for Literature, who thus became a professional writer. Life and imagination.

“A life devoid of imagination does not offer stories to tell” (…), without it, difficult times do not find the words capable of waking them up from the sleepy past”, writes Maria Rita Kehl, presenting a beautiful book of stories and memories by Flávio Aguiar (Chronicles of the World Upside Down, Boitempo). In one of the best moments of the work, the character, as if he were the author, talks to a salesman in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, who wants to sell him something. Surprise.

It is not, as it seemed, a glass ampoule and a shard of mirror, but what resided in the intimacy of these objects: a story of love and destiny, which accompanied the “shard” and “ampoule” that would be installed in the channel of the writer's memory, promising a small link with the story.

These fragments of history do not contain the viruses of fascism, nor the end of imagination. They are not fragments, like Benjamin Netanyahu's speeches, that generate hatred for utopias and unleash the storms of evil. These are not in Roberto Bolaño's book or in the simple conversations between William Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson. They are not at the end of history, but in the fabric of its permanent restart, which goes beyond the weapons and murderous rites of the power of those – addicted to wars and lies – who want to normalize interrupted lives.

As William Faulkner said when he received the Nobel Prize on November 10, 1950: “I consider that man will not only resist, but also prevail. And he is immortal not because he is the only one among animals who is endowed with an inextinguishable voice, but because he possesses a soul, a spirit capable of compassion, sacrifice and resistance.” Right now, that's where Lula stands against the war of extermination and for William Faulkner's compassion.

*Tarsus in law he was governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, mayor of Porto Alegre, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Institutional Relations in Brazil. Author, among other books, of possible utopia (Arts & Crafts). []

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