Matando enanos a garrotazos

Generalmente no "crossposteo" mi laburo para el Buenos Aires Herald en este blog, pero me parece que este caso amerita la excepción.

Bludgeoning migdets
La erótica del relato aims for a literary intervention, yet offers as little as your average TV gossip show

By Pablo Toledo
Herald staff

Legend has it that Jorge Luis Borges, upon hearing the title for Alberto Laiseca’s 1982 debut novel Matando enanos a garrotazos (“Bludgeoning Midgets to Death”), observed it must be a description of Argentina’s literary world. One of Charles Bukowski’s most famous lines states that “some people want war all the time.” Bring those two together and you may begin to comprehend the short story compilation La erótica del relato: escritores de la nueva literatura argentina (Adriana Hidalgo editora, 2009).

But before the analysis, some context and a caveat. Context: since La joven guardia (Norma, 2005), a string of short story anthologies by young (Random House-Reservoir Books’ four-title thematic series) and not-so-young writers (the latest is Emece’s Los días que vivimos en peligro) reinvented the previously nonexistent category “young Argentine writer,” powered up by an active blogging world that whisked up a scoop of talent into a jumbo-sized mousse of hype. Caveat: I was one of the writers in La joven guardia and in two of Mondadori’s anthologies.

La erótica... could be another brick in the anthology wall, but its back cover and prologue (announced as a manifesto) present it as a “literary intervention” trying to right the wrongs of a literary world gone amok by a quest for spectacularity and empty fame. These writers announce themselves as the harbingers of a newfangled literary purity and sign their manifesto as “Los Heraldos:” either a tribute to this newspaper or a pretentious claim.

What is their revolution? Well, two things make it hard to fathom. Firstly, they point fingers in so many directions (even making thinly veiled allusions to individual writers) that it’s hard to identify exactly what they stand against and, more important, what exactly they stand for. Second, whatever the pre-texts promise, the stories fail to deliver: there is no unity or identifying trait in them to support any manifestoes, as their styles and approaches are as varied as their themes and quality.

Indeed, some of the claims in the manifesto are unabashedly contradicted elsewhere in the volume. Two of the writers (Oliverio Coelho and Patricio Pron) were also featured in La joven guardia, the most identifiable nemesis of these self-appointed Heralds. Another duo, Federico Levín and Ricardo Romero, are members of the Quinteto de la Muerte literary reading collective (an underground hit that blends performance, storytelling and theatricality) — despite the manifesto’s claim that they “stay home” rather than join the vanity fair of literary sinners. A third (and most jarring) contradictory note is that Jimena and Matías Néspolo, the editors of the anthology, had their cake and ate it by including their own work in their own book.

Heterogeneity is a virtue (or at least a necessary evil) in anthologies, particularly in “new writing” anthologies that serve as a smörgasboard for what’s out there. This one is mostly made up of names that didn’t make it into the “joven guardia wave,” names from the worlds of poetry and academia in many cases (a tendency to burdening thin stories with thick layers of LitCrit is, perhaps, a common trait in many texts here) and including writers as old as 49 — kudos for fresh criteria. A few stories are good, some are OK, some are less than average, some are mere exercises: what none of them do is what the manifesto announces, and what all of them lack is any kind of common literary vision to justify the “Heralds” brand.

In other words, this is a run-of-the-mill anthology, with the virtue of a few repeats when compared to other similar efforts. But you cannot play both sides of the net and call yourself an umpire: the Heralds can either be the self-appointed judges of everyone else and criticize the vanity fair, or they can jump in the sandpit and grab everybody else’s toys to get some attention from mommy. Pulling off both at once won’t fly.

Argentina’s literary world is tiny enough, and its personalities so obscure outside the reading tribe that La erótica... is, if their intentions are honest, making mountains out of molehills. If they are not, they are no better than showgirls on afternoon TV gossip shows. In any case, they are bludgeoning midgets.

1 comentario:

Carlitos dijo...

Me encantó la mousee de hype batida con una cucharada de talento :-)

Otherwise, ni conocía el título de la novela que da nombre al post, por lo que gracias por eso. Todos los días se aprende algo nuevo, dicen por ahí.