Nothing more appropriate to conclude a meeting on Latin American literature than to evoke the name of César Vallejo. Dear ghost that never left and accompanied, for more than a hundred years, when he appeared in the ignored city of Trujillo, in the Peruvian Andes, that marvel that was titled Trilce. In the tremulous voice of Celina Manzoni, she settled in the middle of an atmosphere in which the emotion that shook the beautiful faces of teachers and students, researchers and writers, was disguised in smiles that affirmed the sovereignty of literature.
But not everything, even nothing, except that acute immersion in “ways of seeing” Manzoni’s literature, was about the work of the melancholic poet. That was present to me and colored the end of the meeting and, apart from some verses, I could only remember that I went, in Paris, to the clinic where he died but I didn’t dare to go in and find out but what could I have found out, it was enough for me with remembering his premonition, “I will die in Paris in a downpour”. Downpour: that word was a slide to understand how his life had been in those hard years during which, however, poems sprouted that gave and continue to give, vicariously, to feed generations of critics and university professors, including, surely, the Peruvians, his favorite son but a posteriori, when they were proud of him, but that he had suffered, as always happens and happened to him with the country of his childhood and his first loves: “What is he doing this time / my Andean and sweet Rita of reed and capulí / now that Byzantium suffocates me / and that the blood slumbers / like weak cognac, inside me”.
It was not, I repeat, Vallejo, in the five days of the Research Conference, the 34th, organized on April 22 by the Institute of Hispanic American Literature of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. Instead, it was about multiple names and incessant texts: that day is one of the many that take place at the University and that the respectable public and the media completely ignore, as is what they usually do when something escapes from the prison of success, which is where they are comfortable and think they understand something. We do not resent it, we did not care, success goes the other way, it was successful enough for those of us who tenaciously attended the five happy days that lasted, first virtually and in the end seeing each other’s faces as if discovering each other after more than two years without seeing each other, Precisely, seeing each other, survivors perhaps, was what mattered to the 80 who intervened and among whom were professors with settled work and young people who were just starting out, bright eyes, burning interest.
It was impressive: we listened to each other and looked at each other like those who return from a long and unwanted absence bringing in our saddlebags a title of a text or a name of a writer, a distant dead in the peace of writing, and touching it, a nearby living vibrating in the anguish of creation. The brilliance of literature covered the space, the voices discovered and words and ideas throbbed in sometimes trembling hands: the voices trembled when they exposed, a wonder, a rain of sprouts that, silently, fed that extraordinary decision to understand literature.
It was a blessing and a privilege to be able to see and appreciate it. And appreciate the contrast with that literature of fairs and presentations and empty praise and trivial comments. I think that what united us was the feeling or the intuition that “being” in literature, or better “being in literature” was “living” in literature, apart from reality and within the most real of reality, nothing hands than the meaning of life.
Sor Juana murmured to us, Sarmiento grunted at us and, suddenly, the delicate Gianuzzi who reasoned with a Girondo who looked at the other poetry, that of the painting, and from a restless Ecuador sprang the enigmatic force of Pablo Palacio while Mário de Andrade extracted from the depths of Brazil a kind of vibrant joy, while Josefina Ludmer returned with her steely voice and the audacious promises of freedom of Ana María Shua and many others while the countries, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, made a ghostly presence behind in the time, pressing in the present.
Together, listening to each other, reasoning, going through various topics from many countries, the distant and the near past, the classic and still lively, the resplendent and provocative, the new ways of looking, the relationships with the changing and fluctuating and convulsive reality, the pleasure and enjoyment, intelligence and ingenuity. And everything between the virtual and, as it is currently said, the face-to-face. In short, literature as a way of life, that which is so difficult to understand by pragmatists and utilitarians, by those who cannot deviate from the immediate and by those who do not believe that it “serves” at all.
Much to think about. At one point, almost religious, I felt that it was a ceremony in which we were closed, almost a sect, far from Drummond de Andrade’s “Mundo, mundo, vasto mundo/ mais vasto é meu coraçao”, justified or not. in our case fully justified, forgetting the echoes of what is looming on the planet; almost a resurrection after more than two years without seeing each other, fearing the dissolution with which the pandemic threatened us. Many were dragged along, those of us who were there resisted but, in the meantime, literature paled because forced solitude generated disbelief or because fear and urgencies curtailed passions. Suffocated, pushed by the uncertain and dramatic history, only illness and politics raised their flags and made us feel that literature, its practice and its theory and everything that surrounded or produced it, even the imaginary, mattered little or mattered the worst, that pretending to live in it questioned its meaning, what is literature and art worth when social storms try to push them into the nothingness of insignificance.
So this meeting was like a resurrection and a reparation and showed that, nevertheless, the essential survived because it was surviving in that kind of incredible hibernation, something that those of us who were there never believed that we would have to live, as had happened in the various pestilences that had fallen on the earth. Listening, therefore, appreciating thought, risking oneself for literature, has no name, a privilege, a mass of culture, an identity at stake, a triumph over death.