By Iván Ríos Gascón
Art is a political act by nature. As society’s highest expression of culture and aesthetics, art exalts dream and thought, grace and virtue but it is not indifferent to barbarism, injustice, and suffering. Artistic creation is a sudden impulse or perhaps a lightning bolt of illumination but it is also an answer to individual or collective tragedy when it arises from a profound reflection of our being and the world we live in.
The spirit of literature is the language. Its substance is imagination but not everything imagined is fantasy because to write implies deep thought, remembrance, recreation, and description.
Literature aims to preserve feelings and emotions. In this context, memories are essential because, without memories, life would not make sense.
To act of writing is a compromise: with oneself and with everyone else. Fiction and poetry are a mirror of the human condition; the language used to describe them builds a parallel world that works exactly in the same way as the real world does.
The inner world, the one where fiction or lyric reside in, is an exact reflection of what lies outside of the workshop we use to develop our writings.
The act of writing is an act of empathy. Through words, we convey that which affects us but also that which we (as writers) perceive affects others. In this way, the act of writing becomes an act of revolution, of activism. Its purpose is to effect change, to foster communal well-being.
A writer is not insensitive to reality. He is a witness. He is a messenger.
When I think of writers like Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, and José Revueltas I realize that each one of them were activists in their own way. I also include Pier Paolo Pasolini and Cesare Pavese. I think of Dostoievski, Leon Tolstoi, and Stephan Zweig that way. I reflect about Thomas Mann and his intellectual virtue, that virtue that Rob Riemen evokes in his book Nobility of Spirit: A forgotten ideal.
And what can be said of Michel Foucalt or Roland Barthes, of George Steiner or Milan Kundera. Let’s remember Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot or even Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs or Allen Ginsberg. All these writers were explorers of existence, key figures in the revolutions of their time and they contributed to their generations certain ideas that allowed them to not be passive and end up devoured by a domineering system and submission.
The world of today is a world of imperfect democracies, indeed a world of false democracies.
It is a world of walls. A world where offense and aggravation thrive. A world where segregation and racial hatred flourish. A world of verbal abuse and war and terrorism. A world of fear, where the will to dominate and annihilate persist.
The world of today is also the world of the past because time goes by but the rules and regulations do not change. In spite of social advancement and technological progress, we are still condemned to repeat the mistakes of our past and to remain in the grip of cruelty and barbarism.
The Mexican writer Sergio Gonzales Rodríguez, who passed away last year, wrote in one of his posthumous books, Teoría novelada de mí mismo, that “Culture is both a representation of time and memory. The life and death of thousands of people either killed or ‘disappeared’ during the years of war and violence in Mexico at the beginning of the XXI century deserve to be recorded in a plural and dignified way.
“In the future, when few remember the victims of barbarism, the chronicles, the stories, the testimonies, the novels, the essays, the poems, the films, the photographs, the works of art, the public data of a personal albeit collective tragedy will be there. This is what we owe to those fallen: our gratitude for their courage and existence. Without their company, our collective future would be non-viable.”
I agree with Sergio González Rodríguez. He was the paradigm of the perfect writer and activist.
About the writer
Iván Ríos Gascón. Writer, editor and journalist. Author of Tu imagen en el viento, Broadway Express and Luz estéril (novel), Espacios liminares (poetry) and El cine de Carlos Fuentes (essay).
If you would like to respond to Iván’s piece, please send it to I.firstname.lastname@example.org, and make sure to put Iván’s name in the subject line.