Why read Cesar Ella?
I have always wondered why I am fascinated by Ella’s works, but I can’t figure it out. Possibly, he is like a kind of Argentinian marijuana with strong hallucinogenic powers. (Interestingly, while I was reading Ella’s work, Argentina passed Decree 883/2020, approving the legalization of medicinal cannabis cultivation. People who need cannabis to treat illnesses can thus grow it themselves.) But it may also be because, As a novelist who insists on sitting in a street cafe in Buenos Aires to write every day, he can be a visionary figure for me to emulate.
But maybe that’s just my misunderstanding. Like most Chinese readers, my knowledge of Cesar Ella and his works is limited. Who dares to say that he is just a hermit who lives in a cafe to read and write? Who dares to say that he has not been involved in the “real life” he has experienced? After all, in some of his works, the shadow of “life” exists, such as the wife who kept complaining that forced him to “go out and write”. But no matter what, I still like him and feel that he and his works may point me to a vague future. Of course, it could also be a trap at the end of the road. This is in line with his consistent thinking, unveiling endless mechanisms and revealing nothingness to the interested viewer.
”Music Brain” is the first book by Ella that I have read. It was published in the first edition in June 2019 by Zhejiang Literature and Art Publishing House and translated by Kong Yalei. Among them, “Two Men”, “Brick Wall” and “Musical Brain” were what I read in the third issue of “World Literature” that year. “Brick Wall” is a novel with a strong autobiographical flavor. I was struck and conquered the first time I saw it. Since then, I have been trying to find every book that Ella has translated into Chinese, until now.
The relationship between a work and its readers is determined and consolidated through mutual selection. The same goes for Ella, his works are very exclusive. Almost immediately, he would find some of his readers and keep them, while unceremoniously sending others away. Therefore, many friends expressed that they can’t read Ella or are not familiar with it, which is completely normal.
In the torrent of works, what the reader’s boat is looking for is nothing more than the possibility of docking. The uncertainty that swings behind the fog is not here, but there.
Reread “Linden Tree”. It’s like reading a new novel that I’ve never read before. If it weren’t for the pencil marks on different pages in the book, I would almost doubt whether I had read this novel at all. This is another autobiographical work of Ella: starting from the linden tree in the childhood square, and returning to the linden tree in the childhood square. In between is the entire famous Peronist era of Argentine history. But Ella lacks obvious interest in politics. He does not write about those, but only pays attention to the “traces” they leave, such as linden trees, such as the electrician father who loves to drink linden tree scented tea, such as a set of stamps that are no longer issued and stamp collectors. .
Ella writes about middle-class stamp collectors in “Linden Tree” – a middle-class widow and her friend who is a female music teacher, sorting and perfecting a set of Evita stamps issued in 1952. The woman on the stamp is Evita, also known as Ava Peron, whose husband was Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron, who was overthrown by a military coup in 1955. Of course, after 1955, this set of Evita stamps, which had been issued in forty basic styles and three commemorative editions, would not be released again, so stamp collectors regarded getting a new Evita stamp as happiness in life. There is a romantic story at this time, saying that a belated letter was not delivered to the recipient until many years later (1955), and the envelope was stamped with Evita stamps. Ella used a metaphor at this time: “Like a star that has died, the light it emits still reaches the earth.”
But the significance of this matter does not stop there. Ella used this example to illustrate his Another example of “reverse life” mentioned above – “Writers must live in reverse.” That is to say, “The life we see is from here to there, and he is from there to here.” , “and in order to write something so contrary to the feelings that all men experience, he must fictionalize, write as if he saw life.” These hesitant and incoherent words were spoken by the electrician’s father, and in Ella’s view, everything was a metaphor, and one of the interesting metaphors was that the writer was some form of electrician, operating remotely and working remotely. In fact, it also includes riding a bicycle and carrying a ladder up and down, tinkering in the memory line. This is his father – an electrician who reached the peak of his life during the Peronist period, and after 1955, a former Peronist who had to drink linden tea every day to calm his nerves.
Only when one of the female stamp collectors, the music teacher Marta, uttered those words that summed up and gave great significance to their stamp collecting behavior, was the father’s meaning of reverse life further highlighted. Ms. Marta said: “For poor Evita, this is the only thing we can do.” This sentence impressed “I” so much that I hurriedly ran to report it to my mother without missing a beat – an anti-Peron Activists. The mother’s comment to the stamp collector is: “Damn Peronists.”
And all this actually corresponds to the “monster linden tree” in the square mentioned in the first few pages of the novel. It is “unusual and spectacular, with a strange solemnity that is unique and unreplicable”, and “the residents of Pringles once regarded it as a monument that marked our difference.” Monument, what does it commemorate? Maybe it’s the pride of commemorating an era – the era of Peronism. And this monumental tree was cut down one horrific night. A “Peron child” was chased by anti-Peronists and climbed up a lime tree, whereupon the man under the tree took out an ax and angrily began chopping down the tree.
Ella said: “Everything is a metaphor.” So was the lime tree, so was the axe, so was the electrician father. Together they constitute the extended traces of the “reverse life” of an era. He wrote:
The sound of chopping, the dome above the Midnight Square, and its dim yellow island are carrying out an interstellar journey, towards all the nameless horrors in the world, towards all the human forms that may become art. In other worlds, inverted worlds, Peronists and anti-Peronists exchange positions.
Here one of Ella’s novel techniques is revealed: using one example to illustrate and enrich the previous one, or simply to dissolve and dilute its meaning. The combination of the characters and events in all these examples presents a meaning that was already perfectly stated in his original example. In this way, maybe if you look at one example and insist on reading all the examples, what you get seems to be similar, but in fact it is much different. However, the meaning of novel reading seems to lie in this difference or not.
…What happened to make us change so much? If things were business as usual… the truth is, it seems too business as usual. I feel a nostalgia for time. The spatial narrative of the square makes time as out of reach as the sky. I am no longer the child who followed my father to pick linden flowers, but I still feel that some things seem to be within reach, and I can reach and pick them with my heart, like a ripe fruit… I decided to pick up that old thing again. of me.
I want, too.
Balzac and “Formal Realism”
Rereading “The Alps”, I suddenly got the impression that Ella’s novel is a transformation of the novel, or in other words, a redefinition of the novel.
He said that when he writes a novel, he is definitely not writing a plot. In other words, he started writing the novel where other writers finished the plot. His novels start with an “idea”, and ideas are ever-changing, so his novels are often difficult to start, at least, more difficult to start than novel authors who are only good at writing plots.
Ella refers to “another form of realism” in this novel. This is what he mentioned when talking about Balzac’s novels. What I am particularly interested in in this formulation is not “another” but “formal realism”. That is, is there a kind of realism that only achieves the goals of realism from a formal perspective? In other words, it is the form, not the content, that achieves this realism. I believe this is possible, because some qualities are given by content, and some qualities are given by meaningful form in the absence of content. It’s like a cat slowly passing by the gazer’s field of vision on a late autumn evening. The ground becomes clearer and clearer, and the part outlined by the light is just a blank form. “It doesn’t need to share its quality with any content.” “.
So, in Ella’s eyes, is Balzac’s novel formal “realism”? The answer is obviously a bit vague, although not negative.
In the novel, “I”—an Argentine novelist—stays temporarily in the home of a scholar during a trip to the Alps. In this art house filled with “representation” things, “I” found several Balzac short stories from the owner’s various collections of books that are usually hard to see, such as “Onalina”. Then he mentioned with a tone that he had to mention: A female researcher’s research showed that as a great realist, Balzac “actually never copied the reality he directly perceived, but through serious or popular Artistic techniques, such as interception of discourses such as literature, journalism, law, politics, etc.; when Balzac describes a landscape, he thinks of the work of a certain painter. If it is Paris, he will use the engravings or hard-stroke drawings of his favorite illustrator: Grand Weiler will make the characters more typical, and Piranesi’s architecture is very inspiring; his heroines may be more derived from fashion design, small porcelain figurines, or paintings on women than real-life women. The fairy on the plate; even the plot, especially the plot, the ‘paper’ from newspapers and books far exceeds one’s own experience.”
If the research of this female researcher can withstand verification, then Balzac’s identity as a realist will be very doubtful. Because from this perspective, he is nothing more than a shrewd thief and a masterful collage maker. But Ella believes that “this insertion (why “insertion”?) does not diminish his identity as a realist. On the contrary, we should examine: Is it possible that there is another form of realism?” ?The key to why Balzac is regarded as the father of realism may lie in his reference to symbols of reality.”
In other words, the great characteristic of the father of realism lies in his reference to the symbols of reality. This may not seem like a big problem when you say it, but you can’t stand thinking about it. Once you think about it for a moment, it always smells like “the greatest achievement lies in stealing.”
So, is it okay to say that Balzac is a formal “realist”?
At the same time, it is very possible that there are too many such “references based on realistic symbols” or “inserted forms” in Balzac’s novels. Because the fact is that no matter how much Balzac wanted to “borrow” all the realist symbols in a print, there were always people who didn’t like the effect he created.
For example, Stevenson said that he wanted to delete large sections of “statements” (such as houses, furniture, interior decoration, food, wine, pleasure, business, financial activities, etc.) in Balzac’s novels. The true appearance of Paris stacked up on top). Although he loved Balzac more than any other modern writer. But who can delete a line from Mérimée’s novel? Tolstoy was, almost like Balzac, a great “lover of objects.” However, he is fundamentally different from Balzac: in Tolstoy’s writings, those clothes, meals and the unforgettable interiors of old Moscow mansions are always a part of people’s emotions, so that the two are completely different. Together, it seems as if these objects do not exist in the author’s mind, but are hidden in the subtle emotions of the characters in the book. When objects and people are so harmonious, faithfully copying real objects is no longer a list of objects, but a list of objects. It becomes part of the experience.
As far as I can remember, in the faint melancholy of “The Scarlet Letter,” one of the earliest American romance novels, and in its consistent atmosphere, it is difficult to see the exact environment surrounding the characters, and we can only feel it in the dark twilight. exist. A novel filled with mental responses and physical sensations is no more than a catalogue, like a novel filled with household appliances. What if we could throw all these domestic utensils out of the window, along with all the clichés about physical sensations, and leave the room as empty as the stage of an ancient Greek theater that has disappeared, or like a house where the light of Pentecost has descended. How wonderful it would be to stage human dramas, large and small, in this venue! When Alexandre Dumas said that one needs only one emotion and four walls to perform a drama, he was indeed stating a great principle.
This passage comes from “The Novel Without Furniture” by American writer Willa Cather. She is another researcher who meticulously plays the devil’s advocate.
From this interesting comparison, as readers, we can at least gain one experience: the listing of objects must make “things” become part of human experience. The novel must create an atmosphere that emotionally embraces the things listed. And every kind of “object” creates this kind of atmosphere with human emotions.
I Closed My Eyes Quietly
In response to the view emphasized by Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez that “writers who refuse to open their eyes in the face of social reality betray their profession,” Ella made it clear: ” I don’t agree with this statement. I close my eyes quietly and don’t think that I have betrayed my profession. I don’t understand why writers must make a commitment to the social and political reality around them? Why? Why? Maybe it is In order to get the literature prize. Some friends in China always advise me to work a little harder and try to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. This “make a little effort” means that I want to talk about human rights and democracy. I don’t want to say this. . I would rather live in an ivory tower, with my own books, poetry and art. I think I have the right to choose my own lifestyle. Of course I am interested in everything that happens around me, but in a very ordinary way. I Born like this, there are some things that I just don’t like. Many people like politics and football, but I don’t. Almost no one likes the things I like, and it’s not my fault. Likes and dislikes just make up for each other.”