Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Edgardo Cozarinsky at McNally Jacksons

(here's what I read)

Good evening everyone. I am honored to be here to celebrate the literary genius of Edgardo Cozarinsky in the company of such lovely, distinguished friends.

I’m here to unveil something that will no longer be a secret.

But before that, let me say that before I read El rufian moldavo in the form of a novel, I experienced it in the form of an opera. The opera Ultramarina was premiered in Buenos Aires in the fall of 2014, in 5 shows that were completely abarrotados. It was really hard to get in, I watched it sitting in the stairs of the theater in the barrio of Almagro, thanks to Miguel Galperin and the propio Ed, who let us in. The creative team was outstanding, the music by Pablo Mainetti, composer as well as bandoneonist, the régie by Marcelo Lombadero, probably in the epicenter of his powers. The spectacle was an immersion in deep Cozarinsky land. This was an author who had made a style –even more so, a living form in prose- in texts where fiction verged into essay and essay felt and read with the intimate gesture of a story told entre nous, flowing freely like fiction: an author whose films were always akin to literary mischief, where the whisper of chisme embraced the haughtiness of History. Edgardo entertains the crucial tropes of the passage of the century into the other with the grace of a master. 
            The opera testifies to the immense influence Cozarinsky has had on contemporary Argentine culture -an influence he would never vouch for, nor he would ever confess, as it follows the shape of a century that Edgardo carved first, and carved better.

            In the opera, like in Edgardo’s works, the arrabal of Argentina verges into the mists of MittelEuropaThe story of El rufian moldavo and Ultramarina unveiled the passion and pathos of the girls under the Zwi Migdal, the world organization of women trafficking that operated between 1906 and 1930 with headquarters in Buenos Aires. There was a tango looming over the Vienese atonal experiments, as in a rioplatense version of Woyzzeck. By the end, the haughty European tones of the music metamorphosed into the rhythm of cumbia: on the stage, the images showed video captures of prostitutes today, in Constitución, showing that time is an illusion, that perversion and oppression is always near, present and alive. And it was so utterly Edgardo, in his repeated line in the libretto El mundo es uno solo, sang bitterly by one of the captives, that we could see how the occult passage between this mesmerizing changes of genres was in fact a pasadizo into a Cozarinskian system of mirrors in which the world is illuminated again not by the goddess of apparent change, but by the cruel sameness of evil, of war and vulnerability, unveiled. A little digression: this past Wednesday, probably a million of women marched in Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba and many other cities in Argentina under the flag #Niunamenos, against the killing and forced prostitution of women. Edgardo’s novel, El rufián moldavo, is being hailed as the Argentine novel against trafficking,and is now being read in a strongly political vein.

             On that night, after the opera, we, the friends who had gone to see the show, we started a sect.

            We started the sect in the car. We were talking one on top of the other. We were excited by the lingering tango meets MittelEuropa meets Viena and Cozarinsky’s words beating inside mashed up with the Constitucion cumbia of the finale. Was there any other living author in Argentina that excited us in the same way?

            As we talked and talked in a pizzería in Corrientes over diet cokes and beer, I realized something very funny. I realized we were all kind of pissed.  Many of our discussions reflected the lenghts of our dissappointment with regular Argentine literature. I mean regular versus extraordinary, literary, wonderment, high style, the one Edgardo honors in his writing and his récherches in film. We concluded we were majorly pissed at our youngster milieu, at the people around us. And we were sick of Deleuze, apparently, too, over any other demigod. Wasn’t Argentina’s contemporary literature’s attachment to Deleuze another way to to pay tribute to the god of capital, the god that makes every sign turn into something else? Things turning into other things, trivially, robotically forming small books that were becoming smaller and smaller. That relaxed liberalism of words, de buen tono, was making us sick. It was the promise of a revolution under the most conservative of forms: relegating all meaning and beauty to boring procedures, and ultimately, turning literature into another little machine of capital. If everything turns into something else, if everything @deviene@, substance and beauty and art matter no more. And even if we recognize the modernistic gesture of leading to a limit, playing with the horizon as if the limit was real, it wasn’t an inspiring gesture anymore, as -we could now see it- it was deeply philosophically flawed. Of course, when we speak about disappointment we were talking about great authors -in Argentina, even the most mediocre scribes are passable entities- in sum, our bar is very high. As we trashed Cesar Aira and his epigones, we were holding on dear to Edgardo’s operatic world.

One of these nights, with Lucas, Fernando and Martin, we started out our Coza sect. We wanted das Ding an sich, the cosa in itself, the chose, we wanted the Coza and the rinsky too. We get together every month or so, to discuss Edgardo minutiae over diet cokes and beer. Sometimes we manage to lure Edgardo in, and he gentlemanly takes us to a milonga, where he unveils for us his Fassbinderian Coza hidden world, and he let us see the way a certain elderly lady only dances with the young tango hot shots -things we see thru his eyes- until he does one of his ninja bombs, and dissappears completely, leaving behind only the trace of a bottle of champagne. In his literature remains the promise of commitment to art and thought that never relegates the discovery of History that is tantamount to beauty, in which we recognize something bigger than love -that metal which, like Literature, that never loses its power when extending unto other souls, as Shakespeare had it.

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