Perry Rossi receives the Cervantes Prize: the causes of war look the same

After two years of suspension due to health conditions, the celebration of the Cervantes Prize resumed on Saturday, April 23, to mark the winner in 2021, the Uruguayan poet Cristina Peri Rossi, from the hand of the King of Spain, Felipe Juan Carlos, to receive. , in the presence of a large number of Hispanic and Latin American intellectuals. . The great prize that the Uruguayan poet has won is the Nobel in Spanish literature, which is the greatest honor a writer can receive in this European language, and in addition to its moral value, its material value is 120 thousand euros.
Cristina Peri Rossi was not only able to attend the award and deliver the sermon, but she instructed Argentine actress Thethelia Roth to take her place and deliver the sermon in which she spoke about the memories of her country, Uruguay, literature as a form of resistance, and war and books as the most important thing that influenced her, and these were the most important Two Axes in her poetic texts.
Here is a translation of the sermon text:

(Translation: Ahmed Abdel Latif)

Thecilia Roth, represented by Christina Peri Rossi, winner of the 2022 Cervantes Prize, before King Felipe VI, President of the Region of Madrid Isabel Diaz Ayuso at the University of Alcala in Madrid (22 April 2022 / AFP)

I was born in 1941 in Montevideo, Uruguay, when Europe was unfortunately in the middle of World War II. To the left of my house lived an old shoemaker, who was a Polish Jew, who miraculously escaped the pogrom; Right, a grumpy German musician, with a black cloth over one of his eyes. When I asked my mother, who was a basic education teacher, secular and open-minded, why the Jew and the German did not exchange greetings, she replied: “Because they have a war in Europe.” And my father, who was born in the country but emigrated to the capital and was attracted, as he is called in tango, to the “lights of the center,” told me something very simple: “Europe exists “Did you see any place with the name Europe on the map?”, and there was no such place. And when I asked why they called it World War II, they explained to me that the first one took place about twenty years ago. The same neighborhood was inhabited by many Spanish exiles, because in addition to a war of which I did not know what the cause was, Spain succumbed to a dictatorship that killed thousands upon thousands of people and forced thousands more to flee. It seemed like the world was a very dangerous place outside of Montevideo. But the library of my uncle, a civil servant, an intellectual, a great reader, and an ardent misogynist, let me know that life has always been this way. From the beginning, whether from biblical, Greek or Trojan times, the causes of wars have always seemed the same: the desire for power, the economic aspiration. These are usually masculine traits.

Three books I read at an early age influenced my life: “Diaries” by Anne Frank, “The Mother” by Maxim Gorky, and “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. The latter, I read it in a dictionary next to me. It was the hardest reading I read, and the most contradictory feelings. I have never read a book in which the author declared his hero a fool, but at the same time it made me passionate that his goal was to bring about justice, to correct wrong. Something that made sense to me with the state of the world. In the same neighborhood, the female neighbors came to tell my grandmother, there was a widow who raised seven orphans and three sons – also orphans – and that their husbands were drunk and beat them, or bet little money on the horses. , or walked after cubs and abused the children. On the other hand, my grandmother reminded me of the Ama because she thought that reading too much drives the mind crazy, even though I did not think that the husbands of these offended women read so much, and that this was the cause of their violence.
I myself always got angry when Don Quixote mixed windmills with giants. I began to think that Cervantes was in fact mocking his character to demonstrate that the institution of changing the world and administering justice was insane. Until I met in chapters twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth, Marthella’s story. Marthella was the target of men’s greed and besieged her beauty and wealth. They accused her of being guilty of Grisostomo’s suicide because she refused him, and with astonishing rhetoric she rejected husbands, marriages and the power relations between the sexes: she demands her freedom, and for that she is isolated from the society, and hiding in the countryside, as an additional shepherd, says Marthella. Like Helen in the Iliad, she curses the day of her birth, or, as in Euripides, Helen rebels against a society that views beauty as a woman’s only virtue.
In this way, Cervantes robs the woman of beauty as the only virtue, and makes Marthela a tragic heroine: to preserve her freedom in the face of men who want to dominate and possess her, she opposes social life, withdraws she of the world, and flee for men. Of course, this heroine was classified as hysterical, cold, and nervous because she did not fulfill the role that patriarchal society assigned to her. Don Quixote’s apparent awareness of a realistic female character made me think that madness could be an accusation to exclude those who reveal the uncomfortable truth, a lesson I learned so hard, and paid so dearly, even today, but if I were to be born again. , I will do the same.

My uncle, who was a good reader of Cervantes, did not tell me about this passage, and likewise he warned me that women do not write, and that when they do write, they commit suicide, as Sappho, Virginia Woolf , Alfonsina Sturni, and others.

Christina Peri Rossi (26/4/2006 / Getty)

It was clear to me, like Marthella, that being a woman and independent in a patriarchal society was strange and suspicious. When the jury mentioned the merits of my victory (and I thank them for honoring me with this award), it spoke of my continued and full literary talent, but it also recognized my struggle for human values ​​that often by political or violated. military power. I had to live in exile from the Uruguayan dictatorship because, like Cassandra, I warned her and refused to come, and as punishment they banned my books and even the mention of my name. I miraculously escaped with my life, and settled in Spain, where I found another fierce dictatorship that suppressed freedom. She turned resistance into literature, as did many Spanish exiles. Instead of rebelling against society, like Marthella, through my books and my life, as a Dona Quijote, I tried to fight error and fight for freedom and justice, but far from the method of propaganda and realism , I turned to allegory and fiction. We do not have to multiply reality, but rather make fun of it, or reinterpret it, as Jonathan Swift did, for example. Literature is devotion, as Jean-Paul Sartre said, and devotion is everything, from an anti-Putin essay to a tribute to the abused and tormented women of Juarez, to the stories of Julio Cortázar. Is it not an obligation to mock, for example, over-technology, the disease of TV plateaus or the ceremonial rituals of football fanatics? An obligation is like writing a poem that glorifies desire between two women, or between a man and a woman. Imagination is also a commitment when it is not anticipation. I’ve never been a reality diary, because I often felt like Cassandra, in the Aeneid, predicting the future, and of dangers that few see. But I do not write high literature. Life may be tragedy, drama, but it can be ridiculed and its customs and traditions undermined, as Pessoa did with his poem “All Love’s Answers Are Funny”. Yes, and besides, they are sweet, violent, loving or naughty.

The twentieth century began roughly with a world war, ending with another local war, the war of the Balkans, and Paul had Valéry write a clear definition of it: “War is the slaughter of people who do not know each other for the benefit of people who know each other but do not fight. ” Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the fear that evil and violence are a constant reality of human existence, and that the battle between good and evil is eternal, or ridiculous, as happens in Cervantes’ own book. But when I hear Sanson and Delilah Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix by Jesse Norman, or Je suis malad by Lara Fabian, or Algo contigo by Susana Rinaldi, I take back some of my faith in the good.
While some dedicate their lives to creating wealth, or to obtaining resources of power, we dedicate our lives to expressing feelings and fantasies, dreams and desires within man.
I wrote in one of my poems: “The ancient pharaohs / They commanded the scribes: / Write down the present / Predict the future.” I think it’s still the author’s commitment, without any arrogance, to a small salary, and with humor, as when I wrote this short poem: Tonight I could write my saddest poems / If poems could solve the problem.
Humor is the sixth sense in literature.
Tonight I can write my most grateful poem, in fulfillment of my duty as a writer, though poetry will not save those who die by bombs and missiles in educated Europe.
By reading the books of Luis Ternoda, or Thisser Vallejo, I confirm what my mother said earlier: The more we know, the less we know, so the greatest virtue is humility. I also made sure that literature responds to the gospel teaching: “I speak in parables, so that he who understands wants to understand.” I also speak in parables.
As she wrote in a poem:
The words are ghosts of the stones of Abracadabra
Unlock old memory stamps.
And poets hold language party
under the weight of the summons.
Poets light the stoves
which illuminates the faces of eternal ancient statues.
When the stamps are released, the person discovers
the imprint of his ancestors.
The future is the shadow of the past in the red sparks of fire coming from afar,
No one knows where.

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