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Gardeazábal: myth and literary art

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León María Lozano is the central character of ‘Cóndores no entran todos los días’, one of the most important novels of the Spanish-speaking literary world of the 20th century, which has given rise to multiple analyzes of the political violence of life. daily life of a community.

The literary work was published in 1971 and bears the stamp of one of the literary geniuses of the Spanish-speaking world: Gustavo Álvarez Gardeazábal, who oscillated between journalism, literature and politics to unmask the double standards of a society that does not face the problems in which it is immersed: the corruption of politicians and sectors of the Catholic Church, homosexuality, the mafias which corrupt society and a long list of problems which, not because they are hidden , are part of the daily dynamic.

‘Cóndores no entran todos los días’ has the magic of telling what happens in a city, but it represents the contradictions of the human condition. And it is, ultimately, an x-ray of the history of years of barbarism due to disputes that divided families and clothed them in mourning due to the fanaticism promoted by political bosses.

In an interview with AL DÍA, Gardeazábal, 75, recounts the details of the first edition, what followed and how the tragedy prevented its translation into English, which is about to be achieved. The novel was adapted for cinema in one of the most important events of Colombian and Latin American cinema.

In Colombia, a country that has gone through a diverse range of violence, Gardeazábal is considered a national conscience. Gardeazábal’s literary stature rivals the influence he has with his daily opinions on what is happening in his country.

He continues to provoke public opinion with his positions opposed to the formality of a society that uses double standards to oscillate between legality and illegality.

Among other things, the value of this Colombian writer, born in Tuluá, in the heart of the department of Valle del Cauca – whose capital is Cali – lies in the validity of his most famous work, “Cóndores no entran todos los días” , settled in a small town where the most atrocious revenge of political rivalries occurs at the end of the decade of the 40s of the 20th century.

The novel was published when Gardeazábal was 25 years old and had already ventured into literature with several writings, in which he already showed a way of approaching human tragedies and this connection between what is really happening and what society wants to cover.

The Condors story focuses not only on what happened, in real life, with the bipartisan struggle in Tuluá, but also on what León María Lozano, a conservative leader, did as he was appointed. like a “Pájaro”, that is, a member of an armed squad which assassinated its liberal rivals. He became a protagonist on April 9, 1948, when liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated in Bogotá, a crime that signified the rise of political violence.

AL DÍA met Gardeazábal at his farm, in the heart of the Valle del Cauca, to talk about the origins of ‘Cóndores’, its importance and the details of his literary career.

When did you decide to write “Condors”?

This is the result of having lived in Tuluá in the midst of violence, but also because I studied literature. I graduated in Literature with a thesis comparing novels of violence published in Colombia until 1968 and novels of the Mexican Revolution, as my thesis supervisor was Professor Walter Langford, life dean of the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana. He was an expert on Mexican Revolutionary novels and donated the books to the Universidad del Valle. I have read these 252 novels and the 56 others that had been published in Colombia so far. And I went to live in Pasto (southwestern Colombia), because if I hadn’t lived there, I wouldn’t have written it. The distance was sufficient. If now it is far, then the distance was even greater.

What was the reaction to the novel’s release?

The reaction was definitely the opposite. One, that of those who were still alive and who appeared in the novel, because they felt they were part of it. And just as I am responsible for the myth of León María Lozano, the myth slapped me when I was a child. At school they started telling me how León María, with a stick of dynamite in one hand and a cigarette in the other, had stopped the crowd of April 9, 1948. At that time, it was a public myth. and many people were recounting what they had witnessed.

What was the mark left by the “Condors”?

He ended up becoming an icon of the Colombian novel and as such references go from Poland to Japan, and it has not been translated into Japanese or Polish. And professors from universities in England, Belgium, the United States, Mexico and Chile continue to write to me. During the 50th anniversary celebration in Colombia, I realized that it is part of the national heritage and that people love it. There is the feeling that we had fifty years ago for María (Jorge Isaacs) and La Vorágine (José Eustasio Rivera).

What is the relevance of the “Condors” in Colombia today?

It is still quite valid. The country has changed, but the essence with which Colombia acts and judges remains the same.

On the border between history and literature, Condors is a reference in this period of violence in Colombia.

The more the days go by and despite the editorial problems, the more teachers make it read to high school students. This is why pirated editions abounded and now they don’t even print them anymore. They send kids the link where they can read the hacked whole. Someone asked me how many editions were able to come out. I managed to buy 107 from the pirates I saw there, until I blew it up. But they still come out.

And what happened to the legal editions?

There were many of them and had many adventures. Ten years ago, I lost my editor at Panamericana because he tried to renew my contract by changing the title of the novel. He made it a condition. I replied, “I will not renew. If you have no business acumen, I have nothing to do with this publishing house. How is it possible that a brand sold for forty years is thrown out the window. And secondly, it seems very rude to me that a novel read in all schools will change its title for fanciful satisfaction ”. I was so angry that I looked for the rector of the Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana (UNAULA) and the editor and I said to them: “I give you all the rights by public deed until I have no more news from those fucking editors. “

Why was “Condors” not translated earlier?

The funny thing is that it could only be translated for the first time in English. They haven’t tried before because they told me it was too difficult. And the other because those who tried it had a tragic fate. Enrico Cicogna first translated ‘Dabeiba’ for La Feltrinelli. When he saw the success, he said to me: “Let’s translate ‘Condors'”. He started, but he went to Somalia for 15 days. He contracted the Ebola virus, which was not called Ebola at the time, and he killed it. So much for the Italian translation. Then a lady Campa, who had heard from Cicogna, from the University of Pisa, told me to allow the translation, started to do it and I never heard from her again. In Austria they wanted to do a translation into German a few years ago, they had already translated ‘El Divino’. They chose a man who came to see me. After a while, he didn’t send me anything more. One day, a mutual friend who lives in Austria wrote to me: “He is dead and I will try to collect the texts for the translation”. It was not possible because it was quite messy and translated a piece here and another there. Finally, Jonathan Tittler, my biographer from Cornell University, decided two years ago that he was going to do the translation to accompany the fiftieth anniversary celebration. He started it, but he had Covid. He finished it six months ago and a contract was signed with a company. But there was a bankruptcy of publishers in the United States, including the one that was going to publish “Condors”. I had lost hope and a month ago he wrote to me telling me that the contract had been made in part payment to a small publisher in Texas: Atmosphere Press. Now, at the end of November, it has been signed. In English it will be called ‘Condor Dies’. It is possible that this is a reality.

You have not stopped digging into the daily life of crucial issues for conservative society.

It was difficult for me to be calm. When I combined literary exercise with journalism in ‘La Luciérnaga’ (hit radio show), the problem was worse. I ended up building a little house here next to this one for the police escort. But the other thing is the emptiness a provincial feels when he knows that what he does is valued first and foremost as a provincial rather than as a work of art. I was not accepted by literary critics in Bogota. And it was worse when I published, before “Condors”, three stories in the magazine Mundo Nuevo, in Paris, without leaving the Valle del Cauca. Instead of exalting me, they sentenced me to hell. That’s why I dedicated ‘Cóndores no entran todos los días’ to the last director of Mundo Nuevo magazine, the Argentinian Horacio Daniel Rodríguez. I dedicated the novel to him because it was he who opened the doors of this world to me.

What was the way to get the novel out?

Once again the perfect storm. I started my literary career by participating in short story contests in Spain as I was a subscriber and received La estafeta literaria de Madrid. I won several. In one of these competitions, in La Felguera, I was a finalist with Pilar Narvión, who was the Parisian correspondent of Diario Pueblo de Madrid. She had excellent relations with the intellectual world. When she won the award and I finished second, I humbly wrote to her and a correspondence relationship began as I was about to graduate from the Universidad del Valle in Literature. When the Manacor Prize was awarded, I made a bet and asked them to inform Pilar Narvión of the outcome of the prize. The Condors Prize was awarded in August. She immediately wrote to me and said: “give me permission, I’ll take care of everything, because you have to take advantage of it; a prize awarded by Miguel Ángel Asturias is not very easy ”. And in less than a month, she had the novel in her hands and had already given it to Josep Vergés, the owner of Editorial Destino and Destino magazine. The Catalan told him: “I will publish it immediately, it is a fabulous novel, of the great category”. One Hundred Years of Solitude had already been published in 1967, that is, we were worth an egg. One hundred years of loneliness was a gigantic wall for the whole generation. In February 1972, ‘Cóndores’ was already on sale. That is to say that Pilar Narvión was the great manager of the project.

Is the universality of the novel given by the relationship between violence, threat and fear?

In the parish resides a large part of the universality of the text. Being able to bring the parish to art has been the success of those who have succeeded, it is when the novels are reduced to a small world. Why has “Ulysses” become important, even though no one understands it? Because it took a district in Dublin, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Dublin, like the others. The rest is the result of my reading. I studied Greek tragedy in depth, just as my characters are treated psychologically in the parish with minimal distinctive elements: the asthma of Leon Maria, the legs in a dish of hot water, the bravery of Pedro Alvarado. I learned by deeply studying Thomas Mann and reading Russian writers, especially Dostoyevsky, with pleasure and depth. They are the masters of psychological characters. I am the fruit of all my reading.