Leer a Walser y Brodsky
Ahora que Gustavo Faverón está proponiendo hacer un Club de Lectura en su blog, le recomiendo que eche una mirada al club de lectura de la revista virtual de literatura Words without Borders que está dedicado en el mes de junio a la novela de Robert Walser, The Assistant.
Por cierto, en el ejemplar de junio de la revista aparece una serie de textos que tienen como leit motiv la gastronomía de sus países. Se titula The Global Gourmet y trae textos de al-Shirbini, Gabriella Ghermandi, Ronald Giphart, Darra Goldstein, Liliana Heker, Robert Menasse, Paula Parisot, Guillermo Saavedra y Yuan Qiongqiong. Y también tiene el resumen de un programa de TV literario dedicado a los premios Nobel, que esa vez tuvo como protagonista a la obra del extraordinario Joseph Brodsky, y entre sus invitados al crítico William Wadsworth, a Susan Sontag y al también Nóbel Derek Walcott. Se titula "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Joseph Brodsky" Aquí les dejo lo que cuentan cada uno de ellos sobre cómo conocieron a Brodsky cuando llegó exiliado a EEUU:
Susan Sontag (first met Brodsky in January 1976 throughh their mutual publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux): I think people were very open to Joseph. First of all, he made a stunning impression. He was so authoritative personally. That would register here as supreme confidence; and people are—I want to say in America, because I think it’s more so than in New York—Americans are rather disposed to admire, if they are given grounds to do so, unlike the English, whom I find quite spiteful and malicious. If [the English] see that somebody who is presented to them is very important, their first impulse is to try to cut that person down, undermine that person quite maliciously. It’s absolutely the opposite here. If people are given grounds to admire, they like to do so. I think Joseph was admired from the start. There was of course also a small body of readers and alert people for whom his reputation preceded him. The transcript of his trial with those wonderfully quotable sentences was printed in New York magazine. I remember reading it myself and cutting it out. It was . . . the first time I ever heard of Joseph. He made a great impression here from the beginning. People were very open to his self-confident, peremptory manner.
William Wadsworth: I met Joseph in the fall of 1984 when I was a graduate student at Columbia University and attended his seminar. He was unlike any other professor or teacher of poetry I had had, and I think everyone in the class recognized that he was remarkably different from the other teachers, most of whom were poets themselves. Joseph projected a kind of mental energy and a kind of rigorousness that was not common. He challenged the students in ways that they were not used to being challenged, and he treated poetry as a more serious endeavor than most American students ever dreamed it could be. Some students reacted strongly against his attitude, while others, like myself, thought he was the most stimulating embodiment of poetry they had ever encountered.
Joseph was tremendously charismatic, but he also came across in many ways as an absolutist, and was frequently given to outrageous statements, even insults. If you couldn't roll with the punches, if you disagreed with him and your skin was thin, Joseph's manner could seem overbearing. When asked by a student about the repression of leftists in Central America and whether this wasn't comparable to Soviet repression in Eastern Europe (this was in the 1980s when the violence in El Salvador and Nicaragua was at its height), Joseph dismissed the question with one sentence: “I don't give a damn about that part of the world.” On the other hand, one could see Joseph's tendency to be outrageous as evidence of his uncompromising honesty, as a necessary expression of his iconoclasm, his refusal to bow to any shibboleth. He had a terrific sense of humor: irreverent, sardonic, self-mocking. He was expert at seeing through the emperor's new clothes. One day at Columbia he charged into the classroom, cup of coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other, puffing like a locomotive, and said, “You won't believe what happened to me last night . . . I met a god.” He proceeded to recount the story of having attended a reception the previous evening for the Dalai Lama, and made the observation that the most remarkable thing about the “god"'s appearance was the vaccination mark on his arm. Nevertheless, it turned out that Joseph and the god got along well, and at the end of the event, the god gave Joseph a special farewell. As Joseph put it, “And would you believe it, at the end he came over to me—my humble self!—and embraced me.” A particularly worshipful female student exclaimed, “Joseph, it must have been your aura!” Without missing a beat, Joseph responded, “No, I think it was my tie. You see, my tie was the same color as his robe.”
Derek Walcott: Joseph was somebody who lived poetry. He proclaimed it every time I met him. That's why I admired him. He didn't do the English or American thing, you know, of being shy and saying, “I am not really a poet” or, “I don’t like to be called a poet”—any of that nonsense. He was very proud of being called that. He was Brodsky. He was the best example I know of someone who proclaimed that he was a poet; that's what he did. He was industrious and you can't separate the industry of Joseph Brodsky from Joseph Brodsky. I think there's a kind of attitude in biographies, literary biographies, that can say, “Well, you know, W.H. Auden was this, he was a homosexual but he was also . . . ” whatever. So that there are two lives, a literary life and a personal life. Joseph didn't make a distinction between his calling and his life . . .
He saw being a poet as being a sacred calling. I share that view. He never exploited his Jewishness. He never played the victim. He detested people who played the victim and whoever wrote as a victim. I think he thought that was too easy. A clear description of Brodsky is of someone who has an almost medieval devotion to his craft and everything that goes with that, in terms of architecture of the craft, the design of the craft. A lot of the poems are designed like cathedral interiors, the font, the arches, the whole thing the whole concept of the poem as cathedral. That devotion is to poetry as the hermetic craft and it's what you'd find in Donne too. And what he kept going was the concept of perception as a part of intellect, not merely an emotional reaction.