La zona literaria de Mathias Énard
Mathias Énard no es un desconocido para los lectores del castellano. Este narrador francés, radicado en Barcelona desde el 2000 y especialista en Medio Oriente, estuvo en boca de todos hace unos años al publicar con Belaqua el Manual del perfecto terrorista (aquí hay un fragmento de la obra). El año pasado publicó en Francia un libro de memorias bajo el título Zone (el libro se publicó la semana pasada en castellano en La Otra Orilla, en la editorial Norma, según me datea un comentarista). En la revista The Quartely Conversation hacen una reseña del libro y en ella me ha llamado la atención, sobre todo, el amplio -y atractivo- círculo de referencias al que se alude para hablar de este libro. El absoluto eclecticismo. Gracias a Dios:
In 1913 Apollinaire published Alcools, his famous poetry collection, which is entirely devoid of punctuation and includes a text entitled “Zone.” And indeed, Apollinaire is one of many writers quoted in this book and probably one of its most important references: as Énard himself commented, his poem and the novel share many thematic aspects. Apollinaire is hardly alone among literary referents, as there is not only a lot of violence in Zone; there is also a lot of literature. The two things held in common by most of the writers Énard mentions in Zone are their personal ties with the Mediterranean and their own history with its ills and its violence. Burroughs, an adept of the concept of a “Zone,” is also another Zone wanderer. Although he does not grace the book’s pages, it is difficult not to think of Claudio Magris, not only because some pivotal scenes take place in his beloved Trieste but also because Énard uses ideas of frontiers and mixed identities. Another such writer that might come to mind while reading Zone is Thomas Pynchon, another artist of the Zone who, geographically speaking, never quite haunted Énard’s chosen stomping ground (notwithstanding the disturbing scenes at Casino Göring or the Maltese escapades). A Pynchonian pessimism seems to fill Zone’s pages, as Francis’ worries spiral around the Italian countryside he fails to see in his night train, even as he sees places like Tangiers, Barcelona, and Beirut all too clearly in his head. Furthermore, readers of Against the Day will find familiar Énard’s use of train transports as a metaphor of the century’s woes, as this mirrors Pynchon’s own assessment of them in Against the Day, where he noted that the train was primarily developed to dispatch troops faster and farther. The two writers other than Apollinaire that Énard comes back to most often in Zone are Ezra Pound and Maurice Bardéche. The latter was the brother-in-law of Robert Brasillach, the infamous collaborationist writer who was executed after WWII. Bardéche was the intellectual face of French fascism, a leading Holocaust denier and a strong critic of the Nuremberg trials. He died peacefully at the age of 91 in 1998. In Zone, Bardéche gives Francis Servain, then a neofascist youth, his 1939 book on the Spanish civil war, which he boasts gestated under Franco. In a way, Bardéche is the man who first puts Francis on the trail of the evils of his chosen zone of action. Pound’s presence, obviously very political, is even more literary: one feels that, as much as Francis, Énard loves the Mussolinian poet. His work is quoted, his life in Italy told. His presence is one of madness and of genius: he is probably the writer who most intimately fits, in equal measure, the form and content of Zone’s literary project. There are other writers or literary works that do not appear on the pages but do appear in one’s mind while reading this book. In some ways, this seemingly never-ending list of slaughters, wars, political games, terrorist acts, and historical wrongs of the Mediterranean area, told on many occasions with a very matter-of-fact tone, is reminiscent of Roberto Bolaño’s take on Ciudad Juarez’s mass murders of women in the fourth part of 2666. And, like 2666, Zone doesn’t tell us about the banality of evil, it tells us about a civilization numbing its senses, about hopelessness, about disillusion. Finally, there is also more than a hint of Sebald at play here. The comparison doesn’t work on a stylistic level, although, much like Sebald’s books, while Zone appears to be infinitely digressive it is really centered on strong themes that lurk behind everything that happens: there is always something else the narrator thinks about, there is always something to distract him from the very event he—and the reader—was reliving. This only serves to emphasize the feeling put forward by both authors: Sebald would load every object with a history and make it a significant piece of his narration; Énard does the same with the political events Francis walks through. Both The Rings of Saturn and Zone tell the tale of an internal voyage of sorts.