Posts featuring Alberto Chimal

“Literary Controversies” by Alberto Chimal

“Barroom squabbles,” some (writers) have called them. One must ask, however, the reason for such indifference.

In recent days there have been not one, not two, but three controversies among Mexican writers, in which some very serious issues have been raised, even beyond questions of aesthetics: the use of public resources, class discrimination, corruption, racism. However, the news of the day has been dominated by Mexico’s national soccer team’s defeat in a match against Chile (the score: 7-0). Or perhaps the Father’s Day holiday. Or, for those who follow such things, the death of Anton Yelchin, a young Hollywood actor.

Not even the brutal repression of dissident teachers at the hands of armed federal forces in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, seems to merit as much debate, despite the seriousness of the event (to the point that the official communiqués either distort or minimize it, and important aspects of it are appearing first online or outside Mexico). But amid these news items, and those to emerge in the coming days, the three literary debates that I mentioned will soon be forgotten: they are but more filler in the news cycles on social media and the few other media outlets that have reported them.

What is certain is that these conflicts matter to almost no one: they do not resonate with anyone more than with the colleagues of those implicated, who jump in to defend a polemicist, to attack another, to complain about the general state of national literature (or the discussions of national literature); however, they barely manage to make themselves noticed beyond their own circles of friends.


Three Days with David Bowie

"[Bowie's] life—or the life he invited us to imagine through his works—leaves a trace difficult to appreciate, because it’s invisible by now."

January 11, 2016. To some, David Bowie’s death may not seem more than the news of the moment.

Its presence everywhere in the media as I write this today proves nothing. Anyone can go viral on our networks if they manage to go beyond the threshold of public perception: if they become attractive or loathsome enough. Nothing else is needed to get the attention of millions of bored people in a country (or more than one). This happens when a celebrity dies, too. Almost every day one does, somewhere, and the death needs to compete against any other infotainment that comes our way.

A few days before Bowie, it was Pierre Boulez—the great composer and conductor whose influence on classical music could be comparable to that of Bowie on its own milieu—and no one cared, aside from a few connoisseurs of classical music. Here in Mexico, the release of Blackstar, Bowie’s last album, was forced to compete for the local audience’s attention with the news surrounding the capture of drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the secret interview that actor Sean Penn did with him. (That piece was published last weekend on the Rolling Stone website.)

Nor is there proof in either the tone or the abundance of the obituaries published online, whether they range from mere admiration to an almost religious fervor. Our time suggests greatness can be found—or created—literally anywhere, because it depends on the subjective perception of the observer, which can be influenced beyond their control in many ways. If this is true, it could also be said that anything can become an object of adoration: anything can soothe the feelings of frustration and insignificance that move us to look beyond ourselves for a justification of our own existence. Perhaps, then, Bowie is not all that important: maybe his gifts and his accomplishments are exaggerated by those of us who look at them with affection and have made them “a part of our own lives”; others have done the same with One Direction, after all, or with Justin Bieber… READ MORE…

Alberto Chimal on Star Wars: The Eternal Reign

Star Wars is not a religion but its myths are powerful.

I must admit that I am one of those who watched the first Star Wars movie in the seventies. In Mexico it was titled La guerra de las galaxias (War of the Galaxies): it arrived in late 1977 or early 1978. The movie was unprecedented in my life because I was a child, and not because I sensed how successful and influential it would become.

The TV commercials had piqued my interest, I remember, and also the lightsabers: they were the most popular toy of the time and were made out of a simple flashlight, attached to a translucent plastic tube. The light was colored by putting a piece of cellophane inside the tube, near the lightbulb. Some kids already had their sabers when my mom took us to the old Cine Hollywood theater to watch the movie. We went with a friend of hers and her children, and all of us watched in envy as those other kids ran around the theater with their swords glowing red, blue, or at times white, if they already had lost their cellophane.

In the end, everyone, us and them, came out singing John Williams’s theme, firing imaginary guns, thrilled by film quotes we rarely recognized as such and by the truly original moments, brilliant in their innocence and speed and beauty, made by George Lucas and his many contributors at Lucasfilm. READ MORE…