remember the crush

remember the crush

Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco, in 2009.The Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco, in 2009.César Durione

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There are books, dear reader, that you turn to from time to time to find that there is still the same emotion that you experienced when you first read them.

“This town is over. This country is over. There is no memory of those years. And no one cares: who can mourn this horror, ”wrote José Emilio Pacheco in The Battles of the Desert, that beautiful novel which, moreover, must have been one of the last to be published as a series.

The sentence just quoted by the narrator, who recalls in equal measure telling us the story of the city where he had to spend his childhood and that of his first crush, letting time run forwards and backwards as opposite vectors, he continues: “Everything happened like the records on the jukebox. I will never know if Mariana is still alive. If he were alive today, he would be eighty years old. I remember the novel by José Emilio Pacheco, not because it was the first time I was looking for that feeling, but because it was the first thing that came to mind after reading Luminous Animals by the Peruvian writer Jeremías Gamboa. .. or not, I remember it and rather mention it here, because the novel that came to mind shortly after Gamboa’s book was closed was the last of Argentine writer Mauro Libertella, Un futuro anterior, who then in turn inspired me brought to mind Pachecos. That’s, well, what happened: as I thought about both, I remembered the battles in the desert.

a bright future

Perhaps if A Future hadn’t come to my mind sooner, if in reality I’d only thought and chewed on the overwhelming feelings of anger, powerlessness, and helplessness that Gamboa’s book leaves in my body, rather than The Battles in the Desert I turned on recalls another of those books that forever preserve the clarity of his feelings: Ciudades desertas by José Agustín – who, like the Peruvian, tells a story set in a gringo university town, laden with two of our heaviest tiles, racism and machismo – as well as if I hadn’t just finished reading Gamboa’s book, or if I had started to remember before I read it, that is, if I had remembered just looking at Libertella’s book remember instead of Pachecos and , of course instead of Ciudades desiertas I would have thought of Mario Levrero’s diary, for example.

But the truth is that I had both books in my head and that’s why I remembered Pachecos. And it is both Gamboa and Libertella – the sensations left by the Argentine book that tells the story of a love that had no permission in the past, but only when accomplished gives permission to the future and so to us leading to the idea that loss is sometimes necessary in order to gain what one has and that everyday life is nothing but a sentence for disappointment, they are not overwhelming but they are overwhelming, a difference which could well be due to the fact that the author of Luminous Animals doubles his bet from the impact of a tale that “a fireball” would appear, which in Un futuro anterior does so from the conviction of a kind of essayistic autobiography (hence also that I could have thought of Levrero) – They tie in with the tradition that tells of a past that goes backwards but also forwards.

With this tradition that tells of a past that goes backwards but also forwards, in addition to both telling the story of a youthful relationship that becomes either a presence that gives meaning to everything, or an absence, the absolute meaninglessness exudes – what What is a gain in Libertella is a loss in Gamboa, what is a gain in Peruvians is a loss in Argentines: the always hard and painful maturation of an individuality in a world that stalks with sharp fangs – while both, of course, condense and summarize an era that suddenly appears to us as either a country, or a world, or an era lost forever. And it doesn’t matter whether the novel is about the country, the world or the epoch, or whether it is the country, the world or the epoch that is being fled from when it is mentioned in the novel.

The Peruvian writer Jeremiah Gamboa.The Peruvian writer Jeremías Gamboa.DANIEL MORDZINSKI

The Battle and the Desert

In other words, the battle and the desert are different for each of the two authors, although their narrative strategies are similar and are also similar to those of Pacheco: Libertella, as I said before, distance, firstly by making clear the autobiographical magma that while keeping both Pacheco and Gamboa in the shadows, the Peruvian distances himself, making it clear that every personal story is also political, a subject that both Pacheco and Libertella tend to keep hidden, apart from, well, the most Latin American shadows around : that of class and social differences, which does not mean that they are not presupposed, but rather that they are not discussed.

In this way, although both authors share the coordinates with Pacheco, Libertella goes through another desert, a desert in which he finds himself, I already said Levrero, and here he would be the one with the form, a form that has no is afraid of mixing genres and pushing them to the limit while Gamboa is having another fight, a fight he could find himself in, I said, with José Agustín, and that this is where the bottom would be reached, a Low point that isn’t fear of clinging to a single thing to take it to its ultimate consequences.

The result is two great novels, two narratives, one on the edge of style, one in the thick of it, and two stories, one in which knowing the past makes the future possible, and the other in which the future is only possible through ignorance of the Past.

In the end, as Pacheco wrote in The Battle of the Desert, without imagining that he would summarize the novels of Libertella and Gamboa: “Love is beautiful, the only demonic thing is hate”.


A Past Future was published by Sexto Piso while Luminous Animals was published by Random House Literature. The battles in the desert can be found in the ERA edition and Desert Cities in the Debolsillo edition.