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OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA:
Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
by Eduardo Galeano
DAYS AND NIGHTS OF LOVE AND WAR by Eduardo Galeano
MEXICO'S REVOLUTION THEN AND NOW by James D. Cockcroft
PARAMILITARISM AND THE ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY IN HAITI by Jeb Sprague
COCAINE, DEATH SQUADS, AND THE WAR ON TERROR: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia by Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle
THE ECONOMIC WAR AGAINST CUBA:
A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade
by Salim Lamrani
GLOBAL NATO AND THE CATASTROPHIC FAILURE IN LIBYA
by Horace Campbell
Consequences, Resistance, and Alternatives
by Martin Hart-Landsberg
TIONS OF "REAL SOCIALISM":
The Conductor and the Conducted
by Michael A. Lebowitz
THE SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE
by Michael A. Lebowitz
Toward a Theory of Transition
by István Mészáros
SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND FORMS OF CONSCIOUS-
by István Mészáros
|Eduardo Galeano on Open Veins of Latin America . . . and Other Stories
by Cynara Menezes
In 1998, I interviewed the writer Rachel de Queiroz (1910-2003), and she confessed to me that she felt "mortal antipathy" for O Quinze [The Year Fifteen], a classic of Brazilian literature that she had published at age twenty, in 1930, which, thenceforward, would become her "most important and most popular" work (the book is so referred to in every encyclopedia). The same is true of Open Veins of Latin America and the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. Published in 1971, when Galeano was thirty, the work haunts him to this day. He is always characterized as "the author of Open Veins . . . ," which seems to trouble him as he has written more than thirty books since then.
At the collective interview on Friday, April 11, in Brasília, which he was visiting as an honored writer of the 2nd Biennial of Books and Reading, Galeano heard the probably millionth question about Open Veins. "It's been over forty years since you wrote Open Veins of Latin America. What are the open veins of today?" And he, in quite decent Portuguese, replied: "It would be impossible for me to answer such a question, especially since, after so many years, I don't feel as attached to that book as when I wrote it. Time has passed, I started to try other things, to get closer to human reality in general and political economy in particular -- for Open Veins tried to be a book of political economy though I didn't have necessary training. I don't regret having written it, but I've gone beyond that stage. I wouldn't be able to read that book again -- I would keel over. For me, that prose of the traditional left is too heavy, and my body can't take it. I would have to be admitted to an emergency room. The question would be: 'Got any open bed?'" Laughter.
I seize this opportunity and change tack: But what do you make of Chávez's gift of the book to Obama? Would Obama understand Open Veins . . . ? "Neither Obama nor Chávez," Galeano answers, to general mirth. "To be sure, he gave it to Obama with the best intentions in the world -- Chávez was a saint, never met a kinder guy -- but he gave Obama, as a present, a book written in a language that he doesn't know. So, it was a generous gesture, but a little wicked."
I had never seen the great Uruguayan writer up close. He is much shorter than I imagined, about 1.70 m. Rather fragile, he looks older than his 73 years. He himself mentions that a majority of writers are of the left and, as such, bohemians and this is not good for health. . . A young woman asks: "Getting old is not good for football players. And for writers?" Galeano demurs: "Depends. There are very youthful old ones and there are superannuated old ones and then there are old ones who you think are just waiting to kick the bucket and surprisingly end up winning a match 8-0. It doesn't depend on biology or prophets' prophesy. The best thing about football as a sport -- the feast that football is, the feast of legs that play, the feast for the eyes -- is its capacity to surprise, to astonish. In truth no one knows what will happen. Least of all, experts. Those doctors of football are fearsome creatures, very dangerous for society and the world in general."
Another journalist jabs: "Why has the left failed in Latin America?" Galeano does not hesitate to answer: "Sometimes the left succeeded, sometimes it didn't. The reality is changeable, the reality of politics or anything else -- fortunately. Otherwise we would be like statues, frozen in time. It is not true that the left has failed. The left has succeeded and has many times been destroyed for having succeeded, for having gotten it right, because what the left preached, at one point in Latin America, proved to be true, so the left was punished. Punished by coups d'état, military dictatorships, extremely prolonged periods of state terror, horrific crimes committed in the name of social peace, of progress. In the name of democratic coexistence -- imagine that! What democracy? What coexistence? I have to ask: 'What are you talking about, mister?' Things are much more complex than they seem. Sometimes the left also commits gravest errors, other times it doesn't, and instead it does what must be done in the best way, even beyond what the mass movement itself was hoping for. Reality always has this power to surprise. It surprises you with an answer that it gives to questions never asked -- and which are most tempting. A great stimulus to life is there, in the capacity to divine possible unasked questions."
Galeano is tired, it took him many hours of travel to arrive at the federal capital, and he wants to wrap up the interview. I protest: "But what about Mujica? You are not going to talk about Mujica?" He doesn't resist and sits down again. "I'm kind of tired, weary of talking about Mujica, because the whole world is talking about him! Even on other planets Mujica is being talked about. On Mars, Jupiter . . Mujica's ability to create resonance is incredible. And he is a good friend of mine -- he has been a friend for many years. The only thing I can do to add a grain of sand to this immense beach that the Mujica phenomenon is, spread across the world, is to tell a little story that gives you an idea of his human quality."
And he begins to narrate it, savoring every bit of it, as is his custom:
At the exit, I manage to tell Eduardo Galeano what a pleasure it is to meet him in person and that I adore The Book of Embraces. He looks at me and says: "Me too."
Cynara Menezes is a left-wing journalist in Brazil. Follow her on Twitter @cynaramenezes. The original article "Galeano: 'Eu não seria capaz de ler de novo "As Veias Abertas. . .", cairia desmaiado'" was published in her blog Socialista Morena on 14 April 2014. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.