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27 de gen. 2019

English translation of John Carlin's article "El españolito cabreado", on Mario Vargas Llosa

This is an English translation of an article by John Carlin, "El españolito cabreado", about Mario Vargas Llosa's phobia of all things Catalan. I hope Mr. Carlin doesn't mind. If he has one, I'll willingly replace this text!
Click here if need be to read the whole post.

Original (La Vanguardia): https://www.lavanguardia.com/opinion/20190127/4626445209/el-espanolito-cabreado.html
In Catalan: https://www.lavanguardia.com/opinion/20190127/4626440694/lespanyolet-emprenyat.html

 

The pissed-off Spaniard

John Carlin

01/27/2019 00:32 | Updated on 01/27/2019 03:55

The veteran Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize for Literature, the pride and glory of Hispanic literature, the very epitomy of cosmopolitanism, is still fighting for a better world. It honours him. He could have chosen to move away from politics and devote his time to enjoying the good life in his home in Madrid with his loved ones, his books and his well-deserved fortune. No-one would have reproached him. But no. He battles on, committed as he is to the stuggle against the evils of the world.

The shame is that he does it with so little elegance, with such bad taste, so counterproductive in such musty company. His style is hardly perfect. His "look" doesn't do justice to his noble career.

At 82, Mario Vargas Llosa has turned into just another pissed-off Spaniard.

Neither I nor many others would have realized had it not been for the letter he wrote this week to the International PEN club, a venerable body that monitors writers' freedom of expression and human rights. In the letter, which has been news across half the world, Vargas Llosa announced that, after almost 40 years serving as president emeritus, he was resigning from the PEN club in an "irrevocable" way.

The motive was a declaration of the PEN published on Monday in which the immediate liberation and the withdrawl of the charges of sedition and rebellion against Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, Catalan independence supporters who have been in pre-trial detention fo over 15 months. Vargas Llosa may not have liked the statement, fair enough. To consider that Sanchez and Cuixart deserve to be in jail without trial, faced with a possible 17 year sentence, well, it's a point of view. The problem is elsewheres. The problem lies in the words the Nobel Prize chooses to express himself.

He begins by endorsing the topic of the Spanish right that says that Sánchez and Cuixart were part of "an attempted coup d'etat" in September and October 2017. Really, Mr. Vargas Llosa? You, who have written books denouncing Latin American dictatorships, say this? Aren't you supposed to have a mission to protect accuracy in language, to set an example so that words do not betray truthfulness and contaminate political thought?

The activities of the Catalan independence movement at that time can be called many things - symbolic gestures, shouts of frustration, childishness, farces, bullshit - but "coup d'état"? Of course, the response of the aforementioned State and its judges was as though the Sanchez and Cuixart had stormed the delegation of the central Government in Barcelona guns in hand, as if they had arrested the heads of the national police and placed checkpoints with armed militants at border posts. But nobody hurled a single stone!

If the then prime ministe Mariano Rajoy and his people had wanted to react in an adult, pragmatic and proportionate way, they had at least two better options: they could have completely ignored the alleged "referendum" and the absurd "declarations of independence" that were made by a handful of irresponsible people, or they could have smiled and said: "Boys, girls: be quiet. Be good. When your tantrum's over, we'll talk, okay?".

But Rajoy and company wanted war, because that's the way they are and because it suited them, and now Vargas Llosa supports them with the ridiculous claim that the Jordis had led an attempted coup d'etat. But this is not the most serious perversion of language in his letter to the PEN. Even more deplorable is when he writes towards the end that, by demanding the freedom of Sánchez and Cuixart, the PEN provides "its moral and institutional support to a racist and supremacist movement such as the Catalan independence movement". In other words, to be in favour of the independence of Catalonia now means belonging to the Ku Klux Klan? Are they lynching people in the Passeig de Gràcia? And where does the word "racist" fit? Many of the Catalan separatists have parents or grandparents born in the rest of Spain and, as far as I can tell, their skin colour is no different from those who share the same language and, if they are believers, the same God.

However, the worst of it all is not what Vargas Llosa wrote in his letter to the PEN club. It was what he said a few days earlier at the annual Popular Party convention presided by Spain's "baby Trump", Pablo Casado. First, he stooped to pick on Quim Torra, the interim president of the Generalitat. Doesn't Vargas Llosa understand that a world figure like him loses his dignity and harms his illustrious reputation by dignifying a mediocre man with his patrician's gaze?

It seems not, for he not only repeated the usual platitude that poor old Torra was "racist", "discriminatory" and blah blah blah, but added that Torra "does not hide the fact that he considers Spaniards rabid dogs." In the same act he reminded his new colleagues, allies of Vox, that his anger derives - as we read in those columns of his in El Pais that bore us sick - of his great obsession and object of anger: nationalism. It's alright. Many of us don't like it either. The problem is that Vargas Llosa dislikes it too much. He wants to put an end nationalism, it wants to eradicate it. Hatred blinds him. He seems not to have understood (like another of his bêtes noires, Karl Marx) that nationalism is like winter: we must learn to put up with it and, if we do not like it, to curtail its damage. Like envy or vanity, it is a constant in human society since our tribal beginnings.

What is almost comical is that if Vargas Llosa and the devotees of the Spanish right were to look honestly in the mirror they would see that they are nationalists too. In this case, Spanish nationalists who despise and detest Catalan nationalists at least as much as Catalan nationalists detest and despise them. Maybe more.

To be fair, Vargas Llosa had one moment of lucidity during his glorious speech at the PP rally. He said that to fight the Catalan independence movement, "enemy of our democracy and our freedom", the best thing was to "defeat it in the electoral fray". I agree a hundred percent. Change the tone, change the forms, do not act like rabid dogs and grant all Catalans a real referendum. Moreover, you'll see how, even at this late stage, the No to the independence cause will win. And the less beastly you are, the more comfortably.


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