By ANA TERESA TORRES
I have seen a lot what the world can do.
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world.
In the writing of Gisela Kozak Rovero (Caracas, 1963) her academic essays and literary chronicle texts are well known, although her production in fiction narrative is comparable. She says of herself that she began to write stories at the age of eight, imitating Oscar Wilde and the Grimm brothers, but as I am not sure, I prefer to place her beginnings when I met her, that is, in Caracas, in the 1990s, in some of her first publications in Literary Paper (The National). It should not be easy, I suppose, to manage these two profiles that coincide in your case, and also in that of many writers who have maintained (and maintain) the profession of teaching and academic research on a par with the writing of stories and novels. For Kozak to be aware of cultural and literary criticism, think about the issues of contemporaneity, and to fix on the page what he sees, hears and touches in everyday life – as can be followed in his articles for Free Letters– They are indispensable tasks, as well as imagining reality inside that strange camera that we call fiction. With some stories published in various Latin American magazines (The Cultural from The reason; Hostos Review; Latin American Literature Today) and thematic anthologies (The thread of the voice. Critical Anthology of Venezuelan Writers of the 20th Century by Ana Teresa Torres and Yolanda Pantin. Polar Foundation 2003; From the city to the world (Torres, AT and Torres, H. comps. Foreword Luis Barrera Linares. Alfadil 2006); What is the story about. Anthology of the Venezuelan story 2000-2012 by Carlos Sandoval when we have the information. Alfaguara, 2013; Write outside. Tales of bad weather and love. K. Brown, L. Lara, R. Rivas Rojas, comps. Kalathos 2021), plus two novels: Caracas heartbeat (Alfaguara 2006; in the first edition of 1999 with the title Rapsodia) and All moons (Equinox, 2011), add up to twenty-five years of fiction writing.
Has recently delivered Town house (Berlin, Iliada ediciones, 2021), a selection that accounts for a good part of the stories produced from the beginning of his writing to the most current ones, thus offering a sort of synthesis between Sins of the capital and other stories –which won the Narrative Prize from the Alfredo Armas Alfonso Foundation in 1997, and was published in 2005 by Monte Ávila editores— and In red Alpha 2011). Let us, then, enter this Town house, from the author herself, who is also the anthologist.
When singer Cat Stevens premiered “Wild World,” the song I took the title from, Gisela must have been about eight years old, so it’s unlikely she would hear it. I have not forgotten it, it expresses very well the feeling of those of us who were young then, and now, when rereading these stories, I think that a good title to bring them together would be something like: “I have seen enough of what the world can do.” I comment on them following a certain chronological order that is not too rigorous.
Those who belong to the last decade of the 1990s could underline the syndrome that the Spanish writer and editor Carlos Barral once called “health fascism”; a kind of new morality that indicates the ideals imposed in postmodern society. In “Less than a hundred years”, “On the edge of a calorie”, “The golden years” and “Shining of eternity or video heroes”, a culture is traced according to which health, youth, beauty and success become patterns oppressive, policed, that make up one of the dystopias of the 21st century. The individual who does not have these conditions becomes an execrable and marginalized being; in fiction, even punished. A fat, ugly, lonely, unsuccessful, old woman, to give an example, is exactly the one that no one should be, the one that has no place. In the last of the stories mentioned, “Shining …”, the lines stretch further. Here, the protagonist, René, because we do not know his gender, and the name is ambiguous, “does not exactly have a body; not a particular sex either. It is much less than a body. He has the intuition that more than existing, he would like to happen, for the simple pleasure of being possible ”. It is a beautiful story that I do not intend to summarize, and that seems to me to describe the dehumanization in progress, which is talked about so much and which ends up being one of the paradoxical destinies of humanity.
“Vida de Machos” (2003) marks a thematic shift in the cultural criticism of the first stories, towards the link between gender and violence that begins to take over writing. “Vida …” is a parody, or rather a satire of the sixties epic that in Venezuela is renewed from the political discourse of the two thousand years, but in the story the substance is the sexual relations between the protagonists and the violence that they assume their guerrilla actions. “The deep bond that violence weaves between men turns the opposing sides into children of the same mother.” This is a very defining statement, violence linked to men – and men in the masculine sense of the word – unites them beyond their differences. Somehow those who fight are equalized, without being saved by their political preferences. But there is more. In the story of the love affairs that take place in the guerrilla focus, a homosexual encounter takes place between two of the combatants. Thus, the title “life of males” becomes ironic and presents an underground disqualification of the epic guerrilla. A guerrilla is supposed to be a brave and very “macho” man who cannot be in that kind of love affair. From here on, the issues around sexual diversity begin to take center stage, all located explicitly or implicitly in Caracas, in the penury and darkness that emanate from its streets, in that wild world in which it has become.
The story that gives title and beginning to the volume, “Casa de ciudad” —selected for the readings of the first Urban Narrative Week (2006) – is perhaps the best, or at least the clearest expression of the pain that Kozak wants to leave behind. enter these stories: “Or perhaps it is a coup from Caracas in the middle of the neck and in the middle of life; a blow, perhaps a bite with long greenish teeth, from the misery-colored city that does not allow us to forget it for a second ”. There, in a few pages, the splendor of the Aula Magna of the Central University of Venezuela, and the poverty and deterioration of an old friend, whose appearance is so improper and nauseating that the narrator fears that the guards will take out of the room, meet in a concert. living room.
From there the narrative becomes more unforgiving, more typical of a “wild world” than a “town house”, and we understand better what is the thread that underlies the sequence of the book. Here the misery to which the country has been condemned departs from political criticism to become an intimate story, in the estrangement of beings who are left to their own fate and who finally realize a failure. The narrative works as a mini biography that in a few pages reveals the suffering of men and women who could have had a better destiny but who in their combat with the wild world find only failure and pain. Abandoned corpses parade through the streets, women who get on the bus without being able to pay for it and remember the communist husband who left them in some fold of life, or those who live an existence that never seems full despite the gender transformation, the patient with the virus that his lover consciously infected him, or the young criminal murdered in the neighborhood and only cried for his mother, who has also been his accomplice, and who is now left without him, as before others lost to their children at the hands of yours. All this, the writer wants to tell us, happens in Caracas and in any corner, if you look closely, you will be able to find one of my protagonists.
A single exception, which I do not want to fail to mention, is “Jewish Cemetery (Prague)”, which, as the title clearly indicates, does not occur in Venezuela. It is a kind of elegy, in the Kozakian style of course, to the father born in the former Czechoslovakia, although not buried in his cemetery. This story opens another line very different from the previous ones. It is the emigration, the uprooting, the loss, the strangeness in the face of the signs of identity, the language, which have been lost in time and have been left on another shore.
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Tales from the wild world. Reading Gisela Kozak