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Me sentí, literalmente, desalojado del presente. Desde entonces el tiempo comenzó a fracturarse más y más. Y el espacio, los espacios. La experiencia se repitió una y otra vez. Una noticia cualquiera, una frase anodina, el titular de un diario, una canción de moda: pruebas de la existencia del mundo de afuera y revelaciones de mi irrealidad. Sentí que el mundo se escindía: yo no estaba en el presente. Mi ahora se disgregó: el verdadero tiempo estaba en otra parte. Mi tiempo, el tiempo del jardín, la higuera, los juegos con los amigos, el sopor bajo el sol de las tres de la tarde entre las yerbas, el higo entreabierto – negro y rojizo como un ascua pero un ascua dulce y fresca – era un tiempo ficticio. A pesar del testimonio de mis sentidos, el tiempo de allá, el de los otros, era el verdadero, el tiempo del presente real. Acepté lo inaceptable: fui adulto. Así comenzó mi expulsión del presente.
Decir que hemos sido expulsados del presente puede parecer una paradoja. No: es una experiencia que todos hemos sentido alguna vez; algunos la hemos vivido primero como una condena y después transformada en conciencia y acción. La búsqueda del presente no es la búsqueda del edén terrestre ni de la eternidad sin fechas: es la búsqueda de la realidad real. Para nosotros, hispanoamericanos, ese presente real no estaba en nuestros países: era el tiempo que vivían los otros, los ingleses, los franceses, los alemanes. El tiempo de Nueva York, París, Londres. Había que salir en su busca y traerlo a nuestras tierras. Esos años fueron también los de mi descubrimiento de la literatura. Comencé a escribir poemas. No sabía qué me llevaba a escribirlos: estaba movido por una necesidad interior difícilmente definible. Apenas ahora he comprendido que entre lo que he llamado mi expulsión del presente y escribir poemas había una relación secreta. La poesía está enamorada del instante y quiere revivirlo en un poema; lo aparta de la sucesión y lo convierte en presente fijo. Pero en aquella época yo escribía sin preguntarme por qué lo hacía. Buscaba la puerta de entrada al presente: quería ser de mi tiempo y de mi siglo. Un poco después esta obsesión se volvió idea fija: quise ser un poeta moderno. Comenzó mi búsqueda de la modernidad.
I felt literally dislodged from the present. From that moment time began to fracture more and more. And there was a plurality of spaces. The experience repeated itself more and more frequently. Any piece of news, a harmless phrase, the headline in a newspaper: everything proved the outside world’s existence and my own unreality. I felt that the world was splitting and that I did not inhabit the present. My present was disintegrating: real time was somewhere else. My time, the time of the garden, the fig tree, the games with friends, the drowsiness among the plants at three in the afternoon under the sun, a fig torn open (black and red like a live coal but one that is sweet and fresh): this was a fictitious time. In spite of what my senses told me, the time from over there, belonging to the others, was the real one, the time of the real present. I accepted the inevitable: I became an adult. That was how my expulsion from the present began.
It may seem paradoxical to say that we have been expelled from the present, but it is a feeling we have all had at some moment. Some of us experienced it first as a condemnation, later transformed into consciousness and action. The search for the present is neither the pursuit of an earthly paradise nor that of a timeless eternity: it is the search for a real reality. For us, as Hispano-Americans, the real present was not in our own countries: it was the time lived by others, by the English, the French and the Germans. It was the time of New York, Paris, London. We had to go and look for it and bring it back home. These years were also the years of my discovery of literature. I began writing poems. I did not know what made me write them: I was moved by an inner need that is difficult to define. Only now have I understood that there was a secret relationship between what I have called my expulsion from the present and the writing of poetry. Poetry is in love with the instant and seeks to relive it in the poem, thus separating it from sequential time and turning it into a fixed present. But at that time I wrote without wondering why I was doing it. I was searching for the gateway to the present: I wanted to belong to my time and to my century. A little later this obsession became a fixed idea: I wanted to be a modern poet. My search for modernity had begun.
–Octavio Paz Lozano, Nobel Lecture, December 8, 1990 (A. Stanton transl. with modifications by S.H.)
More from Scott Horton:
No Comment — November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm
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No Comment — August 12, 2013, 7:55 am
How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?
No Comment — July 29, 2013, 11:36 am
Is it possible to simply disband the partisan FISA court?
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature