War is war… and its language. How the victors and their scribes narrate the violence of the battle; but, above all, also how the testimony of the defeated is opposed to that. On that pulse, from Troya to the last conflicts with drones, the Mexican political scientist Enrique Díaz Álvarez persists in The word that appears. The testimony as an act of survival , with which he has assaulted the 49 th edition of the Anagrama essay award, endowed with 8. 000 euros.
The ethical and political scope of contemporary narrative practices is the engine of the intellectual work of Díaz Álvarez (Mexico City, 1976), professor of political and social sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he teaches the relationships between language, culture and power. Perhaps for this reason, when delving into the narrative of the disasters of war, he also seeks the omitted perspective, the history of the vanquished. To do this, dwelling on conflicts ranging from the Trojan War to World War II, with its macabre episodes of the Holocaust and the atomic bomb of Hiroshima, passing through the conquest of Mexico or the Spanish Civil War, he dissects the public scope of the narrative and art and their ability to also know the abuse, pain and injustice that, normally, the winners do not usually count.
“To understand violence and confront it you have to put the word, and if I wanted to understand the violence in my country since 2006 with the drug trafficking war, I needed to contrast it with other experiences ”, Díaz Álvarez states as the genesis of his work. There is also a biographical component: he studied at the Colegio Madrid de México, with a faculty made up mostly of Spanish Republican exiles. “I grew up and was educated with them, with the defeated: that is why I know Riego’s anthem or until very late I would paint the Spanish flag with a tricolor, purple; So I have a weakness for the word of the defeated. ”
In this line, he maintains that“ the first mutiny after a war is always to tell it, to narrate it; it is very difficult to break the hegemonic narrative ”. Thus the author understands “the testimony as an act of resistance; if the loser takes the floor, the official story can be confronted; Facing violence means putting on a face and reaching out to the victim and for that I need testimony ”. Under this premise, Díaz Álvarez has thinkers, poets and writers who lived through wars and classical violence parade in his essay, but he extends his analysis to the typology of more contemporary conflicts, which open up other less conventional perspectives and stories, as those that behave They already use drones or go beyond a battlefield without a defined physical setting, like that war against drug trafficking in their own country. Thus, Elías Canetti, and his notion of survival, Primo Levi and Homero are some of his theoretical bastions. Especially the Greek classic. “A war must always be told from both versions: that the Trojan version did not die is the great Homeric lesson”, he maintains.
That thesis is what explains that Díaz Álvarez has incorporated his study, indirectly, the voice of the hitmen of the Mexican drug cartels, understood as victims as well. “I have spoken with people who met with drug traffickers, with the perpetrators; not to empathize, but to understand ”, he says; tracing work that partly explains why he spent three years on the trial. “You have to explore the gray area, the path that goes from the victim to the perpetrator,” he says. And in that work, he admits that the essay “has a lot of narrative journalism”, of the testimonies of a Svetlana Aleksievich or John Hersey of Hiroshima , who, against the current, interviewed six hibakushas of the nuclear attack to give the other side of reality.
The erased voice of the defeated
The word that appears , whose edition reaches bookstores this very Wednesday, follows the reflective trail started by names like Hannah Arendt, whose tacit presence was already somewhere passage of The transfer. Narratives against idiocy and barbarism, which he published in 2015 and where he already offered a thesis indirectly close to the now awarded book, then proposing imagination as an act of resistance politics. Díaz Álvarez’s essay has been imposed among 150 originals in a call that, with a jury composed of Jordi Gracia, Pau Luque, Daniel Rico, Remedios Zafra and the editor Silvia Sesé , has left as a finalist A philosophy of fear , by the professor at the University of Barcelona Bernat Castany Prado, a philosopher and also a philologist and connoisseur of the work of Jorge Luis Borges.
The Mexican essayist, although with soft forms, is unequivocal about the recent controversy of the need for Spain and the Catholic Church to apologize for their excesses in the conquest of America, at a crossroads of statements That has affected the Pope, the President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the former Spanish President José Maria Aznar and the leaders of the PP Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Pablo Casado. “That only shows that the Conquest is alive, that it has little of a past that is always politicized; It is difficult to ignore that this episode was a violent event, with results of slavery, exploitation, devastated towns … You only have to read the chronicles of Bartolomé de las Casas … An effort should be made to get out of nationalist, stale and tribal ”. And remember that “the voice that never appears is that of the indigenous, the victor always erases the voice, the memory of the defeated.” But he also assures: “The word can always reappear, bother … and stay.” Like his book.