CXXVI - Winston Churchill, by Sebastien Haffner, comments by André Bandeira

A short biography, for adding to so many. The author begins with describing the life of Sir Randolph Churchill, Winston's father, who arguably was «mentally ill». And the report ends up with the coordinates of Winston Churchill's tomb, side by side with his father. Randolph was an unfortunate politician, with some talent, cut short by an early death. Winston admired him very much, as any young boy who takes his father as an idol, but his father never really shared very much with his son and, the few he cared, always left a pessimistic imprint. Winston stayed an agnostic but he believed in Destiny. He was superstitious and 1/4 of his blood, from his mother's side, was american indian. He picked a personal fight with Hitler, who, mesmerized by Karl May's novels, spent many of his young free time, playing cowboys and indians, where he always chose to be an indian, and won. The result of this duel was the end of the British maritime Empire as well as the design of a continental empire in Europe. At the center of this bet, there are two indians, one real and one imaginary, as if the victims of one of the worst genocides in History had put a spell on the cubs of a ruling race. Winston Churchill seems to be the result of a political culture where Tradition floats at the top of changing waves, with no clear distinctive line between their flow and ebb. He certainly belongs to an elite, a very well constructed one, where many diverse individuals step in, but where the entry remains narrow. Nevertheless, their life has no easy ways. The champions sleep light and with their weapons unseathed, as in Carlyles's designs. That doesn't make them more noble -- they sound just like an uneasy imitation of some ancient contentment, a sort of Roman Antiquity played by the people who threw down the Empire. Churchill oscillated between a left-wing liberalism (when there was no socialist in the Commons) and -- according to the author -- a pre-fascist reactionarism. Since he became one of the major players of WWII, and in its outcome, he still tried to exploit what happend after the war came to an end, basically trying to restore a conservative Europe, he used to know. He didn't get it from the USA, besides all he stocked from them, during the war. He even went to Stalin, to get his share unscathed, and he got there fulfilled commitments as by no any other power. The author is seduced by the tremendous role played by Churchill in History (there would be one until Churchill and another, afterwards) but he measures the unintended consequences of any personal imprint in the flow of events. And he states that Churchill, by allowing the emergence of a new order, he contributed to the Revolution. What kind of Revolution he's referring to, besides ephemeral designs during the Cold War and the ensuing fragmentation of the contemporary world, remains obscure. Churchill didn't contribute to anything he didn't want. Many things happened despite his will, but his achievements are most of all in perfecting his different and timely interventions, as if they had been designed before, in his subconscious belief in Destiny. In conclusion: Churchill basically got what the wanted, even adjourning several times Death. But if the british political Tradition always enhanced these poliical dynamos above the line of cumulative traditions, it never prevented its own entropy  either. It is as if it was burning out all its stock of personality, while exchanging a slippery foothold in reality, with moral superiority. But morals are there to be followed, not just  to be admired.


CXXV - Dog sense, by John Bradshaw, comments by André Bandeira

Should a pitbull be sacrified after it had slaughtered a child in the house where both lived? The author tells us that there is always a scandal, in England, everytime it comes about to media the liquidation of a dog for whatever reason. And, of course this extends to other animals. There are millions of animals being slaughtered, round the clock, for our nourrishment, as well as other human beings, at the end of a causal chain where a human purpose or conscious neglect may be identified. This book is written by a Bristol specialist who fostered an Anthropozooic Institute to care about the conviviality among Human and dogs. The book may easily be inserted in a market cluster where dog trainers compete among themselves to improve (and also certify) that conviviality. The competition erupts in the media, comes back to books, slides into Law and involves Science. Where does Ethics have a say? Everywhere, everytime. One thing is certain: the market cluster tends to be regulated as the rest of the markets, but definitely depends on some kind of power institutionalization which defines the enclusterd market.The market is no human condition, but a cultural and civilizational choice. It didn't always exist, it won't exist forever. Nevertheless, since we found our base in a Civilization, what is sick in it, and what symptoms emerge here, in this fever surge? Animal Rights campaigns are normally based in an analogical reasoning, which surpasses the dignity of one sole species, and extends it to an universe of sentient beings (sometimes even going beyond the partition into «species») and thereon, it works in terms of general Welfare, as did Jeremy Bentham. This path is contemporary of the levelling of criteria concerning minorities' statutes, where some relevant characteristics are enhanced in order to institutionalize a new set, or universe, where the injuctions are at hand of any sovereign citizen. It is a path generally taken by what some mirror as «Left» (but not only so, due to the intrinsic vagueness of the concept), it resorts to some extra-civilizational elements, notably religious ones, and follows the rules of the political market. One of the «Market» virtues dwells in the provision of information, normally in the reverse sense of its processing. It answers a human need, it is a human achievement but, as it happens with many species, Human kind is still in the middle of a huge vital experiment, of which inception and aims, doesn't master very well. The author gives us notice of very fragmentary and isolated data about registered dangers involving pittbulls, as well as recent efforts for a specific legislation on this race. He's very optimistic about the future of conviviality between Man and dog but his optimism sounds too simplistic and marketing, taking into account all his premisses. Mankind has only managed to domesticate about 20 species, the studies on animal conscience and mental faculties are still very much un-holistic and raise a lot of still unanswered questions, in a field where science is young. At a certain point, in a recent debate, some said that the life of a dog (or «my dog») would be worthier than the one of Hitler or the one of Breivick, the terrorist. They did it, replying to some who pondered that the dog should be liquidated because any human life, the most repulsive it might be, would always be worthier than the one of a dog. Of course this all should be inserted in different strategies, or policies, in the market-place of ideas.The face-valued emotions have a provocation element, to catch by surprise the indifferents and get a stage. But the sudden eruption of the debate may set a very frightening scene. Hitler himself was a vegetarian, he certainly cherished more the life of his dog than the one of many of his kin, or enemies. In the USSR (but not only so), there have been carried out many experiments with human beings and Nature in general, to prove theories such as the one of Lyssenko, which was a forgery. If the modern western society (and not only it) stands, in practice, for a field of social, political, and moral experiments, where what is true depends very much on human mentality trends, should it be there other criteria than the one of trial and error? Is it really there an innate right of self-defense when  both the concepts of «self» and defense have been eroded in such a way that Sodoma and Gomorrah are just an oppressive dam, adjourning the flow of a major flood, as the narrative in the Bible implies?


CXXIV - O Homem, by Aluísio Azevedo, comments by André Bandeira

This novel has the same characteristics of «O Cortiço» (The bee-hive,  harbinger of the modern «Favela», the contemporary urban slum). Indeed, it had been written before. It is set out from the same naturalistic premisses, that means, it has a character, the physician Dr. Lobão, who knows everything about what is going to happen to the protagonist, Magdá, the daughter of an old aristocrat, who, by disgrace, won't manage to get married. The woman is beautiful, has a good dowry, but she had been brought with a half-brother she thought to be just a stepson of her widowed father. Having been brought up together, when they come of age, they swear each other what the feelings were already hatching, till the old man states that any marriage between them, is impossible. The secret he kept for so many years has to be revealed, he pronounces both of them brother and sister, and the son departs to Europe, from where he'll never return. The novel intends to be naturalistic, and is immediately set by the Physician who -- in a modern way -- sums up all the bibliography predicting Magda's future hysteria. But the way how the young adolescent, in love with her stepbrother, shifts to brotherly affection, at the revelation, is simply not convincing. The brother dies in Portugal and, then, it begins the familiy chase for a bridegroom. In a sequence, Magda refuses a rich but ageing bachelor, a brilliant, but sick bureaucrat and a dandy. Then, in an episode, she happens to be carried in the arms of a robust portuguese quarry worker, who is about to marry one of his own, in the slum nearby. She simply cannot stop dreaming of his robust arms, flat belly and proeminent breast. The rest of the novel, which had been incepted at the pace of a grouchy physician, mixes up the reality of a distant worker who's going to get married, and an aristocratic bachelor who dreams, in her delirious letarghias, that she got married to him. As a matter of delirious facts, it is not him. In her dreams, chased by an authoritarian father so onirical has her dreams, the workman is no workman, but a sophisticated aristocrat who desguised himself as a quarry worker just to get close to her. Magda gets crazier and crazier and when the happy marriage happens in the slum ahead, she invites the freshly married couple. Then, pretending to make them taste a fine wine, poisons both of them to death. She narrowly escapes to be lynched by the mob, thanks to the same grouchy physician who had predicted almost everything, and shields his patient with his body. Questioned by the Police, and before being committed to a Psychiatric Institution, she reckognizes the corpses, she states that the man was her husband and that she killed him because he had cheated her with that woman liying aside. The novel is a promise of a naturalistic proselytism when suddenly it mouths in an almost real, golden delirium. Did the author want to prove that natural erotical inclinations have to be fulfilled, despite parenthood, or did he want to describe that there was a paralel romantic world that no Physician, albeit very prepared, could never avert? Maybe the Physician was the author himself and he loved the romantic madness that, in Émile Zola's Paris would be wiped out by the next local revolution. The author became a diplomat of Brazil and, being already one of the most successful novelists of his time, never really wrote again.


CXXIII - Socialisme libéral, by Carlo Rosselli, comments by André Bandeira

It is very exciting to read this book, the only one Carlo Rosselli wrote, this said in 1930, in French, speciallly when the copy one has in hand, had been signed by Carlo Rosselli himself and even contains one important correction he wrote by hand ( about Mazzini's intentions). Carlo Rosselli was an oppositionist to Mussolini, who fought in the same volunteer italian force, during the spanish civil war, side by side with italians such as Berneri, this one having been slaughtered by the communists. He himself, died, in the aftermath of the spanish civil war, victim of a pay-back with french rightists, in the south of France. Rosselli coined the term «liberal socialism» as Mussolini had coinded the expression «totalitarian». Basically, Rosselli takes a distance from the marxist dogma in socialism, he says that Marx was wrong in his catastrophism, in his theory of the plus-value and in his deterministic image of «class struggle». He honors Marx for waking up the workers who didn't have neither the culture, nor the means for reacting to a society which condemned them to live and die like beasts of burden. But he points out that the working class has, in the meantime, made so much progress as the capitalist society itself, in such a way that the vindications of socialism have to be more on the cultural side, striving for more individual freedom and morals. Thus, Socialism has the same aim of keeping a freer and freer society where the fundamental rights are respected and the mechanisms of a liberal democratic society are an end in itself. Of course there is always the bourgeois liberalism in the way, but the Burgeoisie itself is plural, with segments open to innovation and more freedom, coexisting with other segments who just want to conserve the privileges taken from the Aristocrats. In theoretical terms, he subscribes to Bernstein, the revisionist, telling that, in Socialism « die Bewegung ist alles» (the movement is everything) and the aim is open, depending on any individual and social filling. Politically, he lines up with the Labour Party, in England, and Proudhon's tradition, in France. Rosselli, who wrote this 80 years ago, and who paid with his life, for his commitment, is balanced, tolerant, precise and very civilized. He comes from a jewish familiy from the North of Italy, has a strong connection with one of the world's cultural capitals, Florence, and he even could anticipate the socialist outset for gay rights and animal rights. But there is something disturbing in this very civilized character: he boasts that everything that Mussolini was doing in Italy would cater for the italians surpassing their primitive and fragmentary political society, to rationalize Italy and give birth to a liberal society after the fall of the dictator. This proved to be optimism: Rosselli describes the fascist movement as «groups of outcasts, criminals, hallucinated,  and also idealists at the forefront of a political and romantic delirium...». Then, he describes the italian national character as one lacking autonomy of thought, with a «very rich inner life, although very much one-sided» and «morally lazy». I' d rahter think that it was this kind of «british» vision which catered for Mussolini to stay in power, to be demoted in 1943, while still keeping on his side a large portion of the italian population, and fight a civil war that some say only ended up in the sixties. Two final remarks on this very consensual and obviously remarkable man: when he says that the fight of the oppressed should be mostly for Education, he has a biased idea of what to educate about, and he leaves a slight scratch on those ones which, by lack of words, have to consent in being labeled as «ignorants». Second, he says, something that has been attributed to Churchill: the speech on «blood, sweat and tears». Apparently,  it was Garibaldi who said something very similar, in a much riskier situation for the speaker, 70 years before the astute and resourceful Churchill had done it.


CXXII - A Vida como ela é, by Nelson Rodrigues - Comments by André Bandeira

«Life as itself is», could well be the translation for the title of this collection of short stories by Nelson Rodrigues, probably the most important playright of Brazil, during the second half of the XXth Century. He was born in Recife, in the sub-equatorial Northeast, but it was in Rio, as a journalist, where he got most of his fame, and where he died, in 1980. The short stories are a masterpiece, both in sequence as in the pace of gathering critical mass. At the end of the first dozen, or so, one gets stricken, if not revolted, with the pessimistic layout, almost obscene, of the emotional and social wounds, and one hesitates in proceeding to the rest. Almost every story turns around love, sex and marriage (I would say in this order) and they are staged in the traditional Rio families from the suburbs, or the middle class which was moving up to the Copacabana waterfront, in the fifties. They have much of criminal chronicle, which was a job that the author himself, exerted, as a matter of fact, for many years, as a journalist. As he was confronted with a corpse, in a crime scene, probably in the first place, or at the same time as the forensic Police, his short stories have a scent of tragedy and we get addicted to them, as crime novels. Notwithstanding the weight of the North-american crime novel of that time, Nelson Rodrigues’s short stories don’t have the same aim of power rattle and moral cleansing which underpinned authors, such as Dashel Hammet. He is much more humble in his scope. It seems that, by the gathering of  almost identical sories, despite the variations in the plots, that he is proclaiming the doomsday of family and marriage, as institutions inherently contradictory with the hearts and minds of the Rio’s society of that time. In a way, he implodes the building of society, behind the façade and, thereby, he protects a society which was probably at the disposal of the rest of the world’s wildest dreams and perversions. Death very often plays the role of liberation in the intricate web of patriarchalism, coarseness and irony which sets the scene in society, as it did, probably, in the long flow of slavery, immigration and indian mutilation in brazilian History. Nelson Rodrigues is not advocating death, as other latin-americans  novelists could do, because he has a touch of irony and awe, which are able to disarm almost any conclusion jumping. But he seems resolved to leave an almost black-african Magic of bitterness, which sets the night on fire, and which could almost lead him to repeat the same themes into eternity. That is why it is said that theater began by being a ritual and it stayed so, even in the most seductive brazilian soap-operas. In conclusion, a quest: did Nelson Rodrigues believe that there was a guise of love – I mean physical and spiritual love, merged in one and only «natural love»-- which endures all social formats and follows its path, no matter the consequences, as a vital imprint? In that case, theater, both in art, as well as in political engineering, would be the only way of keeping our bodies in peace, away of the human sacrifice of the tribe.