Message from Jorge Ángel Hernández / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

About the text “A little ashamed of ourselves” by Luis Manuel Pérez Boitel, in response to “The crisis of low culture” of Francis Sánchez.

My friend Riverón,

Although I consider friendship one of the gifts that should be defended at all costs, I also think that standards about things that happen in life, art and literature, should, if not considered equally, at least be ahead by a nose at the finish line. Quite often our personal discussions have raised the tone to the point that only friendship has stopped the harmful avalanche of blindness on both sides. I also value highly the grateful recognition of good deeds from others who are not exactly part of that small group of friends, even more those that honestly spring from the adversaries who have accompanied us on the same journey.

This long speech, that you know well, maybe with more humorous tones and turns, as I like to talk person to person, allows me to introduce, in this communication that already I’ve given permission for you to use publicly if you feel it necessary, an idea that, although predictable given the many anecdotes that I can relate as a witness, does not stop surprising me negatively:

I’m referring to the treacherous message that Luis Manuel Pérez Boitel circulated and in which he tried to insult you “considering that an editor at the head of a publishing house with which he began to reach his first little bit of prestige,” is obliged to assume, without any benefit of the doubt, the fair and deserved price of his pay.

I remember at that time our poet and anti-fascist fighter, not “litigious” as he says, (as a lawyer, knowing what the word means by which meaning you would have put in a cumbersome legal process that did not occur) but haggled over I believe with good cause, his fees, which were set at the amount he demanded, in my opinion unjust, much less than he would have deserved.

I know the details because I also saw a dodge that consisted in declaring that he didn’t agree with the price, and, from respect for the scandal and out of solidarity with Boitel, he settled for a meager sum, and I hope the copies of the contract may serve as further proof and challenge as well a search for any proof of a “claim.”

What he did was to lobby senior officials to press his demand for payment and talk about the incident to many, too many, people. I also remember how you assumed as your own problem that he could attend the award ceremony for the poetry prize, which he won in a closed vote in the Casa de las Americas contest, news he received a few hours before, and how you pledged both your institutional influence and your personal courage as an intellectual and editor at a time when he was the subject of satirical gossip in much of the country.

I assumed he was grateful for these efforts, happily accomplished, even more upon hearing himself reclaimed — during the meeting, or encounter, that we had in the Villa Clara UNEAC with Iroel Sánchez and Omar Valiño, that is, the “duo of the Party,” who took the trouble to talk to us about what was happening around what I named the “Pavonazo” phenomenon at work — that attendance at the awards was definite and that the Casa de las Americas, naming Jorge Fornet as the irresponsible person, and careful of saving the “diplomatic decency” of Roberto Fernandez Retamar, had failed to inform him the following year, once his book was in circulation, about “What his role would be in the activities of the award,” and that they would not offer him any support.

That said about your commentary “Eating from the new-born turkey” (“pavo” — turkey — is a play on “Pavón”), which now seems so suspicious to him and about which he did not issue any opinion even though we were provoked to do it during those conversations. That attitude confirms that the title of what was written by Francis Sánchez continues to be accurate, since it confused the low cravings for the role with the lower passions and culture is something mean in the most Marti concept of the term. And although perhaps the overwhelming majority feels that he justly deserves not even the honor of the insult, the basic instinct of my low passions requests a retribution.

So, friend, on behalf of those dishonest and opportunistic intellectuals with a double standard, that like the dreadful English of Neruda we still hate, in virtue of what appears unthinkable “to take them out of circulation and credit” I ask you for an apology. I am ashamed that such a fight broke out in the midst of a moment that in my opinion is crucial to the cultural destiny of those of us who continue deciding to build from within.

A hug, and no antidepressants.

Jorge Angel Hernández

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 2007