William Ospina and an interview about his book Where Danger Grows | colombia news today

William Ospina and an interview about his book Where Danger Grows | colombia news today
William Ospina and an interview about his book Where Danger Grows | colombia news today

William Ospina, Colombian novelist, poet and essayist.

Photo: Courtesy PRH and FCE

A book that from its title tells us about a time in which we perceive danger, in which fear and uncertainty seem to reign. Why can art, poetry and literature be means to combat this terror of the world?

Art and poetry always were, from the beginning. What Homer did was think about war, try to understand it, see how the passions of individuals and the conflicts of nations intersect and feed each other, and how in the midst of the cruelties and atrocities of the human condition they open up. I also walk the nobility, dignity and courage with which people assume their life and death. We do not know if human beings will ever leave wars and crimes behind, but literature and art do show us how greatness, generosity and compassion also know how to shine at all times.

The title of the book comes from a quote by Friedrich Hölderlin. What can save us in these times?

Hölderlin’s phrase says: “Where danger grows, what saves us also grows.” That might make us think that danger automatically brings salvation, but it is something more complex: only when evils appear can we learn how to combat them. The answer could not exist beforehand. Now, perhaps the world is not seeking salvation, but it needs it. Just as there are great forces committed to opposing life, to destroy, to disrespect, it is evident that life wants to endure. Our poet Porfirio Barba Jacob stated: “The crackling torch is in the wind/ and from centuries to centuries it is lit/ Death blows its violent hurricane/ and the torch of life shines brighter.” Obviously, it is a very old struggle, but it is the forces of destruction that demand that the creative forces rise stronger and be able to triumph. And something makes it so that in stories the appearance of the noblest and most beautiful always awakens us with joy. We do not want the worst to triumph.

You state in the book that “we have reached a moment when life can only be saved by a policy founded on the highest principles of humanity.” What principles would those be?

I think both corruption and frivolity are things we see as mistakes and force us not only to examine the world but to examine ourselves. Shakespeare says, “The ruins forced me to think.” What alarms us, what outrages us, what arouses rejection in us, forces us to think. Because it is easy to remain indignant, alarmed and rejected, but it is not enough, that does not change anything. The principles of humanity are those that go beyond revenge, beyond anger and beyond punishment, those that make us ask ourselves why certain things happen, not how to punish them but what must be done to prevent them from happening. One understands that there are stories of injustice and deprivation that can make people inhuman. Although sometimes those who have more steal more, and that also needs an explanation, not just a punishment.

He mentions Immanuel Kant and talks about his idea of ​​making humanity more philosophical, more reflective… How to encourage this position?

I think we do need thought, but we also need sensitivity, affection and imagination. Someone said, for example, that cruelty is a lack of imagination. Cruel people are incapable of putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, of feeling that it could be them who this is happening to. And I believe that what we need most is language, a rich and complex language, that allows us to understand what happens to us, verbalize our emotions, share our experiences, that frees us from loneliness, from being trapped in ourselves, it helps us. to have power over our imagination and our impulses, to not be at the mercy of them. Life is complex, and living it in an irresponsible and trivial way would seem like a comfort, but it is the cause of much suffering for ourselves and others.

The intoxication of doing and the search for beauty as ideas that invite us to be creative, to find wonder. Do you think we live in a time where we have lost our imagination because there is always something that answers us or solves our doubts, like artificial intelligence does?

Artificial intelligence, and I am talking about something that I am largely unaware of, can be useful and beneficial if it helps develop one’s own creativity, and it can be fatal if it only serves to make us sterile and irresponsible. Because there is nothing that gives more happiness and more satisfaction than creating something, and there is nothing more useless and more clumsy than depriving yourself of the pleasure of creating. Putting a machine to produce things and pretending that we made them can deceive others, but we cannot deceive ourselves. It’s like resigning yourself to mediocrity, accepting that we are clumsy, accepting that we are stupid. That is not necessary, in every human being there can be something creative, something brilliant.

Let’s talk about this statement that you make when you say that “the great evil of modern civilization, throughout the world, is exclusion, the inability to assume the dignity of the other.” Why do you think it is the great evil and how do you think it could have originated and remained established in our time?

If a hummingbird, a salamander, a tiger is a miracle, how can every human being not be an admirable mystery. It’s sad not to see others as something mysterious, surprising and sacred. In the middle of a lonely street, at midnight, the most humble human being can be our downfall or our salvation. Why not strive to sow respect, dignity, solidarity, instead of sowing hatred, evil and resentment? The more we exclude others based on their race, their poverty, their level of education, the more we will find ourselves surrounded by an uninhabitable world, the more we endanger ourselves. But it is even more beautiful and more dignified not to respect others out of prudence, but out of true respect, out of true admiration. And that is also what literature is for, just read a story from the Arabian Nights called “Story of Abdullah, the blind beggar, who only accepted alms if it was accompanied by a slap.”

Do you think that the humanities, arts and culture can once again play a predominant role at this time?

I think it is increasingly necessary. You have to leave, like Marcel Proust, In search of lost time. Because the true time gained is the time lost, the recovery of the true meaning of things. That dialogue, that hour of friendship, that trip, the flavor of that music, those moments of serenity, of thought, of imagination. As Jorge Luis Borges said: “That forge, that moon and that afternoon.”

He also talks in the book that what the world needs is a “revolution of customs”, which implies, I believe, precisely recognizing that we as individuals and citizens have a responsibility beyond our interests. How to encourage this revolution of customs?

There are those who think that capitalism is a monstrous inhuman machinery, but today capitalism is our way of consuming, our way of traveling, our way of eating, our way of producing garbage, our relationship with nature, our idea of ​​love, of friendship, art, creation. The way everything translates into money. Before there was hospitality, everything we used returned to the cycle of nature and that is why there was really no garbage. The people created music, dances, stories, customs. Now everything is done by either the industry or the State. We give up knowledge and that is why we have to buy everything. It is enough for someone to be hospitable for a revolution of customs to occur, it is enough for someone to invent what they want to give, it is enough for dialogue to exist again, to meet just because, not for something. It is enough not to consume the life that is sold to us but to make our own life in our own way. We all have to learn a slower, simpler life, more capable of enjoying the hours, more master of our time, less frenetic, less neurotic, less a slave to authoritarian systems, less expensive.

I read this book as a kind of defense of poetry, of language, could it be understood this way?

The thing is that poetry is not a way of writing but a way of living. In which work is pleasure because we do something we like, in which the path is as important as the goal, in which it is not only important to graduate but to really learn, in which words have flavor, have meaning, have magic.

In several sections you spoke about the value or importance of metaphors. Why did you want to exalt the role that this figure plays in poetry and in understanding the world?

Finding a new name for all things has always been a dream of humanity, not because of distrust of the names we have, of the words we have, but because the mystery of reality is not exhausted in the version we have of it today. , we can always discover something more. Science has that poetic side of always wanting to discover something more in the flower and the wind and the stars; But not only knowledge reveals these new things to us, but also emotion and fantasy. When the days become repetitive, when today is the same as yesterday, it is because we have lost that ability to notice that each moon is the first moon, that nothing repeats itself, that we are about to discover something unexpected, that we are here for a very short time. time and that makes the world more miraculous. I always remember those verses: “If for everything there is an end and there is a price/ and last time, and never again, and I forget/ who will tell us who, in this house/ without knowing it, we have said goodbye?”

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