David Viñas (1927-2011) — Crítico social y novelista judío-argentino/Argentine Social Critic and Novelist — “Los dueños de la tierra”/”The Owners of the Earth” — fragmento/excerpt

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David Viñas

 

Viñas, David

David Viñas nació en Buenos Aires en 1929. Estudió en el Liceo militar a causa de los problemas económicos familiares. Estudió Filosofía y Letras, allí conoció a algunos intelectuales. Fue uno de los fundadores, en 1953, de la revista Contorno. Al poco tiempo publicó su primera novela Cayó sobre su rostro. Recibió en 1962 el Premio Nacional de Literatura. En 1967 fue galardonado con el Premio Casa de las Américas, de La Habana (. También ha sido capital su aportación al ensayo con libros como Literatura argentina y realidad política: de Sarmiento a Cortázar o Rebeliones populares argentinas: De los montoneros a los anarquistas. La dictadura le robó a sus dos hijos, ambos acaban de ser padres cuando los detuvieron, y fueron desaparecidos por los militares, y lo obligó a exiliarse en México y España. En México fundó la editorial Tierra del Fuego junto a Pedro Orgambide, Jorge Boccanera, Alberto Ádelach y Humberto Costantini, en 1981. En 1984 pudo regresar a Argentina tras el fin de la dictadura. Fue nombrado titular de la Cátedra de Literatura Argentina de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. En los años siguientes se sucedieron los estrenos teatrales. En 1991 recibió la la Beca Guggenheim pero la rechazó como homenaje a sus hijos.

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David Viñas was born in Buenos Aires in 1929. He studied at the Military Lyceum because of family financial problems. He studied Philosophy and Letters, there he met some intellectuals. He was one of the founders, in 1953, of the magazine Contorno. Soon after, he published his first novel. It fell on his face. He received in 1962 the National Prize for Literature. In 1967 he was awarded the Casa de las Américas Prize. His contribution to the essay has also been capital with books such as Argentine literature and political reality: from Sarmiento to Cortázar or Argentine popular rebellions: From the montoneros to the anarchists. The dictatorship stole his two sons, both of whom had just become parents when they were detained, and who were disappeared by the military, and forced him into exile in Mexico and Spain. In Mexico he founded the Tierra del Fuego publishing house together with Pedro Orgambide, Jorge Boccanera , Alberto Ádelach and Humberto Costantini, in 1981. In 1984 he was able to return to Argentina after the end of the dictatorship.He was appointed holder of the Chair of Argentine Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Buenos Aires. Theatrical premieres followed, in 1991 he received the Guggenheim Scholarship but rejected it as a tribute to his children.

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De la novela “Los Dueños de la tierra”, 1958

 

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“Esos de la Guardia Blanca”

Claro que estaban ésos de la guardia blanca. Vicente ya los conocía; en Buenos Aires, desde su departamento de la calle Ayacucho los había visto golpear a la gente del barrio en la semana de enero en 19.[i] Y rompían vidrieras y ensuciaban las sinagogas. Había sido un lunes y por las calles de la ciudad deambulaban algunos hombres solitarios y sudorosos, con las corbatas flojas y el saco en la mano. Los que acababa de ver en el puerto y los que tiraban bombas de alquitrán contra las sinagogas de Buenos Aires se parecían, desde la manera de golpear y reírse al mismo tiempo, hasta la insolencia se confeccionaban para insultar y pararse en medio de la calle con las piernas abiertas. Eran tipos que gritaban”—Judío sucio” con la misma calma que se instalaban a la salida de un jardín israelita para obligarles a cantar el Himno, “Oíd mortales el grito sagrado!” Sí, pensaba. Y desde su balcón de la calle Ayacucho había visto a esos chiquilines que cantaban destempladamente, espiando a sus maestras y esperando que les ordenasen que se callaran de una vez porque el Himno no se canta así, o que se largaran a correr hacia sus casas. Pero en 1910, cuando el Centenario.él, él mismo, Vicente había hecho algo parecido. Era más joven claro. Pero las balas de su revólver corrían por debajo del paño verde de los billares en esos cafés oscuros y bajos de la calle Libertad. Dos, tres, seis tiros sobre esas mesas mientras los parroquianos se apoyaban en sus tacos con inquietud hieráticos, extranjeros, pero con esa silenciosa y acusadora dignidad de las víctimas. Había olor a pólvora en aquella sala de billar. Un judío de rancho, insignificante, había seguido frotando la tiza sobre su taco. Vicente vació su revólver sobre una de las mesas de billar. Las balas se deslizaban por debajo del paño como unos extraños gusanos veloces y aturdidos. Eso había sido para divertirse, por cierto. Como él iba a pasar sus horas muertas en uno de los prostíbulos enfrente a los tribunales, le quedaba cerca. Era una diversión cercana. “Un trabajo a un paso de la farra”, comentaban en el Gimnasia y Esgrima. Los tribunales de un lado, y a la vuelta, el prostíbulo y los billares judíos de la calle Libertad. Todo ahí no más. ”Un verdadero centro de diversiones” proclamaba entonces. Pero es que todos los prostíbulos estaban atestados de judíos y muchos judíos andaban en ese negocio.[iii] “Las polacas”, les decían los amigos en el club. “Y una polaca le da vuelta y media a cinco francesas”.  Y todos se divertían con las judías que al fin de cuentas, eran lo mismo. Él, sus compañeros de la facultad en el año del Centenario y la guardia blanca en la semana de enero del 19. Pero con la diferencia que él lo había hecho para pasar el rato, total, no eran más que los paños de los billares. Además, unos días después había ido a pagarlos. Pasar el rato, de eso se trataba, porque él no tenía nada contra los judíos, que eran gente trabajadora y no se metían con nadie. Aunque un poco… un poco… ¿Cómo diría?, calculaba Vicente. Poco elegantes. Ahí estaba. No eran lindos los judíos y qué se la iba a hacer. Se nacío fiero o se nacía con pinta de macho. Una vez le habían comentado en la mesa de Ingenieros: “Usted es el precursor de las guardias blancas. Verá—“ Y Vicente no había sabido si se lo decían en serio o en divertirse. Él no tenía prejuicios. Y no pensaba eso para darse una explicación que lo tranquilizarse.

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[i] La Semana Trágica es el nombre con el que se conoce la represión y masacre sufrida por el movimiento obrero argentino, en la que fueron asesinadas cientos de personas en Buenos Aires, en la segunda semana de enero de 1919, La misma incluyó el único pogromo (matanza de judíos) del que se tiene registro en América. Dentro de la Semana Trágica se produjo el único pogromo (matanza de judíos) del que hay registro en el continente americano. El pogromo tuvo su epicentro en el barrio judío de Once. El pogromo se desató cuando promediaba la Semana Trágica y se sumaron a la represión los civiles de clase alta, Fue llevado a cabo por la Liga Patriótica Argentina, “la guardia blanca”; incendiaron sinagogas. Hubo centenares de muertos

[ii] La prostitución en Argentina fue dominada por judíos por muchos años. Fue terminado por protesta vehementes de la comunidad judía y legislación del gobiernos.

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From the novel: “The Rulers of the Earth, 1958”

 

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“Those of the White Guard”

 

Of course, those of the White Guard were there. Vicente knew them already; in Buenos Aires, from his apartment on Ayacucho Street, he had seen them strike the people of the neighborhood in the January week of 1919. And they broke store windows and the befouled the synagogues. It had been a Monday and solitary and sweaty men wandered the streets, with their ties loose and their jackets in their hands. Those that he had just seen in the port and those who threw tar bombs at the synagogues of Buenos Aires seemed, from their manner to punch and laugh at the same time, to the insolence they had for insulting and stopping in the middle of the street with their legs apart. They were guys who shouted “Dirty Jew” with the same calmness who stood in the exit of a Jewish kindergarten to force them to sing the National Anthem, “Hear, O Mortals, the sacred shout!” Ye, he thought. And from his balcony on Ayacucho Street he had seen those little ones who were singing off-key, spying at their teachers and hoping that they would order them to be quiet at once because the Anthem was not song in that way, or that they leave to run home. But in 1910, which was the Centenary, he, he himself, Vicente had done something similar. Surely, he was younger. But the bullets from his revolver shot below the green cloth of the billiard tables in those dark and humble cafes on Libertad Street. Two, three, six shots over those tables while the neighbors were leaning on their cues. A Jew from the farms, insignificant, had continued rubbing the chalk on his cue. Vicente opened his revolver on a billiard table. The bullets slid under the billiard cloth like some strange and confused worms. This was for fun, of course. Just like he was going to spend his free time in one of the brothels near the courts. It was a nearby diversion. Work just a step from the party, they commented at Gym and Fencing . The gym on one side and, around the corner the Jewish brothel and billiard parlors on Liberty Street. Everything there. That’s it. A true center of entertainment, they proclaimed in those days. But it was that all the brothels were filled with Jews and many Jews were in that business.The Polish girls”, his friends in the club called them.  “And a Polish girl gives you more than five French girls and they all had a good time with the Jewish girls who, in the end were the same ones. He, his buddies from the college, in the year of the Centenary and the White Guards in the January week of 1919. But the difference was that he had done it to pass the time, they weren’t more that cloths on billiard tables, that’s all. Moreover, a few days later, he went over to pay for them. To pass the time, that’s what it was about. Because he didn’t have anything against the Jews, who were hard working people and don’t bother anyone. Although a little… a little. How would you say it?, Vicente  reckoned. Not elegant. That was it. The Jews weren’t attractive and what are you going to do. You are born fierce or you were born with a macho look. He had once heard commented at the Engineer’s table. “You are precursor of the White Guards. You’ll see.” And Vicente didn’t know whether if it was said to him seriously or in jest. He didn’t have prejudices. And he wasn’t thinking that to give himself an explanation that would calm him down.

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“Those of the White Guard”

 

Of course, those of the White Guard were there. Vicente knew them already; in Buenos Aires, from his apartment on Ayacucho Street, he had seen them strike the people of the neighborhood in the January week of 1919. [i]And they broke store windows and the befouled the synagogues. It had been a Monday and solitary and sweaty men wandered the streets, with their ties loose and their jackets in their hands. Those that he had just seen in the port and those who threw tar bombs at the synagogues of Buenos Aires seemed, from their manner to punch and laugh at the same time, to the insolence they had for insulting and stopping in the middle of the street with their legs apart. They were guys who shouted “Dirty Jew” with the same calmness who stood in the exit of a Jewish kindergarten to force them to sing the National Anthem, “Hear, O Mortals, the sacred shout!” Ye, he thought. And from his balcony on Ayacucho Street he had seen those little ones who were singing off-key, spying at their teachers and hoping that they would order them to be quiet at once because the Anthem was not song in that way, or that they leave to run home. But in 1910, which was the Centenary, he, he himself, Vicente had done something similar. Surely, he was younger. But the bullets from his revolver shot below the green cloth of the billiard tables in those dark and humble cafes on Libertad Street. Two, three, six shots over those tables while the neighbors were leaning on their cues. A Jew from the farms, insignificant, had continued rubbing the chalk on his cue. Vicente opened his revolver on a billiard table. The bullets slid under the billiard cloth like some strange and confused worms. This was for fun, of course. Just like he was going to spend his free time in one of the brothels near the courts. It was a nearby diversion. Work just a step from the party, they commented at Gym and Fencing . The gym on one side and, around the corner the Jewish brothel and billiard parlors on Liberty Street. Everything there. That’s it. A true center of entertainment, they proclaimed in those days. But it was that all the brothels were filled with Jews and many Jews were in that business. [ii]The Polish girls”, his friends in the club called them.  “And a Polish girl gives you more than five French girls and they all had a good time with the Jewish girls who, in the end were the same ones. He, his buddies from the college, in the year of the Centenary and the White Guards in the January week of 1919. But the difference was that he had done it to pass the time, they weren’t more that cloths on billiard tables, that’s all. Moreover, a few days later, he went over to pay for them. To pass the time, that’s what it was about. Because he didn’t have anything against the Jews, who were hard working people and don’t bother anyone. Although a little… a little. How would you say it?, Vicente  reckoned. Not elegant. That was it. The Jews weren’t attractive and what are you going to do. You are born fierce or you were born with a macho look. He had once heard commented at the Engineer’s table. “You are precursor of the White Guards. You’ll see.” And Vicente didn’t know whether if it was said to him seriously or in jest. He didn’t have prejudices. And he wasn’t thinking that to give himself an explanation that would calm him down.

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[i] Tragic Week is the name by which the repression and massacre suffered by the Argentine labor movement is known, in which hundreds of people were murdered in Buenos Aires, in the second week of January 1919, it included the only pogrom (massacre of Jews) that is recorded in America. Within the Tragic Week there was the only pogrom (massacre of Jews) of which there is record in the American continent. The pogrom had its epicenter in the Jewish quarter of Once. The pogrom was unleashed when Tragic Week was averaging and the upper-class civilians joined the repression. It was carried out by the Argentine Patriotic League, “the white guard”; synagogues burned. There were hundreds of deaths.

[ii] While prostitution in Argentina was dominated by Jews for many years., it was terminated by vehement protest from the Jewish community and government legislation.

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Bibliografía de David Viñas/David Viñas’ Bibliography

NOVELA/NOVEL

Cayó sobre su rostro (1955)

Los años despiadados (1956)

Un Dios cotidiano (1957)

Los dueños de la tierra (1958)

Dar la cara (1962)

En la semana trágica (1966)

Hombres de a caballo (1967)

Cosas concretas (1969)

Jauría (1971)

Cuerpo a cuerpo (1979)

Prontuario (1993)

Tartabul (2006)

La hermosa yegua

TEATRO/THEATER

Sarah Goldmann

Maniobras

Dorrego

Lisandro (1971)

Tupac-Amaru

Walsh y Gardel

ENSAYO/ESSAYS:

Literatura argentina y realidad política: de Sarmiento a Cortázar (1970)

De los montoneros a los anarquistas (1971)

Momentos de la novela en América Latina (1973)

Indios, ejército y fronteras (1982)

Los anarquistas en América Latina (1983)

Literatura argentina y política – De los jacobinos porteños a la bohemia anarquista (1995)

PREMIOS

Premio Guillermo Kraft (1957)

Premio Gerchunoff (1957)

Premio Nacional de Literatura (1962) y (1971)

Premio Casa de las Américas (1967)

Premio Nacional de Teatro (1972)

Premio Nacional de la Crítica

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “David Viñas (1927-2011) — Crítico social y novelista judío-argentino/Argentine Social Critic and Novelist — “Los dueños de la tierra”/”The Owners of the Earth” — fragmento/excerpt

    1. Viñas was Jewish. His parents had immigrated to Argentina from Russia. The best studies of the Jewish influence in Viñas’ work are in: Darrell Lockhart, Jewish Writers of Latin America: A Dictionary. Routledge, 2013 and Naomi Lindstrom, Jewish Issues in Argentine Literature. U of Missouri Press, 1989.

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      1. Thanks Stephen. To me, Viñas was a paradigmatic cultural Jew, however I did not find any conclusive data and Viñas as such does not look “Russian” in the sense we Argentinians use the term (and you are quite knowledgeable about. Besides, attending military academy in Argentina has not been very Jewish as you also know. Thanks again. Alberto

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