Excerpt fom the documentary "En París" by Carlos Allende
Keys: I = interviewer M = Manuel Scorza
I: Manuel Scorza, how did you become a writer? how was your novel "Redoble por Rancas" born?
M: "Redoble por Rancas", like all the novels I have written, is a book, in fact it applies to al my books, which I experienced before writing. In reality, "Redoble Por Rancas" is a book that was born in reality before than in literature. And I say this because even though I have studies in literature and I had already written five poems, when I participated in the peasant war, in what is now know as the 1960 peasant war, which in those times were events almost unknown in Perú, I didn't go with a literary intention. I did participate on the indigenous' side on the last of the great quechua rebellions of 1960 when the commmunities from the center rebelled against latifundium and against abuses from a North American mining company called Cerro de Pasco Corporation. In year 1960 as I was saying, the last of these last indigenous rebellions happened, which are not included in history, and constitute many chapters of what I call the invisible war. A war that doesn't show up on history books, but which has produced millions of deaths. To give you an idea of what this genocide is and this combat, I must give you the well known number that when the Conquista started in Perú there were approximately fifteen million people, and by the end of the Conquista fifty years later, population had decresead to one million people.
I: What are your activities here in France, in Paris?
M: In France, I am fundamentally a Latin American literature professor at the École normale de Saint-Cloud and also I occasionally work as translator. You know how we live in Paris, doing a bit of everything.
I: What is Paris for you?
M: Paris for me has not been a feast at all. You remember the Hemingway book "A moveable feast". I think that for us Latin American people it is rarely a feast. If you allow me, I would make the question a bit broader, because generally we ask "Why are you in Paris?". I think that we Latin American artists, we come to Paris fundamentally for cultural reasons. Because Paris is a very important cultural center. There has always been a migration of artists to the big cultural centers. There was one in Rome, there was one during renaissance to Florence and the Italian cities, and there is one now to Paris and New York.
I: Manuel, do you think that this city so called "the city of light", is it easy for an anonymous Latin American person?
M: Life in Paris is very hard for all people. It is in Paris where we remember that verse from Quevedo, a beautiful and big verse, "the civil war of the newborns". Here in Paris even in order to be on your two feet you have to fight to death. In that sense, Paris is a very hard city, but it is a fundamental city because it allows us to communicate with the world. It is a vehicle city.
I: Of contact.
M: Of contact. Also don't you forget that we are not far away from our countries. In our countries there are people who are even more far away even though they are living there.
I: So, what do you think, this city, how is it presented to a notorious Latin American, is it the same for them?
M: To a notorious Latin American person, I think that they are given the chance to contact the great French intelligence, meet the greatest Europeans. Because we can talk a lot about the hardships of Paris, but evidently here there is a first-class intelligence, and this intelligence allows us to make the exact questioning of our problem, which is the most serious, the third world one. Here we realize in a painful way our condition of being humans of the third world, and here either we adopt it or we stop having it, we quit our condition.
I: Manuel, currently the critiques in Europe and France applaud you. What is the reason for this impact you are having in this society?
M: I think that the fundamental impact that my book could have made in France, which I acknowledge has been big, is the current interest that European culture is having in contemplating what we call the vision of the defeated. When Europe was a culture, the white culture that was confident in its ways, it expanded across the world, anihilated and destroyed practically all the cultures in the world, without ever worrying about if these cultures were important or valuable. But now that Europe has lost its compass in moral and ethics, because there is a big confusion about values as you know, there is a movement of repentance and of regression, and of interest for the cultures that have been murdered. We ask ourselves, what if Maya people had the key that we have lost, what if the Incas had insights we don't know. And this movement for repentance and interest in the losing of the way is what motivates that nowadays Europeans are looking in other cultures insights that they might have overlooked.
I: And do you think that this society can clearly understand your work, what you are explaining to me right now?
M: Well, I think that fundamentally yes, because I have seen it in the press response in France, I have seen it in the translations, and I think also that we Latin American people are in a moment of creation in all our language, our race, we are writing an universal language. That is what is important, that our books are not being read in Europe because they are folklore, but because they are ultimately universal.
I: Would that be the role of Latin American artists in Europe?
M: I believe so. I think that even if we want it or not, we are doomed or we have the privilege of demonstrating our problems. The Latin American novel is like a big plaza where all the problems of America converge. This big plaza has a double importance because in Latin America we either lack freedom of speech or the tools to express ourselves. The novel is then the big agora where we present our problems.
I: Sure. Manuel, what would be the obligation of the Latin American artist with where they come from?
M: Our obligation is very serious because it is our duty to express our reasons, for which we have fundamentally been an alienated culture. We have been imposed a mithology that doesn't belong to us, the Greco-Roman mythology. Particularly with the people from Andes, it is a mithology that has no value, not even as a culturan canon, because our bodies, our proportions don't correspond to the Greco-Roman ideals and that has led us to an inferiority complex. By voicing our problems, we will assume our true personality.