Every Thursday, the Avui publishes the Supplement cultural- the book review and arts section. It's my ritual to download the PDF edition (1,2 Mb) and print it out. That way I if there are any Catalan books that catch my interest I can given the title to my parents when they go to Spain or I can place an order at one of the online Catalan book stores.
Yesterday's edition had an interview with Sontag about her latest book: The Catalan title is Cap a America (Towards America though I don't know if that,s the original English title). So my comments about Sontag's Catalan interview isn't some shamless trolling for the coat tail effects that John and Antonio obtained thanks to Andrew Sullivan and Pejman. Rather, it was important to point out that Sontag gave an interview to a European minority language newspaper and to translate anything comments she made to a wider audience.
I must say that I was particularly disappointed because Sontag comes across as rather reasonable in the interview. However, I did come across 2 answers that struck me as rather interesting. Here's the interviewer's question in translation:
The protagonist of the book, the Polish actress Marnya Zalezoskwa, emigrates to the United Sates to found a commune in California and 'to reinvent herself' [ED: the Catalan text uses the generic reflexive reinventar-se] as a person, thanks to the possibilities in prospering that this country offers in the 19th century. Do you believe that the myth of the American dream is still possible today?
Sontag's answer:For many people, the United States continues to be the country of possibilities. And still it's also a country of myths, for many it's still the land where it's easy to prosper. I don't believe that there's just one American dream, but rather many; and some are contradictory. For the rest of the world and the Americans [ED: the Catalan text uses nord-americans] it's a land of a big dream [ ED: the Catalan text uses fanatsia which translates into fantasy but the context does lend itself to that word but rather of dreams] where dreams are realized and other are frustrated. Yesterday, [9 Jan 2003] I read the newspaper headlines where I said that I'm ashamed to be an American. I don't if it's the fault of the translation that they did to me or the journalists but the truth is that I never said such a thing. I commented that I was angry at the government we have but it,s not the same thing.
Towards the end of the interview, the tone become increasingly sychophantic. Sontag drones on about how her latest book is just as brilliant as the last one. The interviewer ask if she has to believe Sontag or not.
Here's Sontag's answer:
I don't know! Good question! It's difficult for me to classify my own work. The media has spoken so much about me that in the end I finish believe what they say about me [ED: the Catalan text uses de la meva persona]. I've become some kind of myth and I don't like it
There one other quote that I don't know what to make of it. Sontag answers a previous question to the above about how she and her critics see the latest novel the beginnings of a new style:
I don't know what to tell you. All of the opinions that I've made about my work has been the result of questions that the journalists have asked. It certain that I affirmed such and such but I'm not sure that it be true.The journalists ask me and I have to answer them, I'm obliged to reflect on what I wrote and rationalize it
I'll let the readers conclude on their own what to make of Sontag's comments. I view them as interesting at least with respect to the fact that she doesn't like her 'myth.' I wonder if the blogger have something to do with puncturing the soft filtered portrait to expose something more realistic about Sontag and her work?
I read this article in my local newspaper. I was so stunned at how much it reeks as an apology for Chavez that I couldn't pass what Larry Birns and Matthew Wardsaid in silence I tried to find the article at my paper's website but couldn't find it. Consequently I used Google and found the Council of Hemispheric Affairs' webiste where I found the article in question. I sent the link to Richard Jahnke of the El Sur blog where I look forward to his comments.
In the meantime, I wish to elaborate on remarks about I concluded that the aforementioned article by Birns and Wardsaid is nothing more than an apology of Chavez. Indeed reading it, with turgid jargon and lifeless prose, brought back memories of the neo-Marxist analyses of Latin America during my university studies.
The article is disingenuous in that it glosses over how Chavez's policies and his personality have led Venezuela to the present crisis. Indeed it's difficult to take the authours seriously when they state that:
Unquestionably, Chávez has been irritating, insulting, infuriating and confrontational, but arguably, he has adhered to democratic ground rules at least as faithfully as those opposed to his rule, and his failings are as much a matter of style as substance.
If Chávez is so democratic, why has the near totality of Venezuelan civil society mobilized to oppose him, his policies and the direction that he's taking the country? If he's so committed to the democratic institutions and the spirit of the constitution, why has he created a parallel military structure called the Bolivarian circles (círculos boliviaranos)? Quite clearly, Birns and Warhsaid gloss over Chávez's decisions that have alienated vast segments of the society in order to portray him as another Abnez Guzmán- a do gooder populist intent on land reform and other social reforms- done in by the local oligarches and transnational capital.
The authours engage in distasteful ad hominem attacks of the Venezulan opposition and can't avoid smearing the Miami exile community:
For the opposition, its anti-Chávez battering ram has all-too-often been propelled by mendacious arguments defending meretricious goals. It has featured specious ad hoc interpretations of the constitution and hysterical justifications for what essentially has often been its outrageous behavior. It distorts as often as it invents. Its current mission is to asphyxiate the economy by freezing oil output, which is Venezuela's lifeline. This includes refusing to honor the Supreme Court's decision ordering a temporary discontinuation of the nation's debilitating oil strike, in contrast to Chávez's compliance when the court ruled that control of the Caracas police be returned to the Caracas mayor Alfredo Pena's authority, who is one of Chávez's political enemies......
Anti-Chavistas are on par with Miami's Cuban exile community in their virulent anti-Castro demonology, more reminiscent of the Reagan administration's crusade against Moscow than a sophisticated analysis of détente politics. Some of the more compromised leaders of Venezuela's business and labor sectors are on weak moral ground when they threaten to indict Chávez for corruption even though he, unlike some of themselves, has no record of defalcating the public.
There may be a way out for patriotic Venezuelans. The opposition could wait until next August, when the very constitution it selectively touts provides for a binding referendum midway through a presidential term on the incumbency's continued tenure. But what happens if Chávez wins such a ballot? This will almost guarantee that the middle class, as it did in Colombia, will turn to vigilantism against the perceived leftist devils, and the epoch of death squads will be inaugurated. Or, the legislature could call for presidential elections earlier than 2006, even prior to next August. But, if the opposition is to triumph, it must do so lawfully and through the amendment process, and not through political chicanery or economic extortion.
Consequently, Chávez gets a free pass to skitter from one dismal miscalculation to another and can even propel Venezuela to the worst political chaos since Chile because he's the democratically elected president. A chief executive who extended his term until 2006 and resists the referendum to shorten his term; yet the opposition must abide by strict democratic ethics. Finally, the authours advise to Chávez and his supporters won't only be ignored but is disturbingly parallel to what was proffered to Allende as recounted by Claudio Véliz in his lecture on the '73 coup.
Chávez won't as Allende but the former will eventually be exiled from the country in the time honoured tradition.
Den Beste is totally beside himself that the French will most likely contribute forces to a possible Iraqi invaison His moral outrage is inconsistent with the exigencies of national interest and the use of force as he articulated in this particularly in wthis article and this one.
Den Beste tireless reminds everyone, the French are weak and life is about the weak making the best possible deals with the strong. Consequently,the French have dispassionately analyzed both their relative position in the world and how to advance their self-interest. The government has concluded that the country will contribute armed forces to a potential invasion and will play an important role in toppling Saddam and obliterating the Ba'ath regime in Iraq. Den Beste completely forgets that the French were the second largest arms exporter back in the days when Iraq was kosher and a major trading partner. In fact there's a strong Francophile element in Iraqi society. France's national interest compels it to protect the debt contracted by the present regime in any future regime. Further, the French require a reliable source of energy, because unlike Britian and the U.S, the country doesn't have its own oil fields, and All those factors probably give France some insider information that the Americans and British don't possess and the French have most likely leveraged to their advantage.
That the Bush Administration and the Labour government may be unhappy about the French volte face is frankly besides the point; the latter has concluded that it's in the country's interest to participate and have some say in the subsequent peace and reconstruction.
Bruce Rolston also reminds Den Beste about the intricacies of alliance warfare within the contemporary West The Allies aren't frat boy pledges to be bossed around by the brothers during Freshman week. They're countries with diverse national interests that have coalesced to eradicate a common threat. After all, Den Beste has fulminated in the past about how American soldiers must never, ever be under foreign command. American soldiers are to advance American interests only
His disdain for the French to do the same is irrelevant; they're quite reasonable to be wary. Recent history bears out the French. During World war I, the British generals were strategically imbecilic and squandered the resources they had because of their lack of imagination. Worse, the generals presumed that they would have a free hand, for example, to break up the Canadian army and use them as replacements for depleted British units. The Canadian generals and politicians resisted, even threatened to pull out of the war altogether if the British generals got their way.. After all, the British generals weren't accountable to Canadian, New Zelander or Australian politicians; so there wasn't as much political pressure on them to be prudent with the Commonwealth soldiers.
The American generals won't reckless with the Allied soldiers if an invasion occurred. However, the former would be tempted to employ the later to advance American interests without much accountability to the Allied national governments.