words by Francisco López Sacha
In El escarabajo de Namibia Jesus Lara dares to sculpt with the word, which involves throwing a chisel against the wind. That is the texture of his aphorisms. Brief blows on the sound stone. An outline, or rather a foreshortening that can capture in an instant what has been meditated and felt for many years. A word, a phrase, a line, the premeditated leap to catch the fastest idea, the most pristine pleasure, the sentence that can conclude a sentence. In short, the blow of a judge. Then there is the echo, the reminiscence, the memory, whatever waits in time. The resistance of the wind is intangible; it seems that the chisel penetrated through it without changing it. But each blow modifies it, and changes us forever.
I have tried to approach this work as if I were sculpting myself in the wind. Lara perfectly dominates the art of the axiom, the clear message of the phrase elaborated until the hardness of the rock. His search begins where it ends, and that is precisely the poetic opening of the genre, which starts almost with a riddle and concludes with an interrogation. What can the sculptor’s add to the stone? A new figure, an experience, the possibility of leaving a footprint and an encrypted message.
The texts of this first section belong to that purpose; they are the wardrobe of a series of meditations that include the proverb, the drum of the old adages, the metaphor, and the precise and inspired line that provokes a reaction of panic or happiness before an uncovered truth. I think of something as clear, as harmonious as the text that Lara includes at the beginning of this collection: “Ideals can change just like interests”. It seems the author changes the famous statement by Octavio Paz up: “The left has ideals, the right only interests”. But Lara is inclined to take a closer look. Change is the essence, the natural substance of our world. Without change we would be stones, scattered and confused rocks without direction, without a sense. That is the nature of things, far beyond any political disposition. Lara knows that gender can assume that ambivalence because ideals and interests assume the same value in it. Both are dynamic projects.
This sort of interpretation, suggested by the text itself, leads me to consider that Lara respects the gender style, but not its old words. Lara moves through this space as if creating it again, as if he lived on a mountain. That is to say, he does not ignore the vast tradition in the popular imagery of sayings, maxims, advent, and even less the historical explosion that provoked Seneca and Marcus Aurelius in the Latin culture. However, Lara assumes his voice and generates an approach that modernizes it, reintegrating also all the force the aphorism had from its origins until today. The audacity of his remarks rests on the fact that each life is unique and each age projects a very particular destiny over it. Lara can create a world made up of other laws, other words, without resorting to the collective inventory, without sacrificing neither his points of view nor the elegance or hardness of his style.
This is perhaps the greatness of this work, the attempt to narrate in the foreground and get, with a handful of words, the beauty and the explosion of an idea. Lara knows very well that one does not live in the word and whatever is set or recorded there will be always new. This advantage allows him to omit the obvious truths and launch himself to pursue a multiple experience where he welcomes in equal conditions the problems of the couple, sex, beliefs, daily difficulties, and even the grave conditions of human life on the planet. With this variety, Lara extracts the sound, the sense, the density of that unmanageable material. In fact, every blow that resonates makes the sculptor tremble.
The same author states: “When there is not enough humility to yield, there is the variation of reaching an agreement”. Lara can make a secret pact with the same figures he recreates, with that hailstorm of words, shards that come off his work with the stone. Each expression is the gain of its effort and is the finest wrapping of what we know, but we not dare to think. The author knows in depth that he works with uncomfortable truths, but draws from them a pleasant substance, an effect, an illumination.
Now, this is not an absolute. Each of these observations can be read in series. Some may excel by their novelty, others by their audacity, another by the tone, and some others by the pain. The important thing is to assume them as a whole, as a universe, where each of them performs a different function. By reading this first section I can believe that the rhythm, movement and acoustics of the words give a chromatic scale to these aphorisms, as well as the separate work that each instrument, bass, guitar, güiro, keys, maracas and voices are the ones that produce the polyrhythmic of son music, the Cuban sound par excellence, the great discovery of Alejo Carpentier. That is why to claim a classification is useless, and even a selection. They are there; they stand for themselves and in relation to the meaning the artist bestows on them.
I will think that the general lacks purpose, as the author says, or that the best song is the one that comes out alone, as Bob Dylan says. For the second section of this book, nature officiates as a teacher and any of its creatures can carry a message. Lara interprets these signs—“What is there around me that is already defined, inscribed, present, and still cannot be understood? What sign, what message, what warning, in the curls of chicory, the alphabet of mosses, the geometry of the orchard?” (Alejo Carpentier, Explosion in a Cathedral) and here he does not work as the sculptor he is, not even as the painter, but as the shrewd observer, the visionary who can find in the seed of what precedes us what will come. I would like to add that the level of writing is optimal. I have said little: it is excellent. Here is the whole body of the meditator, the essayist, the narrator, giving us a concise, magnetized, mirroring prose. I would say, to continue with his analogies, a magnetite prose.
Lara’s intention is to endow intelligence and sagacity with the struggle to survive, the instinct of conservation, the prolongation of the species, which turns tiny insects or big fish into real cybernetic machines. In this section, his brief treatises announce a kind of mandatory stop before closing the book. That is, another way of putting a warning on the road.
Lara does not abandon, even if he wants to, the purposes that lead him to write and to endow beauty with abstract thinking. Whether as a sculptor, as a miniaturist, as a painter, or as a thinker, writing is a function of that message written in time, with the violence of an idea or with the subtle analogy of an essay.
His Diccionario de la lengua dantesca goes beyond this profile to fix his criterion in a more precise way. The book will end with another model of writing, the one that comes from scientific observation and linguistic precision. Both can be as exact, hard, and palpable as stone. But his dictionary is elusive and misleading. These definitions do not appear in any previous text; they are inventions, pleasures, acts of rebellion and violence against the prison that contains them. What is valued as good—good, beautiful and useful—is inverted here, it is shown on its underside, in its hidden nature. Neither goodness nor altruism or hopes are perennial values, but states of consciousness, and sometimes, they are real obstacles to the human condition. His judgment of Don Quixote is palpable proof: “a mandatory reading for sane prisoners detained in hospitals by psychiatric free people”. Are we going to be crazy, or are we going to be sane? Lara can enjoy with his way of understanding the language and with his wily rebellion of the genres. Lara sings to the joy of thinking, the enormous freedom of words.
Let’s leave the sculptor, painter, meditator and poet to absorb every drop of the existence and to let it get to us with that persistence, that cleverness, that delivery of the Beatles, the beetle from Namibia.
Havana, March 29, 2016.