Marcelo Cohen, the expansion of consciousness | Culture

Writer and translator Marcelo Cohen.

“It seems to me that if there is an efficiency to which we can aspire in literature, it is in the broadening of consciousness, and this is linked to the overcoming of mediations, to the multiplication of ways of thinking and to the ‘approach the real,’ he told her. Marcelo Cohen told Graciela Speranza in 1993. Cohen died last Saturday, the 17th, in the city of Buenos Aires. He was born in the Argentine capital on September 29, 1951 and was still living in Barcelona at the time, where he had arrived shortly before the March 1976 coup. “The Barcelona of that time was a considerable mental journey”, writes -he. years later. “All the heterodoxies that had been incubated under Francoism were deployed in a multi-machine of projects, not all of them impossible. […] One day, I discovered that no one was watching me or asking me for explanations: this independence, which I had never felt and which exalted me, helped me over time to read better, to see more , to discover what was important to me to write and to decide on a job. “.

“The profession of translator can be sublime or grotesque, but it is rarely boring”, he underlined. Over the years Cohen has translated Kathy Acker, Jane Austen, JG Ballard, Ray Bradbury, William Burroughs, Al Alvarez, Raymond Roussel, Edmund De Waal, Gene Wolfe, Philip K. Dick, TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Clarice Lispector and Philip Larkins, among others. Already one of the most important Spanish translators of the time, he published his first novel in 1984: The country of the electric lady it was a book about the loss of innocence and revealed its author’s enormous interest in music, of which he was an avid and simple scholar.

It was followed by novels like Kelany’s website (1987), absolute height (1989), Will of O’Jaral (year one thousand nine hundred and ninety-five), where I was not (2006) and Other people’s house (2009), ten storybooks — including the end of the same (1992), nice men (1998), aquatics (2001) and green cry (2022) – and seven books of essays, including a year without springa beautiful book from 2017 in which the loss of this season of the year following a stay in the northern hemisphere and the contemplation of an infrequent nature led the author to reflect on the “many fictions that begin by mentioning meteorology” and a handful of tours, ranging from an installation by David Hockney to an article by Naomi Klein, voices from Anne Carson, John Berrymann and John Ashbery to those of Arturo Carrera, Tom Maver and Chris Andrews, from the weather diaries of the singular Henry Darger to a canonical work by Claude Lévi-Strauss, taken from the extraordinary book by JA Baker Pilgrim – which Cohen translated in 2016 – to the realization that environmental destruction and climate change leave us literally without time.

A time like ours – accustomed to editorial overproduction and the spontaneous expiration of authors and titles – can struggle to understand the way in which Cohen’s books were, and are, read and cherished by his readers, who were waiting – we were waiting – anxiously for the next novel, the next text, the new piece that the author added to the puzzle of his Panoramic Delta, a deliberately opaque territory situated between reality and fiction, between a certain representation of Argentine orality and linguistic innovation, between narrative realism and fictional speculation, in which many of his books take place.

“Reading better” and “seeing more” were part of Cohen’s vital narrative project, which expanded the possibilities of contemporary literature in Spanish and is one of the most visibly hidden influences of many of its authors. “For me, the risk and the possibility of failure, as a reader and as a writer, translates into an increase in wholeness,” he told Speranza in 1993. “Entry into an opaque world includes the possibility of a more radical escape.The writers who give me the most interesting experiences, those which really matter to me, produce in me this general agitation united of thought, memory, feeling and sense. [que significa] the expansion of consciousness”.

Marcelo Cohen produced this commotion with extraordinary efficiency, and he didn’t just do it in his books. One midday in May this year, sitting in front of him in a bar in Buenos Aires, for example: sitting in front of him, I felt the urge to take notes, to check readings, to jot down names and titles, to try to live up to his intelligence and that of Graciela Speranza, his wife since that 1993 interview during which they met. Cohen and Speranza together later directed Other part, the Argentinian magazine of thought and the arts. There he published one of his last texts, an essay entitled Around Vaca Muerta. Notes on fracturing and the name of a deposit, which reflects the way he conceives of human existence: as a natural manifestation, potentially harmful, but not without a beauty that must be preserved.

Cohen once wrote that his parents – he, Bulgarian; ella, hija de ucranianos y polacos, ambos judíos— le habían transmitido “una buena cantidad de miedos, titubeos y un descreimiento plagado de supersticiones, pero también fuerza de voluntad, mucho cariño y una propensión a disfrutar con pequeños placers: un paseo con helados , a film”. A few years later, under a blazing sun, in Buenos Aires, he offered me the cap he was wearing. Out of modesty, I did not want to accept it, but Marcelo called me back. that it is good to get rid of things, to give: perhaps he felt in doing so one of those “little pleasures” that he appreciated so much. For my part, I felt that I had had a lot luck in choosing my teachers: it stays with me and I use it sometimes, for example when I remember the many other things Cohen gave us that will stay with us.

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