Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Bolivian writer Victor Hugo Viscarra


In loving memory to
Víctor Hugo Viscarra /R.I.P. 1.958 - 2.006

La Paz, chaos in motion. A bacchanal of colors and sounds. Merchants and stallholders, traders, street vendors, shoe-shiners children everywhere, car horns mixed with Andean and cumbia music, that is La Paz, the political and cultural center of a place called, Bolivia. While you stay here, it is best to let yourself get lost in it all, until the whirling noises become a murmur, and the din becomes music. La Paz is chaos, if viewed from the outside, that is if viewed from a western, foreign or colonial perspective, As the day is fading away slowly and all the street vendors and shoe-shiners children are on the way back home, an underworld society is all set to show its life toward an endless sunset. In-to the night, a few fundamentalist Christians are preaching between the fringe and the establishment to set free themselves, whilst a young beauty woman is sniffing cocaine and hundreds of underage whores are simultaneously wandering about through dark alleys the gloomy streets are fading away in-to a strange black color.

A bohemian night is also about to begin for some paceños writers who think that the night is the best partner of a light bohemian, ready to catch their muses, to afterwards have fun and presume of their snobbish works of the underworld, the characters, sociologists and social psychologists.In the meantime some migrants are set up somewhere in El Alto, and only God knows, the sad conditions ‘till the early morning, while the snobbish researchers have already moved to snubburbia.

El Alto has a geographic and strategic advantage over La Paz, towering 13.000 feet above sea level, it controls the slopes and access into the capital, which is located at 11.800 feet in a deep depression in the earth where the Spaniards decided to build Bolivia’s main city.

From a social stand point, one could say that on the northern plateau, the poor live above, El Alto, and the rich live below, La Paz. However, historically speaking the Bolivian outcast never were counted on any statistics, they had become sadly the eternally, "Nadies". Literature’s realm wouldn’t be the greatest exception.

Ab Initio, Bolivian literature never cared about the lowest classes and outcast people was condemned to hell. Obviously there were a few exceptions, writers who talked about the most typical problems, from the middle classes, the dangers of youth and social approach like the classic work from early twenty century of Alcides Arguedas, Pueblo Enfermo, poets and novelists who always returned to their holy academic shelters.

So, a man who never talked about hell but from it, it’s like the most beautiful flower in the ugliest swamp. Bolivian society was always racist and snobbish concerning cultural and literature likes. Although we have (and had) few true warriors of a true living word, the Spanish and particularly French influence was always the constant.

Then, let’s welcome to the man who wrote from the pit, Victor Hugo Viscarra, who born on 2 January 1958 in La Paz, Bolivia, he left home in his early childhood, when he was 15 years old, the reason ?... child abuse from his parents. Fully in-to the streets, he learned the street language, mob speak and slang as any kid from his age. Roaming through different neighborhoods and cities, Viscarra had learned to survive, surmounting and dealing with thieves, killers and drug-addicts among poor humble children, ungainlies dogs and beggars.

On 1981, a newspaper’s article about coba words, (slang) got angry to a young Victor Hugo, who said that, there were only five coba words, the other 200 were a fake. That’s why, he became involved straight away to compose a true Dictionary about, the way of speak from the Bolivian delinquency, collecting coba words and idioms.

The same year appeared in a limited pocket edition of 1000 copies, Coba, Lenguaje del Hampa Boliviano, with a prologue of Don Antonio Paredes Candia. The Dictionary has two updated editions more, the last one with pictures and a brief summary of humble professions from the underworld, according to Viscarra.

On 1996 appeared, Relatos de Víctor Hugo, a collection of cuentos, short cuentos and rare and beautiful short writings, the stuff is, between the auto-biography and the ethnographic approach, there was an evident usage of his dictionary work, which enlighten beautifully the content. Nine years later, a new re-edition was shown this time including black and white drawings.

It was with the publication of his next book, Alcoholatum y otros drinks/ crónicas para gatos y pelagatos, (Editorial Correveidile 2001), that Viscarra became widely known.

Alcoholatum immediately became a "best seller", this new collection of cuentos, short stories and relatos showed more sensibility from underworld. Viscarra with a great ability to combine tenderness and compassion with raw humor and cruelty, was offered to take his first trip to German and a translation of his Coba Dictionary and Alcoholatum by Katy Leonard, later on he’d confessed me that he’d never had left La Paz, "I belong here", he told me. Somehow, he knew inside that his place was to be here with the people who always loved and lived with. And the Alcoholatum’s translation never showed up …

The success of Alcoholatum made possible for Viscarra to be widely interviewed in the principal newspapers and literary magazines. Beyond Alcoholatum’s importance as a social document from a hermetic sector of Bolivian society, was also an affirmation of Viscarra’s belief in the true rights of the outcast, arguing that they also have virtues and feelings as well as mistakes as everyone.

On 2002, a new trip of unknown adventures, came to disturb the Bolivian's lightest brains, this time the cool and extremely ironic title was, Borracho estaba, pero me acuerdo/ Memorias del Víctor Hugo(Editorial Correveidile), showing an opposite fact of the common drunkards, who usually don’t remember anything. Besides, it sounded kind of funny to the people, showing an opposite fact.
Viscarra was the only writer congratulated and recognized alive, his greatest proud was that he never finished High School, which in the Bolivian society is very important, creating a series of social prejudices for them, if you are not professional you are not trustworthy, there is no place for a self-taught mind.

“Borracho estaba… “got a contract with Mono Azul Editorial from Spain, (2006), this new book usually analized as the less literary compared to Alcoholatum, disclosed new characters forbidden already by the Bolivians, new coba (slang) words, interesting idioms and a brutal honesty. In 2004, he gave legal advice to the Bolivian film, American Visa, of Juan Carlos Valdivia, based on the novel of Juan de Recacochea, counseling all the scenes from the fringe areas and danger neighborhoods, showing one more time that Viscarra could easily be part of a film procces, without any problem, besides many literature students asked him for advice.

Viscarra or, el (the) Viscarrita, as we like to call him, is a Bolivian phenomenon, such as few writers ever become, and in his instinctive striving for the "lowest classes", he crystallized the unarticulated feelings of thousands of other ordinary Bolivians, brought up under the same conditions and subject to the same values.

Almost at the end of 2005, his last masterwork was published through the Bolivian; Editorial Correveidile, Avisos Necrológicos, the last collection of 27 short stories and creative writing, marginal cuentos because of their protagonists who are involved in the submerged population groups.
Outsiders, old whores along underage ones, sharing a common life with old abandoned dogs and little pussy cats, Viscarra’s writing has an advantage from its short-storiness that of focus. A novel would get bogged down in details, in divergence of plot, and so on, a short story concentrates on one thing, the getting across the full effect of the fantastic event(s) the author writes.

Víctor Hugo Viscarra, somehow was shily criticized by “serious writers” and academics for his lack of formal skill, I don’t deny that Viscarra’s lack of formal skill is a serious flaw, I would argue however, that it’s no more serious a flaw than Jaime Saenz’s obscurity. Sadly, not many literary approaches works, were done on Viscarra’s books, although he was shamelessly imitated.

Furthermore, poets and academics have much to learn from Viscarra’s approach to life and literature. The sum total of Viscarra’s work presents nothing less than a compressed, crudely coherent philosophy of street life.

His early short stories featured depraved urban characters in dark alleys and gloomy bars. The popularity of these stories rests on an abundance of profanity and the shock value of raw sex and a beauty tenderness toward street dogs and cats. The main importance of Viscarra’s work is based on his, Coba (slang) Dictionary, which enriched throughout of his literary work.

What you might notice right away in Viscarra’s writing is brutal honesty, no masks, few precious words, just straight-forward statement.

Víctor Hugo Viscarra’s death, on 24, May 2006, after a long treatment of a complicated cirrosis, has not staunched the regular flow of his publications. A new volume of the Coba dictionary will be published posthumously, thanks to his Editor, Mr. Manuel Vargas.

At the end of his life Víctor Hugo fell into an endless spiral, of the bohemian vicious, the alcohol, he really liked it, but the details hardly matter. The reputation of the Bolivian literary rebel is now in the hands of thousands of readers or writers wheter they are outsiders or snobbish people. As Viscarra himself confessed me that the greatest recognition (to his work) didn’t come from an academic, but from a "common woman" of the slum area, it was in the early morning of any day in a cold bar in La Paz, the alcoholic woman told him; “ writer ! I’ve read your book… you haven’t lied “.

Viscarra after living 33 years in the threshold of society, now rest in peace in the "Cementerio General" of La Paz.

There are writers in each generation who as time go by, are seen to be more important for their effect upon their contemporaries than upon posterity…

I still remember the first time when a friend of mine, Juan Carlos Flores Escóbar -who dedicated to Viscarra some precious lines in his last novel, Evo en el Paraíso- lent me Viscarra’s  Alcoholatum, it seemed to me that, that prolonged Henry Miller’s insult, a gob of spit in the face of art, was still alive...
It inspired me to action, those hermetic words were active rather than meditative. Such writers communicate their own sense of necessity, for doing battle with the immediate life that lies before them.

This deep necessity for expression breaks through all formally conceived mediums so that the seed of their personal inspiration can be planted in ourselves. Once done, these seminal spirits die as if nature itself intended that they should be sacrificed once their function have been fulfilled...thus...I might say... why don’t we... (yes, you!) just drop in and let the game begin ?

When the sunlight brightly gleams out there in the sunset of the Salar de Uyuni (in Bolivia) or anywhere down here in this pale gaia (mama-pacha) and the silence drowns the nameless ethilic screams in the cities of this world... I’ll feel that a keen Alcoholatum Ens Semini drink will be sown or drunken (a forbidden drink) somewhere between of nowhere...

Must confess, that after all, the greatest writers have changed life first, and literature afterwards.

Rest in Peace!

De EVERLASTING ALCOHOLSTICE 6.666 (blog del autor), 21/06/2017 

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