Sunday, September 02, 2012
[Start][Previously on]

The Shadow of Heidegger

It was 1951 and in my country (I continue owing you an explanation: which leads me to anticipate the word country with the possessive my when I speak of Argentina) there were elections. I’ll reach for again – and I don’t think for the last time – to Borges. He wrote: “In reality he liked symmetries”. The symmetry I will show you may be intolerable to you. It’s made between you and a tango poet. Yes, Master, tango, the masterly work my country has produced and, I suspect, will never surpass. Two years before the appearance of Being and Time, in 1925, a thin bard, sickly, with a big nose and an ingenuity and bottomless desperation writes a tango that he calls: Qué vachaché [Whatcha gonna do]. Don’t look at me like that: the first two words I don’t say in the language of Goethe and Hölderlin and you almost blow a valve. I propose you savor the expression: Qué vachaché. It is not Castilian, perhaps not Argentinian either. It is lunfardo. It’s the brawling and whoring language of the lower classes. Our national bard resorts to it, because to those classes, above all to them and the middle classes, he wants to express himself. It is a case – the phrase, no? – of a resigned gesture. It means: what is one to do? What should we do about it? It means, above all: nothing more can be done nor does it make sense to try. Discépolo, that’s the name of the desperate, existential poet, I’m talking about, had very few things. And hope was what was in shortest supply for him. The tango is from 1925. And it was, in Argentina, a period so disturbed, so extravagant and without direction like it was here, in Germany, under the Weimar Republic. In a few years, a local Führer would seize power. Discépolo didn’t believe in that Führer and continued with his unreturnable letters. Listen to this one: “Esta noche me emborracho bien, me mamo bien mamao. . .pa no pensar” [Tonight I’m really getting drunk, I’ll suckled until I’m well suckled. . .to not think]. You like my Castilian. I speak it cleanly. No external accent taints my speech. If I chose German, I speak like a German, as you speak it. If I chose Castilian, I speak like an Argentinian. Like Borges speaks. I know that to a great language teacher like you (someone who has said that there, in language, dwells Being) will be interested in this exotic scene I’m handing you: the voice of a tango poet. To speak plainly, Master: Discépolo was the Heidegger of 1927, that of Being and Time, that somber text, thrown to the possibilities of the possible, death, the expressionist text, that text about anxiety, about nothing, the text bred by the lack of horizons of that republic, that so frightened you, that of Weimar, the weak, the impotent, incapable of braking the biggest fear of good German bourgeoisie, Bolshevism. Discépolo has nothing to do with that. He wasn’t a communist, but wasn’t afraid of it. He lived surrounded by social writers, by feverish readers of Russian novelists. To whom, those novelists, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and even Gorki, he owed so much. But life overwhelmed him. Regard the climate of brutal nihilism found in the phrase I’ve just quoted to you. I’ll say it in German. I’ll explain it. It is a poem, of course. A man, leaving a cabaret, sees the woman that, ten years earlier, was his madness, his great love. She, now, has deteriorated because . . . Why, Master, why might that be? By existence. He sees her old, worn out. He sees, in her image, not only the passage of time; also death. That woman, the one he loved, soon will die, in the poverty and cruelty of a definitive evil. To see her is to see one’s self. Also for him, time has passed, and passed badly, ruining him. How damaged he is by the encounter. How painful is it to see die what one loved. How painful it is to die, to die alone, because what one loved is no more. He pauses: his thoughts poison him. He decides to get drunk. Get well drunk, without limits. Why? To not think, Master; to elude our trade, philosophy. Because philosophy, thinking, is, at times, so intolerable, that it kills.


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