Aub on intellectuals

One of the surprises of Sergio Vila-Sanjuán and Sergi Doria’s Passejades per la Barcelona literària (“Walks in literary Barcelona”) is that it ignores Max Aub, whose Campo cerrado, the first part of a six-volume account of the war, is probably the best fictionalised version of the period leading to the events of July 1936 in Barcelona and one of the best Barcelona novels out there. My guess it that he didn’t make it into this council-sponsored book, despite having been a communist (and writing from this perspective) because of his historically reasonable but currently unfashionable view that there was little to divide the extremes of left and right from one another, and for his unfavourable portrayal of political Catalanism. (There was a delicious irony in Barcelona mayor Clos’s recent anti-censorship defence of the publication of the council text for kiddies that suggested that Israel’s wall might be as bad as the Holocaust: government funds are used systematically to support and impose on the market tendentious readings of history.)

Salomar is a modified version of the real-life Falangist and writer, Luys de Santamarina, with whom Aub used to go drinking in El Oro del Rhin in the 30s. Lledó is a rehash of the Barcelona journalist, Lladó, Morales is the poet José Jurado Morales, and other members of the circle turn up in the book. El Oro del Rhin–Rheingold to any Wagnerians out there–was a café in the gorgeous Casa Pia Batlló at Rambla de Catalunya 17 that was frequented by the glamorous and the literate and those who felt themselves to be so until the late 60s.

Anyway, here’s the correct version of the quote which I got wrong here and which turns up several times in Campo cerrado. House-trained Falangist, Luis Salomar, is chatting with ambitious Catalan socialist academic, José Lledó:

“Look,” said Lledó one evening in the Golden Lion, “the bourgeoisie have got to the stage where they are unable to talk about anything apart from their needs and the pleasures deriving from them: gastronomy, woman and transportation.”
“And what else is there to talk about?” asked Rubió, who was there by chance.
“Politics and art, my fiery friend. I’m not going to claim that the bourgeoisie don’t talk about politics or art, but they talk about them exclusively in terms of their needs.”
“Any moment and you’ll be telling me that the workers talk about politics and art for pure pleasure.”
“We were talking about intellectuals,” replied Salomar.
“And what is an intellectual?”
“A man who has a moral relationship with politics. Or for whom politics is a moral problem, if you prefer.”
“Ah! And what is politics, mister more or less socialist lawyer? Because I imagine it’s not about whether Martínez Birria is a minister or whether he has resigned…”
“Politics is the history of power and its spirit.”
“Damn these Marxists! So what’s art, great definer?”
“The reward, a payment from God, my young friend… [blah blah blah] Immortality, my friend, is an invention of Cain, the first academic. An intellectual, my young Catalan professor, is a man who spreads his style through the world. Be that what it may.”

Sometime soon I’ll post another excerpt depicting vaudeville on the Paralelo/Paral·lel and then, probably, chunks of the apocalyptic final scene.

–Mira –decía Lledó una noche en el «León de Oro»–, los burgueses han acabado por no saber hablar más que de sus necesidades y de los gustos de las mismas: gastronomía, hembras, locomoción.
–Y, ¿de qué más se puede hablar? –preguntó Rubió que estaba allí por casualidad.
–De política y de arte, mi fogoso amigo. No sostengo que los burgueses no hablan de política ni de arte, pero hablan de ellas exclusivamente en función de sus necesidades.
–Ahora me saldrás diciendo que los obreros hablan de política y arte por puro placer.
–Hablábamos de los intelectuales –respondió Salomar.
–Y, ¿qué es un intelectual?
–Un hombre que tiene una relación moral con la política. O para quien la política es un problema moral, si lo prefieres.
–¡Ah!, y ¿qué es la política, señor abogado más o menos socialista? Porque supongo que no se referirá a que Martínez Birria sea ministro or cesante…
–La política es la historia del poder y su espíritu.
–¡Caracoles con el marxista! ¿Y el arte, gran definidor?
–La recompensa, el pago de Dios, mi joven amigo [etc etc] La inmortalidad, amigo mío, la inventó Caín, el primer académico. Un intelectual, mi joven profesor catalán, es un hombre que deja su estilo por el mundo. Sea el que sea.

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