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Notes on Ernesto Pérez Zúñiga

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Notes on Ernesto Pérez Zúñiga



In 2011, Pérez Zúñiga published a third novel, the monkey gamewritten between the spring of 2007 and 2010. Although numerous references to other authors, direct quotes, rereading of classics and, especially, the images of monkeys, famous in tradition and in current works from the East, could implicate us in an execution of pastiches or a rewriting of various narratives (and, indeed, sometimes it happens that way) this novel corresponds to the fulfillment of an obsessively personal experience.

In principle by prose —resonance of verses, stories and previous novels by Pérez Zúñiga—; also because of the quality of the landscape that we have already detected and because of advances of tenderness or understanding that simultaneously cradle or hurt the various characters, but especially its protagonist.

With autonomous and always fascinating scenes, his writing does not stop being a vast, terrible confession. “I want to write what that parrot, that annoying one, told me tonight: the unconscious”: a journey through basements, prisons, dreams, bars, drunkenness, deterioration, abandonment, denial of education, drugs, animality of various kinds. Phrase that could announce an unconnected story, paragraphs floating in chaos, disorder and surreal sterility, but that in truth hides symmetry, calculated rigor, lucid construction, seamless mosaic: pure, exact and free novel.

Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Rock, the Line, the Strait, the border: rocks, sea, emigrants, contraband, bars and brothels (“an excrement of the flourishing European territory”). Montenegro, man in his thirties, with a scar on his left cheek, occasional but dissolute “genital monk”, vague teacher of resolute and crazy boys, indifferent to learning and the future. Gibraltar’s monkeys —sylvanus monkey who live at the top of the mountain and go down to the roads or to the houses or to sleep. The Girl with the Nose, complacent and addicted; the Girl in the Shower, student, alien, a kind of unattainable lo-li-ta; and the Woman in the Mask, sensual, cruel, powerful yet condescending, half real and half imagined by someone. Such are the components, physical and psychic, very well embodied and very active, with which the narrative deals with us.

A house rented by the scruffy and alcoholic professor, whose magnetic center is a basement that, although common in the style of housing in the area, now becomes a distinctive space. Inside it, a prisoner of the Woman in the Mask, pure experience and perception, without clear reasons for his condemnation and to whom we owe the intense abandoned manuscript. The prisoner could be that dead man (about to turn 41?) Found, some time before the professor’s arrival, in the vicinity and who arouses his curiosity, the desire to investigate, the gnawed search.

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We all know this because five years after escaping —also from the basement, into which he was pinned by the random gesture of a monkey— Montenegro wandering around the world recalls his stories.

Directions from all his previous writing, we have already suggested, lead to this convulsive work by Pérez Zúñiga. Echoes of the Civil War (holy devil): “Eat the other: Civil War”, they hint at pure instincts of destruction; the greater evil, death, which in the second circleis offered as absolute pain from this side, but as an absurd breath of desire, from the other, it becomes a kind of gamble, perhaps insignificant before the destinations narrow and debris that wanders around Gibraltar.

Although the protagonist, Montenegro, says that at times “one is delivered to the outside” because he lives too far from oneself and that events “were writhing” before him, “blind in existence”, he remains maniacally attentive to his dreams. and thoughts. Therefore, the dead man’s manuscript (“… his sense of time was elsewhere: in literature?”), read and analyzed by him, seems like an extension of his impulses.

The manuscript and the history of Montenegro thus fulfill “a rhythm of occurrence, more than different, of a contrary nature” or complementary.

The basement and the Rock, the school, the young men and their parents, Scheherazade and the other girls, the Fates, the prisoner and Montenegro are the same body, undermined by abandonment, lassitude, primal sexuality, danger. There is a small dungeon, but around it and all that the world has disappeared or is another prison, which subjects them to a climate of dull and absurd cruelty, to conformity and failure, to discouragement as a cover and interiority of behaviors. . Perhaps because our current world finds its synthesis in Gibraltar. The greyish Goya ink of Pérez Zúñiga penetrates everything (and in that elusive matter perhaps the shadows of Díaz Gray and Onetti himself reverberate).

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Something appears as fragile light or as redemption for the prisoner and for Montenegro (he forces his disciples to “read” dracula): Literature. Perhaps because the involuntary and elusive as well as loneliness and insecure explanations can converge in it; because it brings together the maximum exposure of intimacy and the improbable desire to be perceived. Also because, as in this case, it is a gesture of perverse narcissism.

Thus, in the surroundings of the “rubble-prone city”, writing or looking at photos of Bogart and Ava Gardner allows the achievement that “mythologizing reality can be very useful to endure it, even to manage to live calmly without seeking change”. like everyone there.

But since “we are part of a narrative whose rules we don’t know” and whose meaning is inexplicable, we use “the capacity of invention to project what it creates onto the void.” We already know this from the daily acts of these characters and because if there is something extraordinary in their days (the monkeys) it is immediately devoured by everyday life: “Everyone who writes fiction is an inquisitor of the plausible possibilities that reality has to manifest itself as extraordinary. ”. There is no doubt: writing becomes “a conversation with absence”, doing it is the paroxysm of obtuse circularity: “Imagination and action (what is done, the work), the same thing”.

Among the many qualities of Pérez Zúñiga, his mysterious precision in naming each book stands out. With the monkey game seems to surpass that talent. At an opposite extreme, apparently, to the virtuous game by Hermann Hesse, this book sinks into playfulness like a fatality. And despite its wide cast, it ends up becoming the unit/polarity of Montenegro and the “blonde monkey”.

Myths, legends, traditions, magazines, literature, television have made the monkey a particular sign. To his agility, gift of imitation, buffoonery, some scholar has added his dissipated consciousness. Perhaps because of its wandering and its high sensitivity that also jumps from branch to branch. In Buddhism a false wisdom is imputed to him, the Aztecs associate him with the sun and fiery sexuality.

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Here the monkeys live on the Rock and go to the protagonist’s car, who while drinking bourbon on the road (“A cocktail of whiskey and air. Sunset is the bourbon of the cosmos”) ends up throwing bottles at him that they drink immediately. The ritual is prolonged: he first visits them in the afternoon and gets them drunk, then selected by one of them, he takes him to his house, to the basement, and somehow makes him part of him. But before he confesses: “on one occasion a monkey entered my chest, leaned against the wall and fell asleep. In my dream, I tried to see what the monkey was dreaming: inside his lungs, which were made of water, there was a naked child sitting, breathing like a fish”.

The merger is complete. Not only between the monkeys in reality and the dream animal, but also between Montenegro and the dead prisoner, because both have had a monkey with them, in the basement, in the dream.

The animal and the other or others; and vice versa: a gastric world swallows them, satisfies them, drives them. And we already know that this world is marked as matter in solution. We have descended or flown into exploding units and oppositions. “Anyone can have a strange relationship with animals”: like these nondescript beings with aimless conversation, far from the splendor that gods or myths bestow on animals.

And we will no longer cease, even after closing the book, to feel or evoke the sordid game between them (them?): “We play because we are incapable of loving.” When reading and living we play: we are alone. If our action touches another being “we play with almost instinctive little lies” or to be close to what we have lost.

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