Valeriano Bozal (Madrid, 80 years old) has published Chronicle of a decade and changes of place (Antonio Machado Books) , his personal memory, which in some cases refers to his own life but in reality it is the recount of his generation, which he considers prey to the feeling that he inhabits a prehistory that has not just ended and that it comes from the memory of the dictatorship . He has been a professor of History of Contemporary Art at the two great universities of Madrid and has written books on Goya, Vermeer or Brueghel, among others, a work that includes his Need for irony (1999). This interview was conducted via email.
Question. His written memory gives the impression that he has everything in his head, up to the present time.
Answer. I have not written a history book, I have not consulted many of the ones I have read, nor files and documents, I have only tried to tell my experience, in the simplest way, as if it were an oral communication. In general, the history books that study the dictatorship analyze the activity of parties and groups, political activity, and they do well, but my experience includes personal relationships, work, reading, friendships, and so on. That was a mutilated time and I have wished that trait would come to light. Because of my age, all the past is distant, even the present is distant, yet they are, at the same time, there, not before me but in me.
Because of my age, all the past is distant, even the present is distant, however they are, at the same time, there, not before me but in me
P. It gives the impression that all this happened in a closed prehistory. Did you have that impression while you wrote?
R. I have not been able to close the time of what happened. When did it end? With the state of exception, the death of Carrero or that of Franco, with the Transition, now? It is something like a continuum of moments that cannot be closed, which produces a strange and sometimes devastating sensation: a present past. Present in our memory, in the institutions, values, judgments, emotions. The prehistory that we live in is not closed, although it seems so, although every day we are told otherwise.
P. What messages do those lives you shared send you?
R. In the sixties, José María Moreno Galván was the most important art critic in our country. On various occasions he was arrested and fined. Refusing to pay the fines, the police proceeded to seize their assets and since they could not seize those that were work tools, they seized the domestic, washing machine, radio, entertainment books, objects considered decorative, jewelry, and so on. There are two teachings there. Resistance, the ability to resist, is one of the behavior patterns that I remember clearly. Do it, in addition, without any drama, as the proper and appropriate of a normal behavior. Because of what the police do, the intention of preventing any normality, of harassing not only in the field of political life, but also in private, domestic life, to the point of making it unbreathable. You cannot say who won, Moreno Galván could always breathe.
The prehistory that we live in is not closed, although it seems so, although every day we are told otherwise.
P. The Franco regime seemed a time defeated. And now it seems that he is recovering.
R. I do not believe that Francoism has been a foreign body in our history, it is part of it, it uses the instruments that our history has created and the legend or legends on which it has been based, a manipulated history that only now, in In the hands of new historians, it is beginning to be known, although its books have not reached the broadest layers of the population. The instruments of the dictatorship are known: authoritarianism, repression and violence, hierarchy, intervention in all aspects of life. They are the instruments that power has used throughout centuries. I think that is the reason why it has reappeared, as an increasingly threatening shadow, it is inculcated in a large part of the social body, it has been many years of dictatorship, and it will be many years necessary to eliminate its effects. I am not optimistic. The one that with a notable euphemism is called “territorial problem”, Catalonia and Euskadi, but also Galicia, is not a current problem, it is a historical question that affects the very construction of the State and that cannot be resolved in the traditional way, by means of violence. The shadow of Francoism is a threat that will hardly disappear.
The State must attend to culture, ensure that everyone has access to it, as well as education, but it must not intervene in it
P. Young politicians began a demolition of the Transition years ago. How do you now face both phenomena, the Transition and that attempted demolition?
R. I don’t feel able to judge the Transition; On the one hand, it was possible to build a democratic system where and when it seemed completely impossible, on the other, the amnesty forgave all kinds of crimes and violence. In Spain there has been no “truth commission” or something similar. Maybe it wasn’t possible to create it, I don’t know. Surely the pressure from the so-called powers that be – the army, the police, the judiciary, the church, etc. – was too intense. I don’t know, I guess. In any case, the legacy of the dictatorship is very deep and it is not easy for it to disappear, if that is possible.
P. Do you think there has been an excess of official influence in the culture?
R. In the past there was a certain intellectual authority that society and consumer culture have almost completely eliminated. When there were no freedoms, intellectual expression was a form of freedom based on the independence of who was expressed. Today I think that is not possible, to speak of “intellectual teaching”, a term that was said without blushing, is even ridiculous today. The public powers have intervened in the production and dissemination of culture – when have they not intervened? – but in my opinion it has been the consumer society that has transformed these areas. This is a process that I don’t think is going to go backwards. I am not an apocalyptic, it seems to me necessary to achieve procedures so that rigor is imposed and criticism has an effective scope. When I see philosophers who claim to publish philosophy books that are more self-help than anything else, I find it irritating: the media dedicate pages to them to show an originality that, outside of the show, they lack. In a country that has as little critical tradition as ours, this is a common procedure.
When I see male and female philosophers who claim to publish philosophy books that are more self-help than anything else, I find it irritating
When I was president of the Reina Sofía Board of Trustees, I came to a conclusion that I maintain: the State must attend to culture, ensure that everyone has access to it, as well as education, but it must not intervene in it, it must not direct or use it as an element of propaganda. Continuing with the example, in the museum’s board there must be representatives of the State, the minister or the minister, the director or the general director, etc., but the nucleus of the institution must have a group of professionals who make consensual decisions , that they act like who they are, museum directors, with the responsibility that this entails. Cultural institutions do not have to accept spectacle and consumption. Their responsibility is decisive, they are not means of communication, nor are they propaganda.
P. What stimulates you about what happens? And what stuns you?
R. Corruption and brutality stun me. Both are inherited from the dictatorship. The normality with which the corrupt act and the protection they find in their own organizations, the lack of dignity and moral misery. I don’t know how they can support themselves. We see brutality on the street, now, too, in parliament and in the media, it seems a lie, but it is a “resource” of politics. I am encouraged by the possibility that both corruption and brutality will disappear.