El delirio de Turing I

paz-soldan_delirio-de-turingA tale of cyberspace, crypto-security and hacktivism set in Bolivia? At first glance, the idea is counter-intuitive. The country is by some measures the poorest in South America (with a per-capita GDP of only just over $8,000) and is more often associated with ancient indigenous cultures than with contemporary hyper-modernity. Yet Information Technology and the Internet, and everything that comes with them, are part and parcel of globalization, which by definition breaks down oppositions between First and Third Worlds, Centre and Periphery. Your cellphone battery may well contain lithium from the salt flats of Uyuni. Global forces shape La Paz or Santa Cruz as much as they do New York or Montreal.

Of course, in some ways there is nothing new about this. Even the most remote Andean villages have long been part of global circuits. If now it is lithium that makes the world go round, once it was silver from the mines of Potosí. So there are continuities as well as changes in this latest phase of globalization, and Edmundo Paz Soldán’s novel El delirio de Turing is as interested in the ways in which new technologies ultimately confirm old patterns as he is in the new dimensions of politics and protest that open up when power and resistance are as palpable online as on the streets.

The “Turing” of the book’s title is on the one hand a reference to Alan Turing, the celebrated British mathematician and early pioneer (and theorist) of computing who was also associated with the World War Two efforts at Bletchley Park to crack the code of the Nazi Enigma Machine. On the other hand, however, it is the codename given to one Miguel Sáenz, who is in charge of the Archive at the Bolivian state’s shadowy department dedicated to electronic surveillance and counter-terrorism nicknamed the “Black Chamber.” And just as Sáenz (bespectacled civil servant) becomes Turing (“implacable tracker of coded messages” [13]), as he crosses the portal to his top-secret job deep in the security state, so Paz Soldán is interested in the ways in which we can become other on the Internet: shaking off our humdrum everyday identities to become anonymous or to take on new roles and act out forbidden fantasies.

Most everyone in the Bolivia that the novel depicts (which is only slightly displaced from the Bolivia we know) has an account with a virtual environment known as “el Playground,” which is some kind of “Second Life.” Here, you can take on an avatar and meet, socialize, flirt and fight with others who are also acting out their dreams from their keyboards or touchscreens. The only thing you can not do, at the risk of summoning up the Playground’s own (virtual) security forces, is acknowledge the “merely” digital nature of the environment, or make reference to the so-called “real” world. The condition of entry, in other words, is that you must act online as though the fiction were both real and fully sufficient.

Yet Paz Soldán is equally interested in the extent to which we can never fully shake off our terrestrial histories and identities. That, after all, is in large part the mission of a crypto-analyst such as Sáenz/Turing: to locate and decipher the digital fingerprints on any disruption in the online system and track them back to real-world individuals who could then (if the state deems it necessary) be arrested and disciplined. But Sáenz/Turing is just as vulnerable as anybody else: he cannot fully leave his domestic preoccupations (a wife and daughter from whom he is increasingly distant) at the door to the Black Chamber. What is more, the plot gets going as somebody seems to have accessed his otherwise secure email to send him an all-too-easily decipherable coded message: “Murderer, You Have Blood On Your Hands.”

And by halfway through the novel, we are beginning to have an inkling of what this missive may mean, as we hear the testimony of Sáenz’s wife to an investigative Judge who seems to have the current regime in his sights: for all that Sáenz/Turing sees his work as an intellectual exercise, an interesting game, he may well be complicit in disappearances and tortures, the very visceral and corporeal consequences of his playing with bits and bytes. However much the online world offers liberation and reinvention, and however much contemporary globalization introduces new opportunities and political paradigms, behind everything lurks state violence and a tendency towards totalitarianism.



From the opening of Jorge Icaza’s novel Huasipungo, set in early twentieth-century Ecuador, the landowner, Alfonso Pereira, is presented as treading on precarious ground. He has stormed out of his house in bad humour, faced with problems that are both familial and financial: his daughter is pregnant with her indigenous boyfriend; and meanwhile he is also faced with debts and unpaid taxes. His head filled with these concerns, he is about to cross the street only to be nearly run over by a car that leaves him “trying to regain his balance on the edge of the pavement” (9). And indeed, the story that follows is the tale of Pereira’s attempts to “regain his balance” even if they involve ever-more extreme measures and grotesque abuses of the people who live on his land. Balance remains in short supply even at the end.

Pereira is presented as an almost comic character: flustered and maladroit; in over his head in the management of his family and his estate. But it is soon clear that there is a not-so-funny side to this cartoon buffoonery. On the advice of his uncle (and major creditor), Pereiras travels to his hacienda in the highlands, reluctant wife and daughter in tow, where he will, with yet more borrowed money, buy up land–and the indigenous that come with it–to build a road to the capital. The plan is to smooth the way for a firm of US prospectors, led by one “Mr Chapy,” who are apparently interested in extracting lumber from the interior–though in fact they are rather more keen on the possibility of drilling for oil. With the payout that ensues, Pereira hopes that his troubles will be at an end. And the novel shows that he will stop at nothing to ensure this happy resolution.

On the journey to the highlands, the road still as-yet unbuilt, Pereira and his family find themselves stymied by a muddy path that not even their mules can traverse. The landowner therefore calls on the indigenous servants, for them to become literally beasts of burden by carrying the Pereiras on their backs. Still persecuted by anxiety about his own troubles, and so utterly thoughtless of the weight he is placing on others’ shoulders, Pereira gives a start and causes the man carrying him to lose his footing and tumble to the ground. “Stupid Indian!” [“¡Indio pendejo!”], the master cries out “hopelessly” [“desesperado”], digging his spurs into the man’s ribs (14). His self-absorption and helplessness are hardly a joking matter now.

The name of the man who has to bear this humiliating punishment is Andrés Chiliquinga, and as the story unfolds he becomes exemplary of the suffering that the indigenous are forced to endure in the name of the landowner’s zeal to recover his economic balance, and of the gringos’ promise to bring modernization and development. Andrés first endures a horrific injury while helping to clear the land. Then his wife dies an agonizing death after eating the rotten meat that, with Pereira’s refusal to dole out the customary recompense for their otherwise unpaid labour, is all that the indigenous have to subsist on. And once the road is finally built, both he and his son die trying to protect their “huasipungo,” their small parcel of land, and its hut from being torn down to make room for the houses and offices that Mr Chapy proposes to build in their place.

In the face of all this oppression, the indigenous do not go down without a fight, rallying around the slogan “¡Ñucanchic huasipungo!”: “Our huasipungo.” And the final lines of the book suggests that this cry will resonate around the Andes. But here, at least, their cause is hopeless. But even in his victory, or perhaps especially in his victory, Pereira remains as precariously perched as ever: standing on a wall alongside Mr Chapy to look out over “the vast plain of the highlands” (113), he is once again carried away with emotion and ends up falling down once more amid “clouds of dust” to the laughter of his gringo companion (114). “We know not where we are treading” [“no sabemos donde pisamos”] is the moral he draws from this, which could be a reference to the subterranean deposits that have been driving this entire enterprise. But it may also be a delayed glimpse of the fact that, in clearing the indigenous from the land and speeding up the transition from feudalism to a capitalism dominated by foreign corporations, the hapless Pereira has simply been undermining the ground from under his own feet.

In trying to secure his position, he has achieved the opposite: he has destroyed his future by neglecting to recognize the immense indigenous contribution to the good fortune he has taken for granted. Now who will carry him through the mud?

Aves sin nido

aves-sin-nido2Towards the end of Clorinda Matto de Turner’s Aves sin nido (1889), the mestizo couple Fernando and Lucía Marín, who are in effect the book’s heroes, because they are sufficiently enlightened to take pity on Peru’s indigenous peoples, are shown leaving the highland town of Kíllac where most of the novel’s plot is set. With them are two young indigenous girls, Margarita and Rosalía, their daughters who they are adopting because their parents have died, victims of violence stirred up by the town’s local authorities. There is no place for them in Kíllac, which is (as another character has declared, pages earlier) “barbaric” (49) and perhaps beyond salvation. If there is a future for the girls, it can only be in Lima, the nation’s capital and “antechamber of Heaven” from which can be glimpsed “the throne of Glory and Fortune” (80). Just as much to the point, moreover, is the fact that the Maríns themselves are hardly safe in the Andes. It was their efforts on behalf of the indigenous that provoked the disturbance in which the girls’ parents were killed. It’s time to get out of Dodge.

Along the way, headed for the train that is to be both the vehicle of their escape and potent symbol of the modernity that Kíllac so notably lacks, Fernando and Lucía mull over the dramatic events that have led them to this point. “What do you think of the things that happen?” the wife asks her husband. “I’m stunned just thinking back over the coincidences,” he replies. “Ah! Life is a novel” (140).

But life is not, of course, a novel. And when characters within a novel are made to protest otherwise, rather than heightening the realism of the events depicted, such claims instead undercut it by reminding us that it is, after all, a literary construction that we hold in our hands. The fact that the book needs to tell us that life can assume the shape of a novel is a sure sign that somehow it is failing to show us convincingly that the tale it tells is lifelike. Here, indeed, it is as though Matto de Turner were trying to prepare us for the hardly plausible plot twist with which her book ends. For it turns out that Margarita, too, is mestiza; her true father, as divulged in her mother’s dying breath, is Kíllac’s former parish priest. Worse still, her suitor, a young man named Manuel who is following along behind the family and hopes to ask the Maríns for their adopted daughter’s hand in marriage, turns out to be hiding the very same secret: he too is the lascivious priest’s bastard offspring. The would-be newly-weds are brother and sister! And with the revelation of that shocking coincidence, worthy as much of a telenovela as of a novel, the book’s plot eventually comes grinding to a halt. After all, novels end even if life has to go on.

Yet perhaps there is something lifelike (and indeed, not very novelistic) about this story’s strange and rather abrupt conclusion. For novels customarily end with some kind of resolution: a birth, a death, or a wedding, for instance. By refusing such a tidy ending, by ensuring through the scarcely believable device of making her young lovers siblings that there will be no marriage here, Matto de Turner is perhaps highlighting the artificiality of the novel form. Aves sin nido is true to life, and to Peru’s “Indian problem,” in its final recognition that it has no pat answers. Heaven can wait, as the glimpse of the throne of Glory is snatched away.

La cadena del desanimo

Esta obra, escrita por Pablo Katchadjian, es una que pone al autor dentro de una historia escrita completamente en citas. Leyendolo por primera vez, el lector se puede encontrar en una situacion muy confusa, porque el libro no tiene ningun tema central que es obvio y no tiene una direccion lineal en relacion a su historia. Pero, se puede ver que si tiene un tema principal, que es la influencia y el papel de la media dentro de la sociedad. Se ve como la media puede tomar posiciones comicas y presentarlas como ‘noticias’ aunque no tengan ninguna importancia al pais. Jugadores de futbol, modelos, y estrellas del cine llenan las historias de estas noticias y influyen mucho a la populacion. Creo que esta obra no fue escrita con una motivacion tan urgente como las otras que hemos visto, pero si toca sobre un asunto que es muy importante en todos los paises del mundo.

La cadena del desánimo

Es difícil categorizar una obra como La cadena del desánimo de Pablo Katchadjian. Comparado con las otras obras del curso, este libro no refiere específicamente a un evento concreto, y solamente es testimonio en el sentido de que habla de opiniones verdaderas de gente real. Encontrar una cuerda que se conectan todas las citas es difícil – se ve un pedacito de como es la vida política de Argentina pero no hay un tema grande que se une todo.

Una de las ventajas de la ficción (o no ficción) experimental es que nos deja pensar y interpretar obras de arte por maneras que no son posibles o que no se recomienda el formato convencional. No estoy seguro todavía de lo que Katchadjian nos quiere entender de su libro (y según el prefacio él no está muy seguro tampoco), pero si el significado del libro fuera claro no sería una obra experimental. Seguramente hay algo útil, como dice el autor, en leer tantas voces distintas hablar de una gran variedad de sujetos distintas, generalmente con Argentina al fondo. No lo he descubierto todavía pero definitivamente hay algo que decir sobre la objetividad y la verdad enterrado por estas citas.

La cadena del desánimo

La obra de Pablo Katchadjian, La cadena del desánimo es una compilación de citas. Esta obra no tiene una trama, es compuesto solo de citas de declaraciones de la gente importante en Argentina como jefes, políticos y críticos que no son relacionados entre sí. Muchas de estas citas tienen que ver con Argentina y el autor no cambia las citas incluso los que no están completos. Como dice el autor en el prologo, “solo cité citas” pero quiere que estas citas sean útiles para el lector. Pero después de leer la obra, no estoy segura para que están útiles estas citas. Esta obra es diferente de los otros testimonios que hemos leído en este curso. Pero la obra de Katchadjian me recuerda un poco de La noche de Tlatelolco por Elena Poniatowska. La noche de Tlatelolco también es una compilación de citas pero son organizadas para contar un evento no como La cadena del desánimo. No parece que Katchadjian fue motivado para escribir esta obra debido a una situación urgente como Elena Poniatowska y los otros testimonios que hemos leído en este curso.

La cadena del desánimo

El libro, “La cadena del desánimo”, escrito por Pablo Katchadjian, consiste en varias citas tomadas por diferentes personas que, a mi parecer, no tienen conexiones. Hablan de diferentes cosas y no sabemos si las personas se conocen. Como Jon nos dijo en la clase, no hay trama en este libro. Es como si el autor recogiera cualquier palabras o expresiones que le parece interesante en cada día y las pone en una lista. No estoy segura sobre la intención del autor, o el mensaje del libro, pero nos dice en el principio que “este libro no está hecho para convencer a nadie de nada, sin embargo pienso que podría resultar útil”. El estilo del libro me recuerda el libro de Poniatowska, “La noche de Tlatelolco” que también junta varios testimonios dicho por los testigos en el evento. Lo que es diferente es que Poniatowska enfatiza el sentimiento de los testigos y que los testimonios tienen en común. En este libro, sin embargo, no estoy segura el propósito del autor y me pregunto sobre su lector objetivo.


La Cadena del Desánimo

La Cadena del Desánimo es un libro escrito por Pablo Katchadjian. Es un libro de compilaciones de muchas citas dicho por personas importantes (e.g. presidentes, ministros, abogados). El estilo de escribir el libro es totalmente diferente de lo que hemos leído antes. Es un poco difícil de seguir pero a la vez, una forma muy interesante que no aburre el lector. Es difícil de ver una linea que se puede conectar todos pero parece que lo que todos tenían en común es el problema con la naturaleza humana y las problemas de nuestro mundo. Más especifico es que las citas tienen una conexión a las noticias y con todo lo que estaba pasando en Argentina en ese tiempo. Parece que todas las citas son dichos por Argentinos sobre su país.

Unas de las citas que me gusto dice, “Si uno no se ama a sí mismo, no puede amar a los demás”, dijo el jefe de Gobierno porteño Mauricio Macri. Él es el presidente actual de Argentina en el día de hoy. Pero cuando estaba escrito el libro, los Kirchner estaban en poder.

Es verdad que dice la cita de que para ayudar, entender y amar a otras personas, tenemos que buscar la capacidad de hacerlo. Para dar lo mejor, tenemos que sentirnos bien haciéndolo. Uno necesita amarse para cumplir este. Es muy difícil de decir pero otra cosa de hacer.

La cadena del desánimo

El libro está escrito por Paul Katchadjian y este libro es muy distinto en muchos aspectos. El libro consiste en citas de varias personas; desde funcionarios gubernamentales hasta celebridades, el libro cubre amplios tipos de temas. Como dijo el autor en el prólogo, cada una de las citas tomadas de los periódicos, no parece tener nada en común. No sabemos por qué eligió esas citas entre todas las demás. Podemos que la estructura es algo similar a La noche de Tlateloco, pero no el contenido. Poniatowska reúne los fragmentos para completar un evento como un mosaico, pero los fragmentos de este libro no se unen por ningún medio. Es como si estuviéramos mirando a las personas que sólo dicen sus opiniones sin escuchar a los demás. Cada libro está escrito con un propósito, pero en el prólogo el autor menciona que no lo escribió para convencer a otros. Sin embargo, debe haber una razón por la que escribió el libro o por qué organizó el libro de esta manera. Ojalá podamos escucharlo del autor.