“Corazón tan puto”, (CTP) by Nelson Pedrero Jeldres (Valparaíso, 1966), celebrates its third edition in a period of time that allows at this point to make a meritorious count – at 25 years – of its effervescent validity.
Winner of the Alerce prize in 1998 and published on that occasion by Editorial Universitaria, he immediately showed what keeps him alive to this day; his great narrative personality.
Then a second edition would come in La Calabaza del diablo (2000) and now this one that Provincianos Editores gives us (2022).
The critics of the time were divided in front of the novel, small columns with renunciations and alarms of good manners warned its dissolute, foul-mouthed character and with a title that put the book on red alert; as well as other readings hailed its appearance for its vivacity and striking structure.
One can perfectly imagine the metaphorical scope of the novel beyond its pages, let’s say that CTP is Pinochet arrested in London and also that political class that after 17 months welcomed him with great fanfare at the National Congress.
And Nelson Pedrero’s novel was there, beating before that crucial moment of shame, ready to stage the story of a paco with a restaurant waiter in the village of El Cortijo. And it wasn’t a work of excruciating marginality (which had already been published), of that social suffering that filled pages with authentic desperation for punished sexual, cultural, working and creative expression freedoms; but of all the psychic pressure Chile endured thus punished.
The novelty of this novel is that in that moment a form of creation intervenes, or at least puts in difficulty an expressive formula that we could call, given the repressive nature of the context and its theme, denunciation. The denunciation is a systemic Trojan horse, much needed in those years and which still rides today with a not very different literary trot -as if nothing had been entirely solved-, spurred on by the riders of an expanding diversity.
The denunciation in its various articulations: it is not even a question of an ease by contrast: a paco (power) a gay cook (marginality) to cause a scandal. This is a substantial difference with other works that deal with the theme of homosexuality. Without the intention of going into a comparative analysis, but only to point out the strategic place of CTP in this field; This novel polyphonizes the theme, opens it to the space of popular allegory and brings it closer to the carnivalesque (Sarduy), avoids the autobiographical discursive recording administered by strategies of individualistic distancing, of mercantile and academic authorship, which rely permanently on ideological reassorters to install them in gender supermarkets.
The case of the CTP is not marginal, it is popular, because the well-fictionalized popular continues to be on the margins but it is autonomous, it is a self-governing space and does not depend on the center to validate its world, it does not need or worry about validation of the environment or, if you prefer, of the other.
For this reason, an example that drags on significantly: a young writer who was expelled from Pablo Simonetti’s workshop aired through social networks that the literary facilitator had forbidden the word poto to his students. True or not, this ridiculous candor is a class paradigm. It is the rancid-siutic in its most absolute individualistic distance accuracy.
Pedrero transfers the multiple crossings of characters in one day to El Cortijo, just like Joyce’s famous Ulysses in Dublin. And it is the same world in constant boiling and conflict, but with a parodic focus of the picaresque. This stylistic precedent – the popular in permanent free association – is what interests her, distinguishes her and values her creative and non-declarative risk. It is also a catalog of the language spoken and recorded in a territory of Santiago, in the Cortijo of the eighties, full of that penetrating and sordid language macerated in the dictatorship.
Upon entering the novel, the characters monopolize the attention: Paco Acevedo, La Meche, Don Neofito and the lurking rogues; Chucho and Checho, The Indian Miguel, The Vase with Stones and the ineffable Old Man Culiá. El Chueco is an alcoholic cat who lives in the El Rosedal restaurant under the care of Panchito, who sighs in bewilderment because of Acevedo’s uniform.
North-west of the city, if I’m not mistaken, is the town of El Cortijo, mythical and feared for its name, cradle of this dizzying novel, written in one breath and structured in a long sequence shot, with a multiple narrator interspersed with an inexhaustible fluidity, the fragmented thinking of the characters, the stream of consciousness, known in literature as stream of consciousness, a procedure discarded by short sentence narration, where the reader does not admit a difficulty exceeding eleven syllables between a point and the other. Let’s say right away that the procedure in question, as managed by Pedrero, is astonishing due to the risk that was taken at the time to write it and that today it proves to be still as alive as in its first edition, facilitating the mad joy of the word chained to set phrases, ferocious stab wounds and unwritten scars, using a cynical, amusing, perverse and talkative tone.
When I read García Lorca in school, I don’t know how I associated the fact that El Cortijo was a gypsy settlement. Nor do I know why the judgment I gave of that territory was dictated by its name, by how it sounded, there was something eccentric and dangerous surrounding its acoustic mystery, that of a cante jondo with all its treacherous ingredients, knife, moan and blood. When I saw El cortijo’s name on the signs for Independencia-bound buses along Calle Bandera, I thought of camps with bonfires and tents, huasos and transhumant workers, silos, stables, women in aprons and buses, experienced children with an adult foot life.
That wild imagery was brought back to my mind while reading this novel. CTP is in many ways a western people, a place of pioneers who built a world according to their rules. In this territory, Sheriff Acevedo is the paco who does not issue any laws and only tries to pass the technical inspection of his car, to have a corduroy removed so that he can go quietly to El Rosedal to see Panchito. La Meche suffers from his love for him, which she somehow perceives as degraded and elusive, far from the marriage she tries to maintain with the dedication of a prisoner. La Meche, in fact, is the only prisoner that Acevedo keeps confined in his two-dimensional world, cooking and sex that smell like wax. There is no amorous correspondence in the novel that is not corrupted by the brutality of its atavistic codes of coexistence. If it’s not the hidden sex, it’s petty economics, the drink, the partying, and folkloristic ignorance made into law, their daily rites of violent disqualification.
There is a widespread secret that Panchito keeps in the midst of that tribe that pervades virility and ignorance, an open secret that has subjugated the male world, the possibility of exercising homosexuality without guilt: it is the temptation that gravitates among men of that world, and the object of that desire is Panchito. I point to this tension as a force that moved other characters in the Chilean novel, such as José Donoso’s Manuela del Lugar sin límites. There the secret in that section of God is the same, the one that everyone knows and has not dared to experience so well known; It is a desire that runs and grows between picadas, farms, courtyards, hairdressers, bus stops and garages, which passes like a hot apple from hand to hand, like a secret that passes from mouth to mouth. The engine that moves this whole mechanism is the double meaning, the clever carving, the permanent saying of one thing for another, the cahuín as a way of narrating and understanding the world, of representing its dynamics of misunderstandings. But there is a basic order to the story, two storylines that run through the novel and give it all its structure; that of Acevedo trying to carry out the technical review and celebration of the birthday of El tarro con piedras in El Rosedal.
CTP is a honeycomb of rumors, a hornet’s nest with its gay queen, and the undersized working class attending a celebration where Sheriff Acevedo will lose his star in a nightmarish spree. To restore order requires the tragedy of knives, pitting discordant gossip against the justice of spilled blood. In a final stretch of the novel, in the Option for the sentimental, under the terrible light of death, El Chueco appears, the half-edged storyteller cat, the feline lost in that humanity that lends its ear and speaks the language, and who, deprived of one of his lives, observes everything from the panopticon roof of El Rosedal. Next to him Panchito sees the star of eternity, stabbed, while on the street the garbage truck throws away the soft toy of a dead cat. In the wide sky of the Cortijo, the Chueco is God.
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