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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Ramón del Castillo: “Villarejo looks like a character from a parodic noir novel”


Some philosophers have devoted themselves to popular culture rather than delving into the intricacies of being or the intricacies of science. For example, to the crime novels that the masses read: Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle or Father Brown by Chesterton. Oddly enough, many of them had Marxist roots, such as Lukács, Brecht, Kracauer, Adorno or above all Antonio Gramsci, who has awakened so many passions in recent years.

The philosopher Ramón del Castillo (Madrid, 57 years old), professor at UNED, after publishing further essays on our conceptions of nature (The Garden of Delusions) or reflexive walking (strolling philosophers)both in Turner, now considers what these thinkers thought of these novels divine detectives (Circle of Fine Arts). This summer collaborates with a section in Daily of the SER string to different types of characters.

Questions. They say that the pure police novel is very logical and rationalistic and doesn’t care too much about the human or the social.

Answer. We would be talking about the novel called Enigma, which evolves more than a novel into a short story. It has the elegance that a riddle is set and solved in a small space. Conan Doyle embroiders it there with Sherlock Holmes. The detective sometimes solves the cases without leaving home, as if it were a crossword puzzle.

P Like telecommuting.

R Yes, because they give you data and you don’t have to mix with reality; He’s a remote investigator. Holmes often triggers from Baker Street or by sending Watson. In the later black novel, it’s the other way around, the hero becoming entangled and entangled in reality and stuck to the bars of the story, like Hammett or Chandler.

P what do you prefer?

R I was more of a reader of the latter, but I associate the Enigma story with very elegant people. My math and logic friends were the ones who enjoyed it, but I didn’t understand anything, I was always looking at what I wasn’t supposed to see, nonsense, novelistic elements. The joke of my book is that instead of juxtaposing Enigma and crime, I wedge Chesterton between the two.

P To the creator of the famous detective, Father Brown.

R Of course, because Father Brown is an enigma, but he’s not a dandyish, elegant, bourgeois rationalist who does drugs and plays the violin like Holmes. He’s a priest.

P Antonio Gramsci devoted much time to this debate between Holmes and Brown. And he preferred Brown. It struck him as a more empathetic character and more “artistic” literature.

R Yes, but not only Gramsci, but also Lukács, Mandel, Kracacuer…

P Why did Marxists concern themselves with these genres?

R For Marxist literary theory is very interested in popular expressions. Some thinkers like Luc Boltanski have observed that crime fiction has passed as an escape genre, but it is the only one that people use to acquire social knowledge unintentionally. It’s not an easy genre. The messed up in society ends there. State-police relations, crime, corruption, violence… The Marxists saw something similar.

P We talked about Gramsci.

R Gramsci writes about this in prison. See in Holmes this glorification of pure reason. But he finds Father Brown’s method much more humane. He was also very interested in what was happening to popular genres in Italy and France.

P He was a student of cultural hegemony.

R He would like to see how social mobilizations are generated in the cultural environment. He was also very interested in Catholicism in Italy because he saw that Catholics had organized society and that communists could learn from it, from grassroots organization. And also from the literary genres that everyone reads: They had a gigantic ability to shape ideas.

P The debate between high and low culture is still raging.

R When it comes to crime fiction, the message that keeps circulating is that while there are sometimes good ideas, it’s still a fun genre that falls short as great literature. Mario Vargas Llosa recently wrote something like this in this newspaper. With Chesterton it was the other way around: what seemed easy to him was to make introspective novels with a lot of straw.

P Should philosophy deal with these popular expressions?

R Well, we see that many thinkers are devoting themselves to it, especially to the expressions that were typical of their youth, be it punk, the Madrid scene… They put on the rear-view mirror. Every philosopher knows popular culture better from his youth, if he talks about it now, he can make a fool of himself. It’s generally very difficult to talk about what’s happening now. Philosophy doesn’t work well as a chronicler of the present, better than past bull.

P The black novel and its environment have been very successful lately. Because what is this?

R I think they are successful in certain age groups. I think the boomers we use them to cling to the imaginary we grew up with, to a world that was more understandable and controlled. A mechanism for understanding the social that has now become too complicated. Something is happening that we cannot fully understand.

P who could

R It would have to be people who are very into technology, big data, in hacker, in cybersecurity, in algorithms… Maybe these people will write the next noir novels. Or something similar to novels, because maybe in the near future novels won’t be necessary or sufficient. The next generation may have a different way of understanding the world.

P Are novels necessary now?

R The good thing about them is that they are more ordered than reality, they are fictions that always close, that make sense. Literature is cool because it simplifies reality, which is chaos. But I can’t imagine what genre will represent the world to come. It pisses me off to die for this.

P But there are still characters that belong to this older dirty world. Retired Commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, going no further, with his gossip in the state sewers. This is a classic crime thriller.

R That and many others. The fact that there is something new does not mean that the old has stopped. Villarejo is not a character Cold or Cyborg, he seems more like a character from a screenplay by Rafael Azcona. Or a parodic noir novel, that’s a genre that I also really like. There are cases in Spain that seem to be taken from the black post-war chronicle. Like this actor, Luis Lorenzo, accused of poisoning his partner’s aunt for inheritance.

P In your last book you wrote about walking philosophers. Does it have anything to do with this?

R Sure, there’s a kind of wanderer that it is stalker, pursuer, schemer… The detective is such a new hero walking around the city. It’s the first genre, detective, that turns cities into something so magical where extraordinary things can be found. Then this magic in black novels is already lost. The depiction, the flat space of the new American city, is completely different.

P Walter Benjamin said that the flâneur he was a detective.

R If you are a hiker, or a voyeurand you stand in the street and look at others, pretend you’re stupid, you can start seeing strange things… You can go to the supermarket, see someone stealing York ham, follow him and end up in a dark story of ham dealers from York.

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Source elpais.com

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