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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Yes, you can be friends with a Flat Earther


Writer Elvira Lindo wondered if she could be friends with a Flat Earther in her column last Sunday. As a loyal reader and admirer of your work, I can answer your troubling question. I am also linked to her by my marriage to the poet Roseana Murray, one of the most widely read children’s book authors in Brazil. And I still remember having friendly conversations with her and Antonio at her apartment in Madrid when I was working in the supplement Babelia.

As with Elvira, I always felt uneasy about the possibility of being friends with someone who was the opposite of my ideological beliefs. Until I was convinced that friendship, celebrated from the biblical texts to the Greek and Roman classics, is something more sacred and mysterious, capable of going through dark tunnels that surprise us.

I understood it better when I was in Italy, in the middle of the dictatorship, as a daily newspaper correspondent Village, from Madrid I was friends with a Francoist who was at once one of the least boastful and one of the most generous people I have met in my life. I found out later that I owed it to him, who was already gone, not to have been arrested by the Francoist police. Apparently, every time I returned to Granada to visit my mother, the forces of the dictatorship followed me everywhere. Also in Italy. I remember whenever I gave a conference for young people, a man in a suit and tie would appear at the end of the room. I found out later that he was a spy sent by the dictator’s embassy.

My friend said to me one day: “Juan, stop badmouthing Franco in Italy, they are following in your footsteps”. With his trademark humor, he added, “Besides, you’re ruining me. Each passport renewal costs me a gold watch.”

Remembering him today, I cannot imagine how he, a highly cultured cardiologist, could have believed that Francisco Franco was a good and honest man. I prefer to remember that despite what I thought of his idol, he selflessly rescued me from his clutches.

Something similar is happening to me now that I live in a city next to Rio de Janeiro. My pharmacist is an inveterate Bolsonarista who, despite knowing what I write about his idol, stays awake to find out-of-stock drugs I need and even brings them to my house. Could I deny him my friendship? In a world where the most terrifying ideological monsters of the past are rising again, friendship that challenges even our beliefs is one of the few things we have left.

So I allow myself to send you these verses, Elvira, inspired by your tender and heartbreaking column:


Ship always anchored

in appearance

hoping to set sail

escape from oblivion.

The heat of your flame

in the veins of absence,

stitch relief

from heartbreak

if the ash

and the withered leaves

dress in mourning in the sun,

from the friend’s hand

Flowers are born

open hand

in the hour of shipwreck,

drank nectar

in the shade of the sun

while the monsters flee

of resentment.

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Source elpais.com

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