words of Francisco López Sacha
Dear friends, to present a book is to place in the market a new planet that enters our mental orbit, our spiritual orbit; this book by Lara titled Mitología del extremo gives me the feeling that it is like launching a stone to the pond: if it is thrown too strong as I believed it is launched, then it produces more than fifty concentric waves. The reader will get close to this book, or should get close to this book in order to get some of those waves since they are very fast, multiple, they grow, expand and believe that is the virtue Rufo Caballero essentially found in the organization of Mitología del extremo when he selected 764 aphorisms, sentences, observations, certainties that were each of those concentric waves that got expanded in the pond of knowledge.
It is amazing that a genre like this is revived again, not only in Cuba where it had great devotees, even in the Spanish language. Such genre was born mainly from the philosophy of cynicism, epicureanist philosophy, stoic philosophy, from the last great remains of the Greek schools that were adopted in Rome by Marcus Aurelius and by Seneca and it is a genre that delimits a field of knowledge and interrelation with the reader in a moment where the book was not still an object, in a moment where it was read out loud, in a moment where the reader enjoyed the conversation, therefore, this genre requests a concision and transcendent observation. It is a similar trait to haiku in poetry, this is the western haiku in the complete sense of the term since it born in the dawn of the Christian era and the entire world knows that Christianity assumes elements of stoicism especially from that philosophy, along with the Hebrew values that it takes from the Bible. In a greater extent, this is a literature of thinking, that’s how Seneca and Marcus Aurelius feel it too.
Marcus Aurelius said in his fundamental book: “live as on a mountain” and what does it mean to live as on a mountain in that time of the Roman Empire? It means to live without water, without slaves, to live with your effort and your own capacity to face life; therefore, here there is a kinship relation among philosophies. This philosophy, coming from the last Greek schools, literature and writing and at the same time thinking, observation, arrived to the Middle Ages and then to Europe, afterwards it spread practically until the 18th century and it was joined with the Fable, what we called the old wive’s tale, which is a medieval Spanish term that comes from the Hispanic narrative tradition and where there is an encoded element for the understanding of this genre: that all stories should end in one line, one observation, one sentence, one moral and even, one aphorism. This was what held the genre even more within a mark of selection for the reader.
When the book was patent in the western culture after 1455, when the greatest efforts of Gutenberg took the book and turned it into the greatest cultural vehicle of that epoch—and still of ours—sadly, this was something that did not happen again; it triumphed the treaty for philosophy, for science, it triumphed that small genre called essay and created by Michel de Montaigne, it triumphed the short story after Decameron and the novel after Quixote, but… what happened to aphorism? It remained with no market, not without readers, and here it began a different battle of which, at least Lara, is aware today.
The battle that aphorism fought in the academic and pedagogical Cuban world from the origins of our first intellectual communist—Jose de la Luz y Caballero, Felix Valera, who worked consciously the aphorism as a way to quickly penetrate in the student’s mind, to decipher and to engrave it in the essential principles of behavior, when this genre already had no market but it did have readers, it did have people who enjoyed it, who kept it alive—was a fight that remained during the entire 19th century, but the thing is that aphorisms came through the pages of texts; we don’t read aphorisms by Jose Marti, we read texts by Jose Marti from where we extract ideas, criteria, certainties that look like aphorisms to us, but they are not built as such, simply they have the same construction, the precise and repetitive condition of a haiku and that’s why we receive it like this, but for Marti’s generation, the genres were encoded in poetry, in the historic document, in the testimony and political documentation of that time.
It is important and I want to bring up Ignacio Aldecoa’s observation when he said that Spain created the story as a universal genre and now it has no storytellers. Aldecoa said: How nice! Because in that way the story is not within the rules of the market and it can continue evolving, transforming without taking into account the inner struggles to place in the hit parade of the commerce”. Aldecoa is right and I apply this same principle to Jesus Lara, who is working a genre clearly knowing that it is a genre that lost market in history but it is a necessary and essential genre to understand the human being and he has to work with it from that perspective to try to rule the thinking and to channel ideas that in any other different way would be quite bothersome, because we would have to read huge treaties to get to understand certain truths.
The 764 aphorisms that Rufo Caballero chose, in my opinion, work practically three big areas that are the ones most dealt with in Mitología del extremo: aphorisms that deal with the mythology of the human being, which are essentially the ones who gave origin to the genre. In page 39, there is this one that reads “who forges his spirit, sets a price to his head”, then you may remember that poem by Jose Marti that reads “who has light will remain alone”, so we know, to forge the spirit means to face everything else and all that is against you, therefore you are in danger. In page 47, “what faith consolidates, fear cannot break” is in the same line of Christian aphorism and the stoic criteria with which Christianity could resist the first avalanche against it, which lasted more than four centuries. In page 70, in this same line he says “in some circumstances, the action and the lack of action are identical, to say on time can heal, the silence can also defeat” and on page 72, he says “the price to know oneself is to start straightening up oneself”, here there is a clear ethical line starting from the stoicisms and the main virtue of man, which is already inscribed in the temple of the Oracle of Delphi: “Know thyself” which can be the first aphorism in the Greek culture, and to know yourself implies a position before the human being, it is a position that reveals the virtue and the audacity and the need of the change to which Jesus Lara dedicates too many aphorisms.
There is a political aphorism which is the other side I do not want to leave out “the revolution does not stop only to perpetrate the honesty of the rights and the declared need of humanity to make each man unanimous”: I wish that was the apothegm that will guide the revolutionary contemporary principles. On page 123, almost at the end of the book, Lara says: “wait for the unexpected”, with which he is also opening a door to knowledge, to virtue, a door to the unknown and finally, an invitation for Mitología del extremo.
This is a book that cannot be read in one go, this a book to be read as if you were sipping a cup of hot chocolate, I mean, only a sip, slowly, line by line, sentence by sentence and if it’s possible, you read it once again because it is not built to meet the destiny or the end of their history, in order to create in our conscience a thinking of affinity, and to create that thought a deep reading is needed. Let’s then search for that possibility that firstly we thank to Lara and Rufo Caballero, who I remember every single day, and this is not something I am saying in vain; Rufo knows the truth. I miss him for his audacity or capacity, but also for his intellectual honesty, and then let’s thank Jesus Lara for this book too.
 It refers to the book Meditations, written by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius between the campaigns from 170 to 180 AD.