Luis Alberto Ayala Blanco’s Automatas Espermaticos takes up the cudgel of Emil Cioran against progressive liberals whose redemptive rants have enslaved us
Reviewed by Georgina Jiménez
ABOUT 25 years ago, post-modernism announced that humanity’s future was bleak. The ideas of Emil Cioran – the Romanian philosopher who denounced systematic thought and abstract speculation in favour of personal reflection and lyricism – reached their zenith in Mexico.
In the country’s upper intellectual echelons, the work of Cioran (pictured above) was being discussed, digested, washed down with wine and preached.
It seems that this trend is still being pursued by some. At the first glance, the reader may think that Automatas Espermaticos (“Spermatic Automatons”) is a heavy and pessimistic book, but one must not be defeated: by the second chapter, one realises that this is quite a darkly comic novel, although at times turgid, written by a sceptic.
Osmodiar (is this a homage to the green alien only seen by Homer Simpson?) is a precocious upper-class teenager – ontologically “up to his balls” with life.
He is the child of Spanish refugees and, since a very early age, has been exposed to “progressive” ideas and “good causes” versus “evil”.
After his older brother leaves his books lying around the house, Osmodiar becomes “the secretary” of his own sensations and begins to write a series of meditations. His personal conclusion is that life follows a path whose end is tragically evident but at the same time undecipherable.
The novel opens with a quotation by suicidal Albert Caraco – the Francophone writer whose nihilism brought him to take his own life – which states: “We hate a world brimming with insects, and those who swear that these are men lie: the mass of perdition has never been of men, but of rejects, and since when should a Spermatic Automaton be my neighbour? I say that my neighbour does not exist and that my duty is not to emulate him at all.”
Sick of most people’s itch to be artists, intellectuals, musicians, actors or something important and life changing, and distant from the universe of mass banality, he labels them as Spermatic Automatons and questions their naivety (if not stupidity), but is careful with his style.
Others, including his older brother and other nameless characters, try to refute his pessimistic arguments and to convince him that one cannot be absorbed the surrounding mediocrity that destroys humans without trying to fight back, simply by living.
As a teenager and as a Cioran’s disciple, his remedy against these “stupid enthusiasts” is simply to find the funny side of things. He discusses God, music, violence, love, work, alienation, absurdity, existential boredom and reason.
Throughout the novel there are some memorable aphorisms such as:
“The distinctive touch of our times, what differentiates us from other times, is that nowadays we can be ruled by any old imbecile”; “what is a fact is that we live an absence of political intelligence that surely will push this country – Mexico – into the cliffs of violence, but for the moment we can just but enjoy the juggling show by different troupes of blind guys, whose real purpose is seeing who is the first one to trip up”; or “Practically all revolutions are carried out in name of the oppressed, so that the oppressed learn that there is a kind of educated people that will teach them how to do things. And the funniest thing is that, if they don’t, that is too bad”.
Rather than stepping into the comfort zone adopted by many intellectuals who define themselves as progressive liberals (often within the left), whose redemptive rantings against the conservatives have culminated the progressive process of enslavery of the human race, Ayala Blanco intends to question their motives by ridiculing these cliques – some of them clearly well placed in the management of culture and politics in Mexico.
The author’s main aim is to put before the reader radical material, to make them think and question prevailing ideas, while respecting their intelligence. He pulls this off with quirky style.