Wednesday, September 22, 2021

My hero: Eduardo Galeano by Tariq Ali


'Revolutionaries are not infallible' … Eduardo Galeano Photograph: Ezequiel Scagnetti


My hero: 

Eduardo Galeano by Tariq Ali

My late friend and comrade Eduardo Galeano was a modern-day Simón Bolívar, trying to achieve with his pen what the liberator had attempted with the sword

17 April 2015

I

n Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, the eponymous antihero is confronted by his student, who is livid that the great man has recanted: “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.” Galileo’s response is calm: “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.” And he continues to work on his manuscript, which he then hands to his estranged pupil, who realises at the end of the play that what is really important has been achieved. The ideas will survive. My late friend and comrade, the Uruguayan journalist and historian Eduardo Galeano, who died this week, never recanted his beliefs in private or in public. Nor did he believe in heroes. 

His entire work is suffused with the idea of mass democracy, whereby the poor and oppressed achieve self-emancipation through common action for limited or broader goals. Galeano was a modern-day Simón Bolívar, trying to achieve with his pen what the liberator had attempted with the sword: the unity of their continent against empires old and new. He spoke for the underground voices of the continent when US-backed military dictatorships crushed democracy in most parts of South America; he spoke for those being tortured, for indigenous people crushed by the dual oppression of empire and creole oligarchs.

Was he optimistic or pessimistic? Both, often together, but he never gave up hope. The right to dream, he insisted, should be inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That remained strong all his life. It is visible in his lyrical works on South American history. History written as poetry, three volumes of vignettes, each of them a pearl that went to make a stunning necklace. It is there in his journalism from Marcha in 1960s Uruguay to La Jornada in Mexico today. He was never dogmatic, always open to new ideas.

After the tyranny of the military dictatorships he realised that the armed road had been a disaster, that the Cuban revolution could not be imitated blindly. The birth of new social movements and the Bolivarian victories were both a source of inspiration and concern. He did not want to see old mistakes repeated. Whenever we met this was very strong in him. We were not simply defeated by the enemy, he would insist, but also, to a certain extent, by ourselves. Revolutionaries are not infallible.


THE GUARDIAN





2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
054 My hero / Michael de Montaigne by Liyun Li
055 My hero / Michael Donaghy by Maggie O'Farrell
056 My hero / Richmal Crompton by Louise Crompton
057 My hero / Edward Thomas by David Constantine
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal
059 My hero / Sefton by Jilly Cooper

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
250 My hero John Bayley by Richard Eyre

2016



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