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FUSIONED - DIRECTED - WRITTEN AND CORRESPONDED BY: MENASSA 2002
DON'T KNOW HOW TO SPEAK BUT WE DO IT IN SEVERAL LANGUAGES
GRIS, IS A PRODUCT
INDIO GRIS Nº 92
WITH THE POET
February 24th, 2002
You haven't told us about how you spent your time at the military service, some
anecdote from that time in the Navy, what did you do?
Oscar Menassa: 1961. I can't remember anything about the military service…
yes, I remember two or three little things. I was in third year of Medicine, or
in second, one day all the doctors went away and left me in charge of the
infirmary of the Navy Mechanics School, which was the place where afterwards
they tortured and abused people.
my fellow companions had learnt that I was on guard, in charge of the infirmary,
where there were 40 beds and generally 2 or 3 were occupied, I wasn't a doctor
either, I was a student of the second year of Medicine. Of course, people came
and said "I have a fever" and I filled in a card and confined them, in
total I confined 40 recruits.
What is a recruit?
A soldier. 40 soldiers who were doing the military service, poor people. It
hurts me here, it hurts me there and, of course, I didn't examine them, I had
coursed only physiology: I knew how to kill rats, we took the toads' brains out
with only one prick. We killed little rats by beating their heads against the
marble of the dissection table.
Of course, you were not going to treat the soldiers this way. Is that what you
mean? That you were more delicate towards the recruits?
No, what I'm telling you is that I only knew how to handle little animals, I had
only coursed physiology. In physiology things are studied with little animals.
The truth, a doctor comes out of the University without knowing how the human
being functions. But one learns it afterwards, as everything. What was I saying?
That you confined 40 soldiers in the infirmary.
When the authorities returned on Monday, they sent me to the cell for 30 or 40
days. And they had no consideration, in the cell, there was a guy who had killed
And they treated you the same way they treated him.
Sure, and they locked me up with him.
Were you many times in jail, for a long time?
No, they released me when I broke his face, I almost broke him to pieces, that
murderer, because he wanted to rape me and I didn't let him, I was a kid, it was
a time when I practised sports. They released me from jail admitting my reasons,
of course. After those 30 days of detention, a companion came, a poet, and said
to me: "Ché skinny, a manifesto in favour of the revolutionary Cuba"
and I said to him: "But, do you think so, doing the military service?"
"But of course, skinny, don't be a jerk".
To sum up?
60 days in the cell.
For having signed the manifesto?
Yes, for having signed the manifesto. And some torture, too, because they woke
me up at 3 in the morning and asked me "who is it?" and I answered
them: "I am a liberal". And they asked me: "And what relationship
do you have with those filthy communists? And I answered: "That here at the
military service I live worse than they do, that I'm more disgusting than
And did those declarations coincide with the feelings of the officers at that
The guys didn't know what to do with me. With respect to me the same thing
happened to the sailors (I did the military service in the Navy) as to women,
they didn't know what to do with me, never any woman knew what to do with me.
Then I was in jail, I was locked, but I always enjoyed
certain exemption. One day I wanted to go out, I couldn't stand it any
longer, so I put on a red bracelet and got into the ambulance and I ran out
hastily and the soldier who was on guard saluted me, he did this with his hand.
Of course, I was in such haste that he thought "someone is in danger".
I was so unlucky that in arriving at Corrientes Avenue I crashed, I ran into a
truck and the ambulance was knocked to pieces. Then I phoned the Mechanics
School and I asked to speak to a companion "today you stand in for me and
me, for you, tomorrow". He came up with an idea, "I leave here driving
a jeep and I give it to you to drive and the punishment will be less than if we
say that you ran away with the ambulance. We can say that I escaped with the
ambulance, but as I wasn't in jail, that I crashed and you came to help me…
another 60 days.
In other words, you almost spent more time in jail…
I was only one time in the cell, after I almost killed that murderer. He was a
murderer who didn't know how to box, he didn't know how to hit, he knew nothing,
poor man. He wasn't a killer who uses his own hands to kill, we was a killer who
used guns and as inside that place there weren't any guns… They didn't allow
go out of the barracks, but I had some tricks, for example, nobody wanted to be
on guard at night, nobody. I charged I don't remember how much, but I charged to
replace the others in nocturnal guards, you did them inside a sentry box, a
place of observation, and in reality nothing ever happened during the night. At
6 in the morning the first officers came, but never at night. What I did was to
charge my companions for the night guards, I went to the sentry box, I placed
the riffle standing on the floor, I put the sailor hat on top of the riffle and,
without my sailor hat, went out to the street, took a taxi and I went to sleep
to the house of a girlfriend of ours that, at that time, was the translator of
Cesare Pavese. Before 6 in the morning I was back, and when the first captain
passed by I said to him, "Good morning, Captain" and he said to me
" you are always attending
night guards, aren't you afraid of the night guards" or something
Was it ever discovered that you left during the night?
No, if that would have been discovered I would still be in the military service.
No, that was never discovered.
And what about the officers, did you ever confront any of them?
No, I never confronted any of the officers, they liked me, they were very bored
and I was very intelligent, I read a lot in those times. Not like you that you
read so little, but I read, I really read.
You read, and then?
They talked to me about any subject and I answered them, I talked to them, I
entertained them. As soon as they arrived in the morning they said: "Call
Menassa". And a soldier called me. The relation with one of them was very
rewarding. I think that he even thought I was a son of his. When we set up
the theatre company
"The games companions", I was 40 days without attending the
military service, and a letter arrived to my house, which I was lucky to see
first, which said that I had been declared a deserter, that if I didn't report
myself within 24 hours I don't know what
would happen to me. And I took the letter to that captain who got along
well with me. Why did he get along well with me? Because I cheered his mornings,
I read him poetry, I spoke about the geniuses of that time, I told him little
stories about Marx… I had him half impressed, because I have a very peculiar
Marx, consider that I go on being a Marxist after the fall of communism… I was
never a communist and the Captain was attracted by Marxism. Then I go with the
telegram, I throw it on the table (well, nobody will believe this, not even our
dear and respected poet, Leopoldo de Luis. Of course, how is he going to believe
these crass stupidities? They are crass stupidities). I got this captain who got
along so well with me, that made me a lot of favours, that
let me stay in his office instead of having to run in the field, in an
office, writing on the typewriter, (because I wrote "Little story"
there, at the military service, in this captain's office whom I'm speaking
about). I took the telegram to the captain, I threw the telegram on the table
and said to him: "If this is seen by my mother she dies from a heart
attack, you have no respect, you are not doing well because you don't respect
the people, you don't respect. My mother, a poor ill woman, whose only illusion
is that her son is a sailor and you are going to send her a telegram saying that
I'm a deserter, this has no amendment, I don't know if we can repair it".
And he told me "You can take another 15 days off" and he gave me 15
more days of holidays, this way we finished the play and we put it on stage. Of
course, I touched his most intimate fibre.
there is also a story with a poem I lost, and I hope that one day I may find it.
In Argentina, so that there are still older recruits when the new ones arrive,
half of the promotion leaves in November and the other half in March or April.
There is a big difference between the first and the second dismissal. I heard
that I was leaving in the second dismissal, in March, so I confronted the man in
charge and I said to him: "You know me well, we get along well, I can't
stand it a day longer, so you let me go on the first dismissal or I become a
deserter". They were very hard relations, I would say transferring, because
he answered me: "If you write a poem to the Navy I let you leave on the
first dismissal" and I wrote the poem to the Navy. That is the poem I want
to find to see the things I dared to write about the beautiful sailors, it must
have been something good for them because they gave me something for that so
what I wrote about them surely wasn't against them. The lieutenant told me:
"Menassa, dignity or freedom" and I said to him "freedom"
because without freedom there can be no dignity. Bourgeoisie always makes you
choose between dignity and freedom and, of course, one chooses dignity. Why?,
because you think that they are going to pay you a higher salary, etc., but the
citizen must realise that without freedom there is no dignity.
Why are they opposed? What part of dignity is it that doesn't allow freedom?
That if someday it finds a person with whom it enjoys a lot, it can't have much
freedom. It has the freedom of loving, that thing that chains it because of its
don't say that they can't be together, I say how will there be dignity without
freedom. I am saying that when one has freedom, one has also dignity. What
happens is that I don't know if the system thinks about it this way. The other
day I spoke about women. A woman that doesn't have complete freedom, who doesn't
feel completely free, truly free, can't choose to make love, even if she does
it. This is the same.
It is very interesting that question about dignity. And what else in the
military service? Was there any military who didn't like you?
No, but are you nuts?
A dandy, there are dandy and arrogant militaries in all the armies, was there
Low level people.
Yes, low-level people, it seems that you only get related with high-level
I'm poor and stupid
Any problem with any military?
I don't know, may be they are all my deliriums, afterwards people say "look
at Menassa, how he suffers from deliriums" and they are right. One day,
before going for a medical check-up that they do to people entering the military
service, I went up and down the stairs from where they were waiting for me, 40
times, I arrived agitated, dead. The doctor asked me what was the matter with me
and I answered "I suffer from a heart illness". He made me practise a
lot of tests, he made me do gym in front of him, (I was an elite sportsman),
while I did it I panted the whole time, as if I were exhausted. He didn't
believe me, he was a doctor, but he declared me relatively apt, which meant that
I couldn't go on board, that I had to be in offices, but of course, I couldn't
evade the military service, the instruction.
happened is that I arrived and there was this corporal, rather small for my
taste, who ordered me to run and I got tired. I don't know if I should tell this
because now I'm a calm person, I changed my vital situation. The question is
that the man kicked me while I was lying on the ground, I stood up, I caught him
by the neck and I didn't release him until he was almost blue. I told him that
next time that he didn't treat me with respect
I was going to kill him, something the poor man must have thought true
because whenever he saw me he crossed to the other sidewalk. That day I choked
him, I really choked him.
you realise what things you are making me tell about? Because someone may have
the idea of doing these things. That is to say that things don't always come out
well. One day I was walking down the street with a karate fighter, but he looked
like a gay movie star, because he was blonde, handsome, delicate, it was
impossible to think that he possessed any strength to hurt anybody. People were
always disconcerted about him, he always had
to demonstrate his value.
Would you like to tell us something about the karate fighter or what you really
wanted to say is
that you are something different from what you look like?
Sometimes you are vulgar.
Because I think that the story about the karate fighter is incomplete.
But I have a heart, too. It is incomplete because I recalled
a series of things…
You were studying medicine, second course, when you were in the military
service. Why did you begin medicine?
In my neighbourhood there were thieves, punt pickers, prostitutes, jobless men,
old people, there were the girls of the rich man in the neighbourhood who
studied law… It was a way to stand out. Why? Because nobody studied medicine
in my neighbourhood. As for me all things are relatively easy and relatively
difficult at the same time, I chose to study medicine. And after, I have to
admit it, because afterwards I studied psychoanalysis or I was in a way already
studying psychoanalysis, I have to admit that my father felt very pleased
that I would become a doctor. I didn't know why he was so pleased. Well,
for the same reason, when I was writing, he used to say to me: "My son, in
our family everyone was a poet, even me", my father said, and he sang
something for me in Arabic, and as I didn't understand a damn thing I told him,
good!, because I liked the intonation. He used to say me: "there hadn't
ever been a doctor in our family, so it's your turn". And because in my
neighbourhood there was none, that there was none in my family either and as I
was inclined to make favours… like that saying "If you go to Calatayud
ask for Dolores", not like Dolores because I didn't have the body for that,
I had the spirit, I always made a small favour
to someone. I was able to make love with some girls, that I realised
their husbands were preoccupied by other things, for them to stay at home taking
care of the family.
Of course, the girls having relations with a friend of their husband, it was the
same as having a relation with the husband and so they could wait for him. As a
favour to friendship.
are you going to ask some day about my work? No, for that, you have to read it.
Your work is being done, at this time you still don't have "your
work". 1961 to 1963.
No, in reality, you're right.
When you were doing the military service, 1961, 1963,
you had two books published, the third one comes in 1966. What was that
life like? Doing the military service as a sailor, at the same time studying
medicine… How was it to write verses?
Because I lived with people that lived and who weren't inclined to write, that
didn't know that you could write, so it was very easy because I was the writer.
There were 30 or 40 people that lived for me to write. You didn't like the
explanation. Why?, did you see? one has nothing in one's soul, if the soul would
exist, it would be empty, because if the soul exists it should be entirely for
its creator. One can't keep things in the soul, things are kept in the books, in
the social products.
That's to explain that it was very easy to write poetry.
In my social situation, where I always worked for a lot of people that didn't
write, that people worked for me, returning me…
seems that you always understood the places where you were. In my life I never
understood why I was where I was, never, so then I decided not to understand.
When I ask where I am, someone always answers and I start doing things that
belong to that place, because if not, living is very difficult.
Yes, it's not necessary to understand, besides it's impossible to understand
what one is living, but even so, one can speak.
You always think that I don't want to talk to you, in the end you'll achieve it.
know that in the neighbourhood due to climatic conditions, the food that is
eaten, the overprotection of poor mothers, because wealthy mothers don't look
after their children, instead the poor mothers overprotect their children,
because of all that… what was it that you ask me?
If you studied medicine to make someone a favour.
Yes, it was a pity to waste a young man like me, (so people said) that I was
capable of studying anything. For example, I wanted to be an aviation mechanic,
but they soon took that idea out of my head, see what kind of future I would
have had now, with all that terrorism. And the people of my neighbourhood, my
mother and my father didn't let me do it. "Why are you going to waste such
talent?" they said, " you must be a good university student". And
I resisted quite a lot this question of being a good university student. Well, I
started to work, not as a doctor but as a psychoanalyst, that has a close
relation to practising medicine, before obtaining my degree as a doctor. In the
end, I caused so much trouble, though I started studying at 17, but I caused so
much trouble, I stopped studying when I went to Italy, afterwards I returned and
I don't know what, afterwards they named me chief of I don't know what, finally,
I obtained my degree when I was 29.
Yes, 29. And, the same way as with poetry I don't have an owner because I write
very well (a man that writes as well as I doesn't need an owner to write), the
same thing could be said about medicine in the sense that, when I received my
doctor's degree, I already earned my living and on top of it a lot of money, I
always did what I had to do, medically speaking. Afterwards, in other occasions,
I did other things.
I have asked you how that question of writing verses was, how you could make it
compatible with all the rest and you have told me that it was very easy, you
haven't told me anything else.
But, you were asking me about compatibility? Well, it's the problem I still
have, people keep asking me where I get my time from.
Bad question, you have just asked me that, bad question in the sense that
if I have to get time from somewhere, it means that somebody has it or that it
I haven't asked you about the compatibility of time, but of the subject.
But what subject are you talking about? The subject is multiple, the subject
likes to get soaked in different opinions, what happens is that he is subdued by
ideologies and those foolishness about love. That is to say, if we don't all
pertain to the Renaissance it is because I don't know if it is convenient for
the state, I don't know if it is convenient for the family, but man has a
Renaissance spirit: he does this, he does that, he does some other thing. He
gets less tired of things when he shares them with other things, or doesn't it
happen to you?
Well, the same way it happens to you, it happens to everybody.
Of course, at this point, time produces itself.
You produce time while doing your things. This is very interesting, people feel
that they aren't losing their time when they think, for example, in themselves,
when they think, "I'm going to buy this and then I'm going to ask for money
and then…" because this way time doesn't go by for them.
What do you mean it doesn't go by?
Thinking about those foolishness, people lose a lot of time. If I don't think
about that, I already have time for 4 books and 7 paintings. You spend a lot of
time in that. For example, if the housewife could have a space, another
environment beyond house cleaning, to think about herself, I'm absolutely sure
that she could do the cleaning faster, that she loses all of her time doing the
cleaning because it is the only place of reflection she has and no one bothers
her when she is doing the cleaning or preparing the food. But if we could create
spaces with some criterion, I don't mean sending everybody to the university, I
mean spaces where the housewife can reflect about her things without anyone
calling her attention because she isn't pre paring the food or because she's not
sweeping the floor.
It is the leisure you spoke about the other day, leisure time for the woman, it
seems that she needs that leisure, that isn't the same leisure of the worker.
Lately, in the end I have to speak well of capitalism, something which I don't
like very much. Woman is behind time because what you said is for the
proletariat, bourgeoisie regulates their leisure for the worker to go back to
work. The housewife doesn't have a regulated leisure, it is supposed that she
has to be there, not that she goes and comes, she has to be always there.
She works 24 hours a day.
That is a backwardness, it is prior to capitalism. It is feudalism but only for
the servant, because there were also the feudal gentlemen.
They were and they are, or aren't they now?
Yes, it can be said in another way, that there are people who don't want to be
proletariat, that don't want to be workers, they prefer to be servants, it can
also be said this way.
I recall the book you published in 1966, 22
poems and the electronic machine or
how to make executives become desperate,
the part "How to make executives become desperate", is a kind
of fable. Salomon has an ant in his hand and he asks the ant: Who is the biggest
being of creation? The ant says to him: "Can you raise your hand a
little?" and when it was above Salomon's head, it said to him: "You
are really big but I am bigger than you because I am above your head". Then
Salomon threw the ant against the ground and condemned it to live cut in two.
Lesson: an executive is always an executive. I don't know what sort of relation
they have with feudal gentleman, but it has a relation with power. Let's see if
you can clarify this a little.
What happens is that you don't understand that a good executive, and I think you
want to become one, is someone who feels he owns the company he works for,
therefore he has that power. He won't participate in the profits but for sure if
he feels that the company is his, he will earn more money, that is to say, as a
way of participating in the profits and he will go through life being a tyrant,
as well, in the sense that feeling he is the owner of the situation…
He can cut the other one in two.
Or construct him, because it is also considered tyranny to do good to people.
Yes, what good do I do to him? The goodness that I think is
goodness, but is that the goodness for that person? That is goodness for
me, so what I want them to do for me, I invent it and I make all humanity
practise it, an error, because it was something that happened only to me, not to
The mistake of politicians, that even though they have been chosen
democratically, forget a little of the people.
They forget about democracy when they have an absolute majority to do things. If
we had found an equilibrated form of governing, we would have done it. Man is
not so bad, it is that he doesn't know what to do. They thought it was that way
and it was seen that it was an incorrect way. It is as what is happening in the
United States, where the terrorism they see is summed up in: "Let's unite
ourselves and win", Europe doesn't exactly think this way, it isn't
convenient for them. Those countries that the USA wants to continue attacking,
it could be said that they constitute the European area of influence, with which
Europe can make business tomorrow or is already doing so. Let's attack
terrorism, but not all human rights can be violated any longer, to return to the
year 1500 before Christ can't be done. They are going to try, but they won't be
able (of course, this is an opinion, maybe they can). They can't swallow
everything the University taught during a 100 years. That love is free, what
does it mean? I can fall in love with my enemy and they can't condemn me for
being in love with a person you don't like, to be in love with the enemy can't
be condemned, literature is full of these examples.
But there are also in history many cases of total and brutal destruction of what
was achieved, back steps which later take hundreds of years in reconstructing or
in recuperating time.
I, during the war against Iraq the occidental world made, clearly felt that it
was the feminine revolution what was being delayed for another century, (when
what seemed to delay itself was something else) the feminine liberation was
being delayed a century with what happened in Iraq. It is happening now, because
when the restrictions to citizens are increased, based on the little I know
about history, the restrictions are
increased for women. For example, when in dictatorships or in catastrophe
situations a curfew is established, in spite of the curfew men can go out in the
streets, but you see few women going out in the streets.
There is an example that may seem banal to you, in the competition Triumph
Operation, there was a girl who was the favourite of the audience, Chenoa, and
the press cunningly published news that she was involved with one of the
participants of the competition, that she had left/betrayed her boyfriend a week
previous to the final voting, and she wasn't chosen. A slander manoeuvre, in my
Yes, a slander manoeuvre in a people that speaks ill of the people who make
love, because if it were a people who would love people who make love, it
wouldn't be a slander campaign but all the contrary, it would have influenced
people to vote for her. Because the powerful are the powerful, the important
thing is for them that the people, sometimes, agrees
with the damage that the powerful inflict over the people, we don't know
which is the reason but it is this way, it's this way. Because, so many
intelligent persons have said that the people has the government they deserve,
that is a thing one must think about, there are governments which do nothing but
kill and poison the citizen, and if that were like this, the peoples should
think about that in another way. I don't want to meddle with the current Spanish
government, but you know that we have the current government because the people
cast a vote of censorship against the socialists. Well, I believe that more than
one is already regretting this. They should know that these things can't be
done. In Argentina, De la Rúa, who benefited from a punishing vote against
Peronism, or Peronism itself cast a punishing vote against Duhalde when he was
candidate to the presidency, if not, Duhalde should have won. Instead, the
radicals won because they wanted to punish Peronism, but the radicals always did
the same, they quickly take the country to ruin, but very quickly, in a jiffy.
They have already done it around eight times, nevertheless the people in order
to punish the authorities who had made them live better, voted the radicals.
Now, God knows how they are going to stop that situation, and everything started
with a punishing vote.
don't know how the German intellectuals who voted Hitler, tell the story, have
you seen that you can't trust intellectuals? And less in the people, the people
wants to eat, nothing else matters to them. Did I tell you when they asked Fidel
Castro to give houses to the poor? Three days after he took power in Cuba,
people started to ask him for houses. And he thought about it, and decided that
there were no houses for anybody, until the houses for all Cubans weren't built
and, the truth is that they have obtained more than enough. But, of course, he
didn't listen to the people, he listened to the idea of a possible project that
would enable each inhabitant to have a small house. There was a failure in all
the alliances with Cuba, but Cuba lived a glorious era. It became the best place
in the world where there is the best optical surgery, where there is one doctor
for every 5 to 10 inhabitants even though they may have no gauze. There was an
era of glory, a novel or almost novel poet could have 70, 000 copies of his work
published, an era of glory. As we had seen in the previous interview, in spite
of the protests of some of Fidel Castro's companions, who believed that Cuba
shouldn't depend on the Soviet Union, and that the country had to be
industrialised, this was not done, and the dependence on the Soviet Union grew
to a point that led Cuba to bankruptcy together with the Soviet Union. We don't
know what would have happened in Cuba if money were available. Because, for
example, now it has to pay cash for the food sent by the United States, and it
seems ships already arrived and the merchandise was paid in cash. These are
things which I don't understand, I'd like to understand more about them.
has to vote as one likes, how am I going to cast a punishment ballot? How am I
going to sleep with a woman to punish my wife? Please, that's where the whole
DOVE OF PEACE
dove that no longer can fly.
small dove of peace,
I want to pay tribute to your mouth, to your lips of desperate beast, to
your way of kissing as if it were always the first time and, at the same
time, the last one.
my power depends on your open mouth, that is why I sing to you with your
mouth in mine, as if all the sounds were from the soul.
saw her coming tilted, ostentatiously inclining her body towards her right side.
She shuffled her feet as if they weighed a lot or as if wanting to show an
in her couldn't go on and she told it to me in this way. Anyway, I doubted
between calling a doctor or telling her to lie on the couch.
without taking her coat off or leaving her bag, lay down and said to me:
The solution for what happens to me lies in your hands. My spine is
rotten by lack of warmth.
she remained silent and so did I. When we said good-bye she told me that she was
in the middle of the room, while a woman sucked his dick, another woman
sucked his ass and another woman sucked his mouth, he with his arms
I am a defenceless old man, somebody who is going to die quickly.
as they laughed with crystal-like laughs because they realised of his old
age, he, with a calm voice said to them:
geniuses exhausted themselves looking for an interlocutor and the only
thing they found was death, or else its attenuated version, madness.
If I would say that Aznar is beautiful, you would laugh at me. When
I tell you that Spain is doing well, why don't you laugh?
time it will be the turn of the blind to become mad. And, by now, it can
be clearly seen, there won't be any disappearing. And recognition if it
comes will be massive, so I will also have to be careful of recognition.
have to go on constructing a free woman, to be able to love her, up to the
point of surpassing the limits of love that, in all, operate like
accept that the current sexuality is ruled by masculine patterns of
sexuality, but I want to add that, when woman can impose her position, she
will also repress and there won't be anyone else who will ever fuck .
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Norma Menassa and Dreams
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Prize: Hysteria - History of a love-
by Carlos Fernandez del Ganso
February 19th, 2002 at 7 p.m.