Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and the power of "but"
His 1988 novel Off Side (translated into English in 1996) does not just heap easy insults on developers and politicians, it analyzes its targets, and if that sounds polemical and didactic, maybe it is, but it can be fun. Furthermore, Vázquez Montalbán does not just excoriate moneymakers, he expresses considerable sympathy for the people (and, in this case, a lower-division soccer team) threatened by development ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The sections that ring truest with me are those that expose rhetoric that triangulates, that tries to crush its opposition with kindness and sweet reason, that pretends to understand the other guy's point of view while plotting to take his land, that disingenuously identifies its own interests with the public good. Here's the patrician chairman of the the FC Barcelona soccer team addressing the College of Lawyers.:
"We must not let ourselves be carried away by speculative adventures, but at the same time we must not let ourselves be paralysed by the kind of unimaginative conservatism which on occasion dominates public policy-making in the guise of progressive, left-wing thinking."The key word in that eminently reasonable-sounding bit of speech making is, of course, but.
For those worried that the book is nothing but a tendentious political screed, know that Vázquez Montalbán and his protagonist, Pepe Carvalho, are just as hard on political correctness as they are on disingenuous neoliberalism:
"`Some people might think you're getting old.'Since one is vastly more likely to read about "senior citizens of either gender" than "old people of either sex" in my country and my newspaper, I say olé to Pepe Carvalho and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán.
"`People don't know the meaning of the word nowadays. The only people who know what the word means are people who are old already, and I don't feel that I'm old yet. Imagine it! They've even succeeded in disappearing the word out of the language. These days they talk about `senior citizens.' It reminds me of the years under Franco, when workers had to be called `producers.' To be a `worker' was politically obscene and dangerous. These days, to be `old' is biologically obscene and dangerous."
© Peter Rozovsky 2012