The Journey to the Presence

“What I wish for my books is that they live their lives without me and that they make me happy when I reread them”.

Pensamientos de un viejo (1916) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

He who runs away from life is because he loves life too much. Vulgar men believe that a philosopher is a man with an arid soul. How can he who does not have a heart full of life analyse life? How can he who does not have a tormented soul know the passions and desires and movements of the soul?

Una tesis - El derecho a no obedecer (1919) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

“Of how in Colombia there are many doctors, many poets, many schools and little agriculture and few roads.” “The peoples in which the youngsters don't think, for fear of error and doubt, are destined to be colonies.” “Anarchism has a scientific basis, and is nothing but the principles of the liberal school led to exaggeration.”

Viaje a pie (1929) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

You, Margarita, who know the author's intense love for his Colombian land, for the Colombian air, for the lonely Simon Bolívar of Santa Marta, for the territorial sea, are the only one who can understand the purpose of this book: to describe to the youth the conservative Colombia of Rafael Núñez; to do something so that the man who will whip the merchants appears. This book is for you; you know what the author thinks of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mi Simón Bolívar (1939) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

And Lucas went about to the north and to the south, and to the east and to the west, in vain seeking after human beauty. Then he went to the past and found that in Santiago de León de Caracas was born, at one o'clock in the morning of July twenty-fourth, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three, a Spanish Creole, heir to all the energy of the conquerors, and that in his short life of forty-seven years, four months and twenty-four days he had fulfilled the following principles in which the performance of human energy is summarized: I. To know exactly what is desired; II. To desire it as one who drowns desires air; III. Sacrifice yourself to the realization of desire. This man was Simon Bolivar. Having found human beauty, Luke isolated himself from his fellow citizens and gave himself up for years to realize the hero in himself.

Don Mirócletes (1932) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

It seems to me that no one was tormented by a character of his as Manuelito Fernandez was by me. He made my days of my first visit to Paris bitter, for I created him there and he became so alive that he replaced me. I almost went crazy when I realized that I had become the son of my brain. I wanted to form a character and surround it with people and life observed long ago. I was caught up in the logic that presides over the emergence of artistic organisms and it almost drove me crazy. On August 20, 1932, at eleven o'clock at night, I entered the subway at the Magdalena station, running away from a beautiful woman who kept repeating to me: “Pas cher! Pas cher! Quatre vingts francs avec la chambre…”, and there I felt so identical to my character that I could hear him talking inside my skull, and so I finished this book without Manuelito committing suicide. If he kills himself,” I said to myself, “I will hear the bullet break my bones and penetrate my brain. My project and logic demanded an end to suicide. But it was impossible.

El Hermafrodita dormido (1933) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

Who is Lucas de Ochoa in the days when he brings out his Italian adventures? Every moment he goes to the window of the Consulate, where he works, looks up to the sky and calls out to God. Even when he goes for a walk with his children he looks up to the sky, like birds of prey when they sun themselves on the roofs. He is very sure that we are “made” and that we can “receive energy.” The point is to get in touch with her. Almost everyone cuts off the current and wrinkles like raisins. It feels like living in communication with everything created. “Even there,” he says, “even the farthest sun is linked to me. Many times he wakes up during the night and feels the solidarity with the stars, he feels that the sun is warming the other hemisphere and he sees the earth that is going its way, so beautiful.

Mi Compadre (1934) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

During the gestation and the realization of this work I did not care about morals: good, bad. I cared about the fact, I was a biologist. And in the presence of General Gómez, when the old man dilated those hypnotic eyes that normally looked like two cuts, I felt proud of my South America that can produce, with the mixture of blood, vital protrusions. Isn't a river great because it is dirty? Wouldn't Juan Vicente Gómez be great if he had great capacities: to imprison, to hypnotize a people, to humiliate, to take over a group of arrogant plainsmen to the point of handling them like children? […] The amount of energy is the essential thing; to apply it to what they call good or bad, that is a matter of discipline. My conclusion was: we are promising, since we produce these human beings. What do I care about one of these men who call themselves good if they are good for lack of desire? They are eunuchs of the spirit.

El remordimiento (1935) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

Here it is a question of explaining the way in which man ascends, through sin, through insults to Santander, and then comes remorse, that is, understanding. May we be more every day. The reason for this book was in Marseilles, a girl who told me at New Year's that I could kiss her, at twelve o'clock. We were frightened; I kissed her, but I began to criticize myself, to lament that I had not kissed her well. Then the problem of remorse came to light. It is a purely psychological book, a description of the way in which man progresses in consciousness, in knowledge, in liberalism.

Cartas a Estanislao (1935) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

In “Letters to Stanislaus” I wrote poems to the proud and divine acceptance of oneself and launched diatribes against the lie that has been humanity in America. Among the many objectives that I had in writing it, the main one was love for the cultural work that we free men, the liberals, can carry out. I wanted to make fun of nominal liberalism; to make young people understand that liberalism is a state of conscience, a prize for great sacrifices and disciplines. It is the duty of every thinker to stay away from political parties in order to preserve freedom of criticism. Men of action must do what is possible; he who devotes himself to thought must be a stimulant. Together they go to spur and mule and together they do the work of reaching; but in some sense the spur is the enemy of the mule. Socrates already said that he was a horsefly on the horse Athens. Who loved Athens as much as he did? Who loves freedom, liberalism, as much as I do? But my duty is not to compromise.

Los negroides (1936) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

What do I care about morality and law, I, the preacher of personality, of self-expression, I, who love Jesus and the devil, Bolivar and Gomez…? I love only those who are honest with their own souls. I do not write for the South Americans who have a metro imposed on them by the Spanish friars; I do not write for the Bogotanos (and Bogotanos are in Quito, Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires), who have given birth to nothing, who pray as in Europe, who legislate as in Europe and who urinate as in Europe.

Antioquia n.º 1 (1936) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

“Antioquia” wants to be a publication that does not defraud the public; it will only appear when the editor has something worth reading. It will be different from the magazines that exist today in the republic. It shall be different from the ones in that it shall not be composed of articles cut by scissors; from the others, in that it shall not be at the service of anyone but of some delicate sentiments, such as the love of originality, of brazenness, of country and of art. It will be a brazen magazine. But it will never cause painful wounds; it will barely caress.

Santander (1940) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

Since Santander is a false national hero, the purpose of this book is to expose him. Colombia, guided by him and his children, who govern us today, is going down a twisted and dark road that leads to the alienation of souls and land, sky, sea and subsoil. A powerful instinct, an attraction for the truth, guides us in this work. It would be unpatriotic if Major Santander were really representative of the nine million Colombians who populate this territory. But he is not, and a voice commands us to uncover him, so that the youth will avoid him.

El maestro de escuela (1941) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

Manjarrés was rather tall; his legs were very long and thin. But it was clear that he was born to be fat: he was a skinny, thin schoolteacher; that was not his natural condition, but he suffered from it. He had a hanging moustache and a toothbrush in his left inner coat pocket with the bristles on top, the badge of every schoolteacher. While he was running around, he opened and closed his old pocket knife, which was very much eaten and cleaned by scraps and grindings; he also took out from his pockets pieces of chalk; these and the blackened smuts are the only abundance in the teacher's house.

Estatuto de valorización (1942) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

In the 20th century, the stockholder is bent over backwards in his chair, receiving the dividends of the corporation. Who works? No one knows. Who stole? It's not known. Who bought the justice? It's not known. Who bought the votes in the election? It's not known. Why wasn't the beer or cigarette tax bill discussed in the second debate? It's not known. Who's God? The manager. Where's the manager? He's ubiquitous. In this war, so-and-so or Zutan, Hitler, Churchill or Roosevelt will not win; the new order will win, a new order that is very old, that is in the Gospel, in Tolstoy, in Gandhi, in Lenin, etc.

Libro de los viajes o de las presencias (1959) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

I dreamed awake with those papers, and I saw already in my hands the first copy of the little dark red filled book, almost black, and that fit in the pocket of my jacket. Every book should fit in the pocket; it has to be carried, it has to be manual, so that we can read it at the foot of the trees, next to the fountains, wherever our desire takes us. A good book has to be handled, to live with one, to walk with one. Anyway, this illegal love for books took hold of me and didn't let me sleep, like the girl that lived in my house when I was young.

La tragicomedia del padre Elías y Martina la velera (1962) by Fernando González OchoaCasa Museo Otraparte

And, to finish, I will explain how I came by these manuscripts and character of the drama: just as one must peep into the silence of the nights to see the traveling stars, I have peeped into solitude, and I have been visited at home by mysterious travelers. There is no such solitude; what they call that is precisely the company, and vice versa.

Credits: Story

Original covers of the books published by Fernando González with texts of his authorship. Cover illustration by Daniel Gómez Henao. Curated by Gustavo Restrepo Villa, director of Otraparte House Museum.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
International Museum Day 2020
From iconic art to cutting-edge fashion, get a better appreciation and understanding of culture from around the world
View theme
Google apps