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SUBCOMANDANTE MARCOS: THE LATEST READER* Nick Henck Keio University (Tokyo) There is a tendency among writings on men of action to concentrate almost exclusively on what they have done, while neglecting what they have read. Given this, Ricardo Piglia’s treatment of Che Guevara, whom he calls ‘the man of action par excellence,’ provides a refreshing insight into this Latin American revolutionary icon and his attitude toward, and experiences of, reading.1 After noting that ‘There is a tension between the act of reading and political action, between reading and practical life . . . between reading and experience,’ Piglia points out that nevertheless Often, what has been read is the filter that makes it possible to endow experience with meaning. Reading is the mirror of experience , defining it, giving it form . . . Life is completed with a meaning derived from what has been read.2 Turning specifically to the Argentine doctor-turned-revolutionary, Piglia (2008:262) continues Guevara . . . is someone who finds an ethical model in something he has read, a model of behavior, the pure form of experience . . . he has also lived his life on the basis of a certain model of experience he has read and which he seeks to repeat and realize. Ultimately, in Piglia’s (2008:262) eyes, ‘Guevara is the last reader.’ If this be so, however, I would urge that Che’s successor in the Latin American revolutionary guerrilla tradition, Subcommander Marcos, can be viewed as the most recent incarnation of the last reader. Evidently, Piglia sees Che as a man for whom reading is not an act (in both senses of that word) but a way of life, and thus sets about examining where this reading took place, why, and under what conditions. And so, while Piglia explores Guevara’s experience of, and relationship to, reading, I seek to do the same regarding Subcommander Marcos (although I will also attempt to identify which books Marcos has read and, significantly, which ones he appears not to have, something Piglia seems little interested in concerning Che, but for which there is a precedent3 ). Furthermore, I shall adhere to Piglia’s approach in terms of the scope of the present study; hence I will only *I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of Janet Doyle, alias Irlandesa, an activist who for years selflessly devoted herself to translating the Zapatistas’ words, and who passed away in 2011. The translations of Marcos’ interviews with Laura Castellanos, Juan Gelman and Raymundo Reynoso below were produced by Janet at the author’s request. All other translations, unless otherwise stated, are those of the author. C  2013 Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 49 The Latin Americanist, June 2014 briefly touch upon how Marcos’ reading influenced his writing (see below, pp. 13f), a theme that has already received significant scholarly treatment.4 Prior to commencing however, I would like to outline briefly the methodology employed in this article. This involves studying numerous interviews given by Marcos himself in which he discusses at some length his experiences of reading, chief among these being those with Argentine prize-winning poet, journalist and activist Juan Gelman in 1996, Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcı́a Márquez in 2001, and Mexican investigative journalist and author Laura Castellanos in 2007. This material I then supplement with information garnered from interviews with the father of Rafael Guillén (the Subcommander’s pre-guerrilla incarnation), which provide an insight into Marcos’ childhood exposure to reading. Turning to the question of which authors and works Marcos has read, I examine: Rafael Guillén’s graduation thesis, complete with bibliography ; a list of books discovered in Marcos’ personal library when the Mexican military raided the Subcommander’s guerrilla camp during its February 1995 offensive; and the numerous references to Marcos’ literary diet mined from a corpus comprising hundreds of the Subcommander’s communiqués and dozens of his speeches. Interestingly, in addition to being fellow well-educated, middle-class, leftwing Latin Americans who became rural guerrillas in order to overthrow what they perceived to be authoritarian and oppressive regimes, much appears to unite Che and Marcos in terms of their experiences of reading. For example, both...


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pp. 49-73
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