- René Girard, Friendship, and Battling to the EndA Conversation with Cesáreo Bandera
The following conversation took place at the 2017 Colloquium on Violence and Religion in Madrid, Spain. Cesáreo Bandera and Adam Ericksen discuss Bandera's friendship with Girard, their disagreements about mimetic theory, and hope in these apocalyptic times. This is an edited version of the transcript of a recoded interview. You can watch the video recording at The Raven Review at ravenfoundation.org.
We are in your home country.bandera:
Yes. In my home country. I am from the south, from Malaga. Malaga is straight south from Madrid on the coast, right across the Mediterranean from Africa. I was born there but grew up in other parts of southern Spain. Like Cordoba and Sevilla where I went to the law school, to get a law degree, which I never practiced. And then I got married and we went to the US.ericksen:
So, you got a law degree, but never practiced it … [End Page 195]
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You've written a book on Don Quixote. Did you get a degree in literature?bandera:
Yes, we went as graduate students to Cornell. We had a teaching assistantship there, and so eventually after several trials, I ended up studying Spanish literature at Cornell.ericksen:
And eventually you met René Girard …bandera:
How did that come about?bandera:
Well, the director of my dissertation, who was the famous medievalist John Freccero, was a good personal friend of Girard. They had both taught at Johns Hopkins. He was at Cornell at the time, directing my dissertation. He knew my intellectual leanings. So he said, "Oh, you must meet this friend of mine who has just written a [End Page 196] book (it was Mensonge Romantique), which you will love!" So, it just happened that at the time, Girard was ready to accept an offer from SUNY Buffalo. In fact, he moved from Johns Hopkins to SUNY Buffalo in 1968.
I happened to have an offer from Buffalo, too, at approximately the same time. So I followed him to Buffalo the following year, in '69. We met for the first time in '69. And it was, you know, I'd like to say love at first sight, but that's probably not the proper way to put it …ericksen:
Friendship at first sight?bandera:
Friendship at first sight. Yes. I mean, we connected immediately, even though he was much older than I and with an established reputation already. I had just been given tenure. My first totally Girardian work was an article on a nineteenth-century Spanish novel.ericksen:
What was it about René that you connected with so quickly?bandera:
His ideas. He talked about Don Quixote and I said, "Yes!" Immediately, "Yes! That's it! That's it. You're right. I think the same thing about Don Quixote." Then we disagreed on other things. And we had discussions on everything. But basically there was a common general worldview, I would say.
Also, I admired him as a person. To me he was an extraordinary human being. Those were very difficult times, all over the place, but particularly in American universities. In Europe, it was the summer of '68, you know, big movements in Paris. At Cornell, disturbing things had happened, some people had become academic revolutionaries who even tried to burn down the library, who took over Willard Straight Hall, which housed the student union and other services of the university. It was a very trying time, where university faculties were simply caught up in the disturbance, very cowardly, I should say. And gave in in a number of ways to things I can only describe as shameful, even though I was also in it, everyone was in it. But not Girard. Girard never gave way to any kind of crowd pressure. In other words, he always suspected and resisted the crowd. The old saying in Latin, vox populi, vox dei, the voice of the crowd, the old sacred voice of the...