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Goodbye compańero Andre Gunder Frank
Samir Amin - Miguel A. Bernal - Theotonio Dos Santos - Barry K. Gills - Róbinson Rojas - Jeff Sommers - Arno Tausch
From The Panama News - 8 May, 2005

Gunder Frank and Roa Bastos

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

"For the Latin American writer," Mario Benedetti tells us, "to uphold reality is to experience the acute necessity to change it." And this was, without doubt, the role that two recently passed Latin American authors, Andre Gunder Frank (1929-2005) who died on April 23 defeated by cancer, and Augusto Roa Bastos (1917-2005) who died April 27 in his native Paraguay of a cardiac arrest, throughout their lives as writers and in their actions.

Both developed literary projects that were intertwined with the social, with the political. Sure in their convictions and their principles, they knew how to find in themselves "sufficient dignity to reject the barter of their economic security for their political neutralization...." Each in his genre sought with his letters the fullness of man.

Gunder Frank was one of the creators of the theory of dependence and a brilliant representative of the theory of world systems, but above all a tireless political fighter against every manifestation of injustice in our societies. His works, among which is "The Development of Underdevelopment," became an obligatory reference for studious Latin Americans of the 70s and 80s.

Gunder Frank contributed to the understanding that "underdevelopment exhausts, deteriorates, extenuates, saddens, leading one to question one's own efforts and to doubt one's real accomplishments."

Roa Bastos, who received the Cervantes Prize in letters in 1989, was the author of "I, the Supreme" (1974) and "Son of Man" (1960), among other novels that portrayed the abuses of power, the customs and the suffering of his country and of our America. His work is of polished prose, rich in poetic expressions.

In it appear the key aspects of the mythology inherited from the Guarani culture, historical elements of his tormented country and scenes from his childhood and youth. In 1947 he had to go into exile in Buenos Aires as a consequence of the civil war that was destroying his country. In 1970 he returned to Paraguay and dedicated himself to the teaching of Latin American literature, an educational work that he would take up again in 1976 at the French University of Toulouse.

His poetic works include titles like "The Nightingale and the Dawn" (1936) and "The Burning Orange Grove" (1947-49). Among his published short stories you find those collected in "The Thunder Between the Pages" (1953), "The Wasteland" (1966), "Present Body" (1971) and "To Tell a Story and Other Reports" (1984). In 1992 he published "The Admiral's Watch," an historical novel about Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America.

Fernando Savater, in his essay about "The Courage to Educate," reminds of John the warning given by John Kenneth Galbraith, who in his last book stated that all of the present democracies live under the permanent fear of the influence of the ignorant. The ignorance to which Galbraith refers, Savater tells us, "is the incapacity to think, to understand what others say; the incapacity to make our social demands explicit to others and to understand the demands that others make of us --- it's the really dangerous kind of ignorance because it provokes some people to live in subjugation to what others know or say."

Gunder Frank and Roas Bastos were Latin American writers who fought ignorance with their writings and research, who knew how to meet their obligations to assume attitudes that touched sensitive spots in the society in which they lived. They know how to have the courage to opine and act, to run a risk and to assume a responsibility to denounce in their writings.

Their works remain among us, so that we can learn to get out of underdevelopment and strip away the supreme I from ourselves.