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The barbarian invasions | Culture

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It is the title of a French-Canadian film by Denys Arcand: The barbarian invasions. There is a sublime sequence in it. The protagonist, a university student who suffers from cancer and wants to say goodbye to him, brings together all of his friends, friends, lovers, the whole gang. During the meal they talk about the great moments of humanity, the Greek splendor, the Renaissance lightning, when the lights illuminated like never before, before the amazement, the terror, before the darkness.

There was a time during which the barbarians were at the limits of the empires, on the other side of the walls, far away, that’s where they came from. They were expected, they were feared. From the crests of the towers we watched them. There you have them, Coetzee’s character or Buzzati’s, Officer Drogo, staring non-stop at the plain of the Tartar desert. However, now the barbarians are not outside, but inside, in the enclosure, on this side of the walls. They no longer have to invade us, we are the ones who knock down our own walls, the ones who take away stone by stone.

Through the cables, through the algorithms, here we are looting the villages, setting fire to the campers, to the books. We are the barbarians of whom Alessandro Baricco also spoke more than a quarter of a century ago. We have stopped loving, pampering, loving depth, we love superficiality. And there we are, surfing from screen to screen. Behind are the looted villages, the water wells that were the bookstores, the crowded taverns. Behind are the books, the canvases, everything that helped us breathe.

Drinking and eating are not only done with the mouth and through the trachea. It is also done with the eyes, with the cortex. We eat the world in bites when we read, when we look, when we listen to a book, a canvas, a symphony. Everything else is famine, desert without water, pure wasteland, wind. The few who stay in the towers, sniffing the horizon, looking for some verticality in the world, are not saved either. There you have them, perched on their clay towers, but they have already acquired the sleepwalking features of nomads, with barbaric money in their pockets. The dust of the great nothingness fogs their necks, they sweat profusely in their official duties.

Books, novels, were once bastions. The barbarians turned around with their cavalry, but they did not dare. Sometimes they went into one or another room, setting it on fire with the torch of one or another literature prize. Now even that is not necessary, the Nobel is given to a troubadour, the rabble is given to another, a real author, because his verb is too abrupt, because his books have too much buttock, hips, chest, because the sentence is too literary, because there is no narrative, because the story tells nothing, because it only puts the verb high as those who raised their spears and charged did in the past.

Then we get the paperback books, full of lice. The awards arrive that reward writers who barely have kidneys, who breathe through their butts. But with a push on social networks, those who knead, who destroy, like no one else, with whom the dough is made, the marzipan, something very edible, something that is not going to give you indigestion, which is pure candy. The barbarians have not invaded us from outside but from within. They did not destroy the civilization of the book. There was no genocide, no holocaust by great authors, no uprising in arms, no burning towers. What has happened is that the invasion came from within. The editors handed over the weapons, as did the authors, as did the readers.

From time to time one or another appears, confused, badly injured, still dripping, with the dagger stuck between his ribs. Even so, on all fours, he insists on writing, publishing, reading. Nowadays, most of those who buy books are not readers. Nowadays most of those who write books are not authors. Books that have been movies, books that have been written by famous people, those on the screens, those on television, those on social networks. They are often the ones hanging around in the front rows of sales. Having followers, having an audience, has become the traffic light to pass, to transfer to the world of the book.

The barbarians did not come from outside. They entered from inside. Now we surf the Internet, we surf from one piece of writing to another, and there are the nets thrown away, the silver fish in the water, in the river. Soon not even that, we will open our cell phone and the algorithm will do the job of giving us the answers, it will shower us with its questions. We will be happy as partridges, because the invaders, I repeat, are not them, others, none, it is us. The Tatars will never come because they have never left. They weren’t the ones on the other side. They were here forever. In here, not outside.

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