JESSICA ZAFRA | Obituary for the formerly brilliant
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For a long time I have felt like a child whose beloved parent has dementia. I have watched as the sharp, shining intellect I had admired and respected was corrupted, dulled, and reduced to smearing excrement on the walls.
This person I looked up to as a mentor, who introduced me to great works of literature and humanist thought, who supported my own attempts at writing and taught me that language is a weapon, who helped me through my constant ineptitude about money, who even shared my love of cats, is gone. The surrogate parent who offered me advice and comfort when my own mother died, is no longer with us.
I have always known of the racism, the elitism and attraction to fascism. I explained this to myself as examples of his independent thinking and charming political incorrectness. He had always flown the flag for free speech, and believing in free speech means defending the right of other people to say things you disagree with, even if they make you sick.
Over the years my explanations to myself have become more convoluted and illogical, but I wanted to believe that there was a point to all that, some end game too complex and brilliant for my mediocre brain. Loyalty and gratitude had blinded me from speaking. I thought that if I shut up, surely this vicious insanity would end, and once again we would be sitting down to a meal at which he would bring his own rice, steaming in its cooker, declare his love of HBO's Rome and Ciaran Hinds' portrayal of Julius Caesar, and bemoan, hilariously, the demise of his hair follicles. I would ask him for the thousandth time why he has never published his own book when far inferior writers publish regularly.
Those days are gone. We are never going to do that joint lecture on Russian novels. But I will get around to finishing The Death of Virgil by the Viennese Jew Hermann Broch, a book he gave me, in which the dying writer ruminates on the malevolence of the society he had lionized.
He has one last thing to teach me: that loyalty has its limits. Mine ends when literature and history are twisted to justify the unjustifiable.