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26 November 2010

Miguel Serrano: Antarctica and Other Myths

Ulyses
(Translated by Alex Kurtagić)

Editor’s Note: This is a book review of one of Miguel Serrano’s earliest books, La Antártica y Otros Mitos. The book was published by Excalibur SOS Libros Ultimo Reducto in 1948. Ulyses review appeared in the February / March 1949 issue of Occidente magazine.

Miguel Serrano is an interesting character—writer, man of struggle, 34 years of age. Raised wholly within a Catholic culture, son of a traditional Chilean home, Miguel Serrano goes to the Antarctic and returns with a manuscript for a conference talk, more like an anguished prophecy than a descriptive or poetic essay. In his talk, rendered in the press in the same style in which it was delivered by a worthy act of honesty and loyalty, Miguel Serrano is very far from travel itineraries and astounding descriptions. He went to the Antarctic to gather, with greater intensity, his soul, and to establish the basic tenets of a quasi-mythology, founded, primarily, on good and evil, on the incorrupt angel and the devil. The Arctic region, he says, is the head of the hemisphere, and the Antarctic corresponds to its sexual organs; but this is only the beginning, fugaciously sketched. The book contains an immense linkage of the strangest hypotheses, oriented to the past, and, what turns out most audacious, to man’s irrational future. Providing support are the poets and philosophers we all suspect: Spengler; Count Keyserling; the psychoanalyst Jung, dissident branch of Freud’s systematic rationalism; and, it is understood, also the philosopher—more of a poet than all them— Friedrich Nietzsche, from whom Miguel Serrano evokes, in a somewhat superficial manner, his theory of eternal return. But let us hear him directly. The effect of reading him is more aural than literary:

The same way that Spengler retells the biological and physical mechanics of historical processes, it is Keyserling who preoccupies himself with their psychological realisation when he describes the spiritual process of birth in the Myths of History. Says this philosopher that at certain times in the history of nations, there appear extraordinary beings who are called magi. These beings possess the power of the ‘Logos Spermatikos’, to use their own words; that is, a fertilising force in the element in which they live, going on to be something like the creative elements used by destiny to renew the souls of the nations. The trait that Keyserling assings to these beings is a short life, an essential condition for the profound effect of their actions, which would be as overwhelming as a force of nature. They die early, as they burn out by their own fire. Upon their deaths, or disappearance, always tragic and mysterious, the collective unconscious of the multitudes is left ‘enamoured’, ‘fertilised’; it does not resign itself to the disappearance and, since it intuits the great implicit conditions that the magi failed to achieve in his brief passage through life, it then gives birth to Myth and Legend, which comes to be, transferring events to the plane of psychic realities, all that which the magus could have done and never did, or all that it’s believed he could have done. In this fashion the Legend corresponds to something real.

Our thoughts fly to certain present-day event that appears the intended destination of this prose seer, as prone to foretelling as he is loyal to the idea that history is ‘a prophecy in reverse’—and it’s not necessary to read through many pages to find our suspicions confirmed. According to the writer Ladislao Szabó, author of the book Hitler is Alive, the paranoid Nüremberg orator could have reached the Argentinian coast of Mar del Plate in a submarine, in order to then continue his journey to Antarctica. There would now he be, according to the thesis formulated by this author, which Miguel Serrano adopts while granting him silence—in the interior of an ice mountain, next to his General Staff, frozen, awaiting his resurrection in youth and opportune majesty. This far into the text, the reader knows not whether Miguel Serrano, a spiritual and amiable man, speaks unbridling his sense of humour, his tragic humour. His easy style approaches and decamps from these points of departure, going from the absurd historian or scientist to the poetic nebulae of mystic trepidation.

Let it be clear that we do not write the latter with an animus to stamp a hurtful objection; but there is an excessive contrast between the position that expects the perfecting of man through reason, capable of making him more of an adult day by day, and of giving him equal and democratic government, and Miguel Serrano’s enthusiastic insistence in his gregarious and puerile irrationality      
  

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