The Spanish politician, who lived for a time among the Parisian streets dressed in the bohemian spirit characteristic of the place, points out ‘Rojo y negro’, by Stendhal, as his bedside book and mother of all novels. And, what at first seemed like a tragic love story, became his essential political manual.
In Paris it was still raining. My days in the capital of the Seine passed between wet streets and coffee nights. My passion for literature turned me into a bohemian spirit following the pattern of those of us who felt free crossing the Montmartre of the Fifth Republic.
My bedside book, a policy manual, the mother of all novels, has since been Le rouge et le noir. What seemed like one (or two) exaggerated serials, tales of passionate and tragic love, between the lines Stedhal nevertheless turned it into an indispensable political manual.
My life was torn between Mathematics and Literature. The bedside books as a child, after winning a chess championship to my elders, were always My 60 Best Games, by Bobby Fischer, and Principia Mathematica, by Bertrand Russell, son of the Viscount of Amberley.
I do not know why my father took me to meet great chess masters who taught me to play simultaneous games and blind chess, unintentionally moving away from my grandfather’s books in the house where he, many years before, shared a gathering with the Generation of ’98.
When I finished my degree, the chief economist and Luis Ángel Rojo himself called me to join the Bank of Spain, an offer that I thanked and yet rejected because of teaching. It did, however, help me to specialize even more in the noble art of Econometrics.
“He will never be a good economist who does not know econometrics,” said the classic. This leads Spain, the homeland of good economics teachers, to be today a desert of economists. My time at an American university, where I wrote Economics and Innovation, confirmed how far we are in this discipline.
Nowadays, most of the Spanish economists who appear on television? Or are known for their opinions in the big networks ??, are really experts in markets, graduates in business management or simply opinionated transparent to Macroeconomics and Mathematics.
My Ackermanian structuralist coldness led me to say to my students that in economics, what cannot be demonstrated mathematically, even if they see it with their own eyes, does not exist. He was living, in Russell’s words, “a revolt against idealism.” Something similar to what Friedman said that when reality does not resemble the model, it is reality that is wrong. I was sick with hyper-realism (I still haven’t cured myself).
Until it fell into my hands in Paris ?? Le rouge et le noir. Probably, because as I say as a child I was surrounded by books, my tendency to literature was melting my coldness as an economist searching the unconscious of my childhood.
The two France that we noticed in Stendhal’s Red and Black made me a shameless militant of enlightened France, the redcoat, heir and passionate about the first Bonaparte and disappointed with the last. Sorel, the protagonist, an observant seminarian was carried away by love, infidelity and sex. In love, above all, with Jacobin and enlightened freedom.
In front of the realistic and servile blackness of the black cassocks. The black of the France of a reactionary Louis XVI who has his great conservative emergence in Charles X. In Paris the two Frances were erected under my feet in the streets of the Commune, which arrived years later, later crushed by the Sacred Heart of the reaction.
This dualism, red and black, led me to a dialectical analysis of history, much more so than Hegel ?? from whose Die Verfassung Deutschlands did not separate me ??, and to socialist environments sustained by endless debates.
Stendhal, whose real name was Henri Beyle, was a French soldier, lover, and convert to Italian. In love with art (and other things), I imagine him in Florence fainting in the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
But above all he began as a mathematical expert who could not continue his technical studies due to illness. In love with Italy and Rossini, of whom he wrote a biography. From mathematician to literary man. How could I not get noticed?
Years later, I heard Alfonso Guerra at a conference talk about which of Stendhal’s novels was better: La charteuse de Parme (1939) or Le rouge et le noir (1830).
The diplomat Daniel Chamorro and I debated, I don’t know if in Paris or at the Diplomatic School, the excessively simple language of the beginning of La Cartuja; Daniel convinced me that Stendhal speaks like the boy who stars in the escape from Waterlooo. It is French realism in essence.
Be that as it may, the passage from mathematics to literature that Stendhal (or José Luis Sampedro) followed, turned my Parisian hero into an unforgettable novel forever, a manual for an enlightened left . While in Paris it was still raining.