Liborio Justo (1902-2003)

Rogelio García Lupo


Thought and action dominated Liborio Justo's long life, his work as a writer and a historian should be closely read at present in order to decipher some of the most worrying contradictions of twentieth century Argentina.

His autobiography, written when he was only 36 - when for a moment he imagined his death was close -, is a magnificent portrait of an era which challenges the passage of time. This should not surprise us as , on a personal basis, he also challenged time and lived for over a century, constructing, with his restless search of what he called "the truth of his time", a work whose reappraisal has already started.

At one point, Justo summarized his position towards life asserting that "first it was thought, then it was action and later thought again", a formula which embraces his medical studies , his voluntary recruitment as a forestry labourer in the Paraguayan Chaco, the inevitable European forays of the youth of his class,  whale fishing in the South Seas and his intense visit to a USA then devastated by an economic and social crisis, which branded him for ever as a revolutionary.

Fiction writing was, for Liborio Justo, almost an indulgence in the midst of his militancy for world revolution, the utopia that inspired him till his very last days, lighting his heart with hope in spite of the defeats.

The subordination of the vigorous Justo narrator to the political Justo was an iron compromise which deprived Argentine literature of its own Conrad, as can be surmised early on from his tragic stories about  Patagonia published with the title of "La Tierra Maldita" ("The Cursed Land") and in the dramatic tales of the islands and marshes of the Delta of the Parana River, subject of "Rio Abajo" ("Downstream").

Justo was reserved  about his literary work, masking his identity under the pseudonym Lobodon Garra , considering that the time he dedicated to fiction would be better employed on urgent revolutionary matters.

His creative work was sacrificed in the altar of ideology to the extent that some of his best narrative was relegated to a secondary position , behind some of his most extreme political pamphlets- so difficult to understand nowadays- full of names of characters now forgotten by history. It is before them that the rough South seamen and the Patagonian adventurers seem to be raising their heads, as enduring creations of an exceptional writer.


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