Da obra de Kurt Vonnegut, nomeadamente do livro Slaughterhouse Five – Matadouro Cinco, já muito se falou. Já tive a oportunidade de o ler e do mesmo mantenho uma opinião muito mal formada. Aliás, deveria mesmo dizer que não consegui formar opinião. O único que sobrou da leitura foi para já, a facilidade e a rapidez com que se lê. Se é ou não uma das obras mais influentes do sec. XX, da literatura americana, se é ou não um manifesto anti-guerra, se é ou não isto ou acoloutro não consigo dizer, nem arriscaria. O que de facto objectivamente sabemos é que as suas obras foram recorrentemente banida das escolas e das bibliotecas norte-americanas. Sobre estas proibições, a posição de Kurt Vonegut sempre foi despretensiosa, prática, objectiva, sagaz. Há alguns registos de correspondência trocada com alguns dos seus “censores” e que são particularmente reveladoras. A propósito do recente lançamento do seu livro de cartas, aqui ficam duas delas, para vosso deleite. Ambas devidamente enquadradas e na língua original.
Em Outubro de 1973, Bruce Severy, um professor de Inglês de 26 anos na Drake School no Dakota do Norte, decidiu utilizar a novela Matadouro Cinco como uma das referências nas suas aulas. No mês seguinte, em 7 de Novembro, o director da escola, Charles McCarthy, exigiu que as 32 cópias do livro fossem queimadas na fornalha da escola como resultado da linguagem obscena utilizada no mesmo. Posteriormente, outros livros foram igualmente queimados.
No dia 16 de Novembro, Kurt escreveu a McCarthy a seguinte carta, que ficou sem resposta.
November 16, 1973
Dear Mr. McCarthy:
I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.
Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.
I want you to know, too, that my publisher and I have done absolutely nothing to exploit the disgusting news from Drake. We are not clapping each other on the back, crowing about all the books we will sell because of the news. We have declined to go on television, have written no fiery letters to editorial pages, have granted no lengthy interviews. We are angered and sickened and saddened. And no copies of this letter have been sent to anybody else. You now hold the only copy in your hands. It is a strictly private letter from me to the people of Drake, who have done so much to damage my reputation in the eyes of their children and then in the eyes of the world. Do you have the courage and ordinary decency to show this letter to the people, or will it, too, be consigned to the fires of your furnace?
I gather from what I read in the papers and hear on television that you imagine me, and some other writers, too, as being sort of ratlike people who enjoy making money from poisoning the minds of young people. I am in fact a large, strong person, fifty-one years old, who did a lot of farm work as a boy, who is good with tools. I have raised six children, three my own and three adopted. They have all turned out well. Two of them are farmers. I am a combat infantry veteran from World War II, and hold a Purple Heart. I have earned whatever I own by hard work. I have never been arrested or sued for anything. I am so much trusted with young people and by young people that I have served on the faculties of the University of Iowa, Harvard, and the City College of New York. Every year I receive at least a dozen invitations to be commencement speaker at colleges and high schools. My books are probably more widely used in schools than those of any other living American fiction writer.
If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.
After I have said all this, I am sure you are still ready to respond, in effect, “Yes, yes–but it still remains our right and our responsibility to decide what books our children are going to be made to read in our community.” This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that.
I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.
If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the eduction of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive.
Again: you have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.
Esta segunda carta foi escrita a um professor Canadiano em 1988, em resposta a um movimento de censura que emergiu em relação à sua coleção de short stories: Welcome to the Monkey House.
William G. Kennedy,
Fenelon Falls Secondary School,
November 16, 1988
Dear Mr. Kennedy—
My publisher, Dell, has just sent me a copy of your letter of October 19 regarding the attempted censorship of my book Welcome to the Monkey House. You and R.A. Baxendale have my sympathy, and I am honored by your inclusion of some of my short stories in your curriculum. Your laws differ from ours in many respects, so I can offer no legal wisdom. I can only say that efforts by groups of parents to get certain works of literature withheld from an entire school community are common in this country, and have in every case been thwarted by decisions of higher courts.
Some primitive facts which may be of some slight use to you when talking about me to primitive people: I have seven children, four of them adopted. The six who are full grown are monogamous, sober members of their communities—a cabinetmaker, a television writer, a pediatrician, an airline captain, a successful painter, and a successful printmaker. They would have heard the word fuck by the time they were six, whether they had had me for a father or not. As for shit and piss: they spoke of almost nothing else when they were only three, which was surely their idea as much as mine. One man wrote me that he could learn more about sex from talking to a ten-year-old than he could from reading my collected works, which is true. Nowhere have I celebrated the use of any sort of drug, nor sexual promiscuity, nor bad citizenship.
I express dismay at violence and humorlessness in everything I write, and in my ordinary life as well. I celebrate compassion and tenderness, and parents of every persuasion should be happy to have me do that, and especially those who are enthusiastic about the Beatitudes. Speaking, as the censors do, of giving “a five year old a hand grenade”: do the censors allow lethal weapons in their homes, or tell war stories within the hearing of their children, or allow children to watch TV cartoons where the mouse blows up the cat, or drops a great weight on it from on high, or digs a pit for it lined with spikes! Do they shoot animals, and then show the bullet-riddled corpses as though they were something to be proud of? I never did. As I have already said, six of my children are full grown now, and are admittedly sexy with their legal mates, and are also toilet trained, thanks to all the talk early on about shit and piss. But they surely are not violent.