12 / 2001
When you turned fifteen I advised you to read Demian by Herman Hess because it represents the internal struggle of a teenager trying to live in the dark and in the bright world, in order to find out what is right and what is wrong. At the beginning you were forcing yourself to read, but afterwards you completely identified with the protagonist. You know, what I wanted you to learn from that reading is exactly what Arno experienced: he told me about that this very morning.
Arno went through Demian’s conflicts during his life, not because he had matured but because his life is marked by what he calls "the worlds’ war", you must wonder what are these worlds and why they are at war.
In order for you to understand I’m gonna tell you that Arno was born in Berlin in 1948, at a time when Germany was the product of the second world war and was divided into four parts, ocupied by the North-Americans, the Soviets, the French and the English ; it was the beginning of the Cold War. Just imagine! he was born at that time, and in Berlin, which moerover was the fighting arena between capitalism and socialism, two unreconciliable currents, two opposite worlds in this context maybe this birth mark is somehow the symbol of all the fights and struggles he will encounter in his life.
The tough post-war conditions caused Arno’s parents, who were German, to move to Bresil with the whole family in 1949. They arrived in Portoalegre which at the time was a very small town. They settled in the outskirts, without light, running water or sewage.
There he lived his childhood divided between two opposite worlds: the one of his house and school, enlighted by discipline, work and order ; and the one of outside which the world of freedom and sensitivity. Now, he revives when he remembers his full encounters with nature and with himself and he can still feel the warmth of the earth under his barefeet, and the pleasure of bathing in the open air, caressed by the sun and accompanied by the singing of birds. To give a name to these two worlds in which he lives he refers to them as the catholic world and the laic world.
His father too concives the world as divided in two: the civilized and the savage. He builds an imaginary bondery between these two worlds, "at home we live and think like we do in Germany" he used to tell his sons and his wife ; outside lies the other world the non-rational, the non-logical, the savage world. Those limits isolate Arno’s father and mark the cultural and racial differences, leaving him in loneliness.
Arno’s father arranged for him to become a catholic priest, that is why they sent him sent him to the seminary at the age of 11. There he felt the strictness of the religion and of its rules ’You won’t believe everything he went through there, he was now ages away from his free and sensitive world, prohibition was enforced on a daily basis, punishment was frequent, dialogue between generations was forbidden, children, young people and adults were not allowed to talk to each other. Everyday he felt intolerance and incomprehension towards his little flaws, those very same flaws that led him to be expulsed. His described this stage as life in an unreal world buildt upon the moral and the fault, whereas the real world was outside.
Marked by his expulsion, he moved to Passo Fundo where lived the Redentorist orden. He told me that there discipline and punishment were stricter, penitences, moral punishments, and scourging were common practices. His story moved me, and gave me shivers down my back, I suppose you feel the same.
Listening to what he went through, I asked him: why did they dare doing all that? He answered firmly and immediately: to finish up with you, to make you bend, to make you become the perfect slave.
I also asked him: how could you stand so much... ? He answered that at dawn, from his prison he tried to listen to the noise of life in order to build what he calls an escape way represented by the top of a cypress, symbol of freedom and connection with the other, with the outside, with the world of sin, with prohibition and everytime getting farther and farther and more and more unknown.
After thinking so much about it he decided to leave the religious order to enjoy his freedom, the pressure from th efamily was very strong, they really wanted him to become a priest because it represents status, power, economic security. It was very dificult for his mother to accept his point of view and his needs ; once more he had ambivalent feelings, now between what he wants and what his true desire, and between the desire of the others.
Finally he decided to go to Germany to find an escape to such disappoitments and to trying to live his life. Over there he got married, he started a new carrier in communication. He has worked in Africa, Mozambique, sensitive as he is and with such a strong experience ; he perceives in this experience the intolerance, the idealogical compound, the segregation, and very strong manisfestations of power. In that sense he experienced something similar in Guinea-Bissau.
Things have got better in Bresil where he’s been living these past years... I forgot to ask him why, but I am sure that tomorrow, between one meeting and the other we’ll enter into the subject.
Certainly, as soon as we’ll meet, you will ask me " Why are you telling me all this? " The answer is simple. Mind you, when we’ll be at home having a cup of hot chocolate, we will be able to think more in depth about it and I will tell you all the details. For the moment, I just want to tell you that the world we have build is monstrous. Do you remeber that song which I sing all the time on the notes of your guitar:... "quién dijo que todo está perdido, yo vengo ofrecer mi corazón, tanta sangre que se llevó el rio, yo vengo ofrecer mi corazón... no será tan fácil... " (who said this was all lost, I’m coming to offer my heart, so much blood flowing down the river, I’m coming to offer my heart... it won’t be so easy... )
My dear son, indeed not everything is completely lost, when I look at Arno, his peaceful smile, his profound respect for life, his kidness towards the feables, his cautious and confident words, his strong embrace, I tell to myself and to you, that it is not all lost.
Do you remember, this sentence by Galeano that we read in one his books "how is it possible that the most oppressed have created the most free music" in reference to the negros and jazz music. I too say, how is it possible that a son aof the war, of contradictions, of absurdities, of intolerance, of worlds at war, the son of a German father who sympathized with the Nazis could be so kind and fair, whose constant search is peace, this is really a great sign that it is not all lost.
It’s already early moring, everyone is sleeping here, I will try to sleep too, with all my love... we still have so much to feel, say and do.
I love you
Interview with ROCHOL, Arno. English translation from spanish.
This file was made in an interview at the World Assembly, Lille, France (dec.2001).
Interview with ROCHOL, Arno.
Red Ecuatoriana Minga por la Paz - Université Polytechnique Salesiana. Ecole de Gestion pour le Développement Local Durable, 2 avenue de octubre, 1436 y Wilson, Quito. ECUADOR - Ecuador - corape (@) aler.org