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The Blacklist

November 26, 1989

I'm not saying the blacklist didn't have an emotional effect on us; it did. Hugo was a fine writer and a devoted craftsman, and struggling to survive as a writer in a country where the language was not his own--at a time in history when he couldn't even write under his own name--added a terrible frustration to the problems of supporting six children. And yes, he was a pretty awesome paterfamilias; after all, he worked largely at home, and our house in Mexico was small. But he was also a wonderful paterfamilias: He instituted weekly baseball games, and picnics, and trips to Acapulco, and stories at bedtime every Saturday night, and a hundred other kinds of adventures. So it seems unfair to paint the family portrait in such heavy colors, when we had glorious times, too.

The tragedy was that he died young--at 53--and before that had undergone a serious personality change (from a then-undiagnosed arteriosclerotic brain disease), so the older children never got a chance to know him as adults and equals, and the memories of the younger ones are affected by his last illness.

Flawed? Of course. We all are. But he gave us a fascinating life in Mexico and still managed, against terrible odds, to do some of his best writing there. And after all the injustices he suffered because of his politics, I don't want the only written record of him as a human being to be such a negative one. He deserved better.

JEAN ROUVEROL BUTLER

(Mrs. Hugo Butler)

Santa Monica

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