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The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition Hardcover – Jan 8 2007


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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful Edition, the only of its kind in English/& Spanish; *competent* translation July 3 2009
By Alaric - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cesar Vallejo (March 16, 1892 - April 15, 1938), is the single most overlooked poet of the last century, a major injustice for such a titanic figure of 'modernism' -whatever that English Majors' myriad term means. Clayton Eshleman's translation is clear, accessible and a labour of love -one can be nearly as grateful for it as one is for the poet himself. It also avoids the sycophancies which a poetaster would otherwise be slave to in the task of translation, and to this end Eshleman is successful in rendering Vallejo into plain English. However: the hysteric critical adulation for the translation (see the backmatter), and the slavish praise lavished on it, culminating in the National Book Award nomination in 1989 is overdone and misplaced.

Which is to say: Eshelman is a good translator, but fails to present Vallejo in his hermeneutic entirety. Ron Padgett's comment, that Eshelman has "Gotten within and translated from the inside out" is a generous academic fatuity. The praise for which this edition is given is founded entirely on the weight of the poet himself -any lesser man's verse would leave Eshleman in a lower caste of translation efforts, and more unknown than Vallejo is himself today. Actual critique of this aside, Eshleman's judgment cannot be sullied here -the poet he chose to render fully deserved the effort, and for that he is to be commended. This is a *bi-lingual* edition, hence his translation is something more of a exegetical work for those whom Spanish is not their mother tongue. I will take the time now to demonstrate what I've meant with the title poem from the first book, Los Heraldos Negros:

There is a great deal of subtle heraldic tempered imagery, biblical and francophone derived possibilities lost upon Esheman; as Vallejo quotes from the Gospels in Latin to open the volume, "He who is able to receive it, let him receive it."

First, Eshleman's

There are blows in life, so powerful . . . I don't know!
Blows as from the hatred of God; as if, facing them,
the undertow of everything suffered
welled up in the soul . . . I don't know!

They are few; but they are . . . They open dark trenches
in the fiercest face and in the strongest back.
Perhaps they are the colts of barbaric Attilas;
or the black heralds sent to us by Death.

They are the deep falls of the Christs of the soul,
of some adored faith blasphemed by Destiny.
Those bloodstained blows are the crackling of
bread burning up at the oven door.

And man . . . Poor . . . poor! He turns his eyes, as
when a slap on the shoulder summons us;
turns his crazed eyes, and everything lived
wells up, like a pool of guilt, in his look.

There are blows in life, so powerful . . . I don't know!

--- --- ---

And now from the reviewer-

There are beatings in life, so heavy . . . I don't know!
--Lashes issued from the hatred of God, as if
before them the undercurrent of all endured;
welts inundated within the soul . . . I don't know!

They are few, but they're . . . They burrow uncertain lines
in the most insolent faces, and in the strongest back;
Perhaps they are the colts of barbarous Attilas,
or the black heralds dispatched to us at Death's behest.

They are the deep descents of the Christs of the soul,
of some adored faith cursed by Fate.
Those bloodying blows are crepetations
at the oven's door of some loaf we burn with.

And the man, the poor . . . poor man!
--He turns his eyes . . . he turns his maddened eyes
as when a hand on the shoulder falls upon us,
and everything lived swells -like a pool of guilt- in the glance.

There are blows in life, so heavy . . . I don't know!

--- --- ---

Golpe can mean strike, lash, blow, beating ect. It's important to translate the sense of torture by the separated *Yo no se!*'s. Eshleman's ear is running too fast in English for the significance of the ellipses to not be lost on the reader. The kiln/oven door line is completely fuddled. "Zanjas oscuras" is not exploited in the sense of "lines of the face", or "furrowing" -one could substitute 'cleaving' or some similar verb before them to heighten and continue the "pero son . . ." -in any case, he needlessly obfuscates that 'they' are in fact the *golpes*. 'Fate' in a our region of the West more approximately denotes 'el Destino' as Vallejo employs it. Vallejo does amazing things with the Spanish language -a translator must innovate in his rendering likewise. Eshleman plays it safe, and the result is probably better than if he had gambled; regardless, Vallejo gambled with his words and triumphs - someone must take the same risk with English to fully translate him. That translation will come one day which can stand on its own, but this is not quite it.

--- --- ---

In short- this is a poet you'll love or hate. This edition is the only readily available one in English and Spanish of the *Complete* verse of this magnificent Peruvian and is well worth the price, being aesthetically pleasing as well. Penguin has an inferior translation of "España, aparta de mí este cáliz (1937)" and there is a *very* affordable paperback of Eshleman's translation of the posthumous poetry as well. The translation possibilities are also unexhausted -which will be a welcome further temptation for some. Eshleman stands in relation to Vallejo as Walter Kaufman did to Friedrich Nietzsche; albeit, Eshleman is a great deal more faithful and reliable. We await a R.J. Hollingdale or Michael Hamburger for this poet still. Vallejo, if you really come to appreciate him, will contend with your own favorite of any era and quite possibly contend with whom in your estimation was the *greatest* poet of the last century as well.

And if this viewer must digress a moment for a paroxysm of praise; this 'Cesar' certainly can and *must* (if not already by deed, then in fact) dethrone the Yeats-Pound-Eliot, Neruda-Paz-Lorca triumvirates in arts and letters. -To call Vallejo the "Rilke," or even the, "Celan of the Americas" would be to deflate him --his likes would end the world as it began: with a *bang*, so powerful . . . ! -Here was a 'Marxist' for whom this was ancillary to first being a poet, first a man, first a free spirit and profound soul encompassing all the contradictory degrees and contrasting shades of compassion, and of deepest hate -all of it not without a certain reflective, philosophical, humorous levity either. Worthy of the highest honors and regard, a poet's poet and a poet for the ages.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
America's greatest, but kindle version lacking Feb. 1 2011
By William Jungels - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a review of the Kindle edition.

I was overjoyed to see this great book available on Kindle. I am very encouraged with the release of this book and recent books of stories by Julio Cortázar and Gabriel Garcia Márquez in kindle format. Finally the books i want to read are being released on kindle.

Vallejo is to my mind the greatest Latin American poet, and Eshelman has devoted decades to making him accessible in English, a task almost as daunting as translating Finnegan's Wake into Spanish. Much of this work has appeared before in Eshelman's editions of the posthumous poetry, but it is great to have it here in the arrangement that makes most sense together with the work that Vallejo published while he was alive.

Vallejo's work ranges from the keening lyricism of his first book, The Black Heralds, to the dark (and often very funny) posthumous poems with their need to invent new words for new states of consciousness. Often the work is difficult to comprehend, but the human voice that forgoes any self deception or easy comforts is always clear.

So the book in itself rates 6 stars or more. The reason I give the Kindle edition 4 stars is because until they solve some of the problems for presenting poetry in this format it is always going to be a lesser experience. They have to figure out a way (or take the trouble) to make each poem begin at the top of a page instead of poems just running on after one another like so many shovels full of words. And the index of first lines in this edition is worthless: so small you can't read it and no links if you could. So there is virtually no way to find a poem you want to read.

Nevertheless I bought this in spite of the fact that I already own the book version so that I can carry Vallejo's poetry with me as I travel.

Today no one has come to inquire,
nor have they wanted anything from me this afternoon.

I have not seen a single cemetary flower
in so happy a procession of lights.
Forgive me, Lord! I have died so little!
Glad to have but not the best English translations April 25 2014
By Beverley R. Enright - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just to have the complete poems is treasure enough although the English translations are not as good as I have seen elsewhere for some poems, and indeed I made a better translation of one of them myself. Still it was a labor of love.
Wonderful Feb. 27 2014
By Linda C. Thoms - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A wonderful collection by Vallejo. Read it, in English or Spanish, regardless what language you choose, you WILL enjoy it
Subtle translations that capture the spirit of the poems Feb. 12 2014
By hbmusiclover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent treatment of the translations. Highly recommended for the beauty of the original poetry as well as the nuanced translations.


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