The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition (Spanish) Hardcover – Jan 8 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Less famous than Neruda or Lorca, the Peruvian Vallejo (1892–1938) may stand as their equal among the great Spanish language modernists. At times more demanding than both—and just as devoted to "eternal love," "animal purity" and "the absolute Encounter"—Vallejo has inspired devotion and imitation across continents. The lyrical, quotable poems of The Black Heralds (1918) record an intense young man's struggle with his Andean and Catholic heritage. Dense in its beauty, packed with neologisms, Trilce (1922) shows Vallejo at his strangest and most original: determined to forge a new language for the New World, the volume weaves together pellucid laments for the lost loves of childhood with "thrips and thrums from lupine heaps." The posthumous Human Poems (1939) mingle nostalgia, eroticism and rage as they follow the poet's years in Paris; the more conventional Spain, Take This Cup from Me (1939) records Vallejo's devotion to the Loyalist (left-wing, and losing) side of the Spanish Civil War and memorably mourns the fallen. Decades in the making, this faithful and forceful complete text from poet and essayist Eshleman (see page 40 for a review of his newest book of verse) deserves as much notice as any poetic translation can get. (Dec.)
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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."
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.
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!
Nevertheless, I have to say that in almost any of the translated poems I can find from two to three lines which don't convey the poet's feeling. Since English is not my first language, I can't say what would be the right English version of those lines, but I can feel clearly that they don't say what he Spanish version says.
FIRST EXAMPLE: from Los heraldos negros
---... o los heraldos negros que NOS MANDA la Muerte. ----
with NOS MANDA (present tense), the poet tells us that Death KEEPS (likes) sending us the black heralds; it is not a single past act; instead, it is an act that is usually (or permanently) repeated.
-- ...or the black heralds SENT US by Death.----
I feel that SENT US does not express the idea that Death uses (or likes) to send us the black heralds permanently. It seems to me that SENT US cuts the permanency with which Death sends us her black heralds. I am not sure, but I think that a closer expression would be
---... or the black heralds that Death sends to us.
SECOND EXAMPLE: from Los heraldos negros
A: original version
--- "...Esos golpes sangrientos son las crepitaciones de ALGÚN PAN que en la puerta del horno SE NOS quema."
What the the poet wants to say is this: sometimes, when we are almost to achieve a highly desired goal, after doing every necessary effort and all kind of sacrifices, at the last second, something goes wrong, and everything we have done becomes nothing. This is one type of blow of life.
B: translated version
---...Those bloodstained blows are the crackling of BREAD BURNING UP at the oven door. ---
First, in A, "ALGUN PAN" means "some (a single) loaf of bread", and I feel that this concept is not being accurately expressed in B by the single word BREAD (mass noun).
Second, in A, "SE NOS quema" implies that the burning loaf of bread IS OUR'S, it is not somebody else's bread; again, I feel that just BURNING UP does not express the intended idea.
If I were rating just the translation, I would give only 3 or 4 stars; but I give this edition the 5 stars, because I think it would be difficult to find a better translation, because it is bilingual, and because of greatness of Vallejo's poetry.
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