Diálogos del más allá: José Antonio Ramos Sucre / Natasha Tiniacos

Dialogues from the Beyond: José Antonio Ramos Sucre

By Natasha Tiniacos
Illustration by José Miguel del Pozo

A desire to establish dialogues with creators is presented in a nearly excessive manner in this new series. Without a Ouija board, epiphanies or splitting into two but rather with invocation and appropriation as resources, the Venezuelan poet José Antonio Ramos Sucre (1890-1930) responds to Proust’s questionnaire from his eternal estate. (*)

What is your greatest fear?
Time is a winter that quells ambition with the steady, fatal fall of its snow. It passes noiselessly and with mortal effect: the face awakens unexpectedly withered on morning, the hair without luster and scant, an easy prey to baldness, the splendor of the eyes diminished, the forehead stamped with preoccupations, the semblance bitter, the heart dead.

Your most marked characteristic?
I love pain, beauty and cruelty.

Your favorite qualities in a man..
My colleague, inspired by an equivocal curiosity and by a vehement sympathy for dejected and reprobate beings, was going around arm in arm with a lost girl.

Your favorite qualities in a woman.
I have seen a woman of noble physiognomy, with features sculpted by the memory of grief.

What you appreciate the most in your friends.
My friends, seduced by the party’s racket, left me laid out on a divan. They tried to encourage my strength by means of a stimulating potion. I ingested an unhealthy drink, a briny liquor with green reflections, the very sediment of a groaning sea, frequented by the albatrosses.
They were lost in the turning of the party.

Your main fault.
Since then my soul is critical and blasphemous.

Your favorite occupation.
I was censuring myself faithfully. I wanted to find a slip of ineptitude or apathy in the process of her inhuman pains and I couldn’t remember anything besides my activity and my continuous presence in the room.

Your idea of complete happiness.
I have abolished my eyes and I am free and consoled.

What would be your greatest misfortune?
The years will have passed without dimming this sickly and aching sensibility, tolerable for whomever might only have the occupation of dreaming, and that unfortunately, because of life’s rough assault, exists within me like a cord about to break from painful tension.

If not yourself, who would you be?
The God.

Where would you like to live?
And I will no longer aspire to anything else: I will have adapted my eyes to the ugly world, and closed my door to hostile humanity. My mansion will be for others impenetrable rock and for me firm prison.

Your favorite color.
The vain colors of dawn were indicating to me the hour to assist the offices of the dead.

The flower you like the most.
The gentleman, with a famished face and savage beard, was crossing the old bridge suspended by means of chains.
He dropped a carnation, passionate flower, in the insalubrious water of the creek.

Your favorite bird.
The swallow covers continents in a single day of travel and has known the measure of the terrestrial orb since long ago, anticipating the infallible dragons of myth.

Your favorite prose authors.
The graduate writes a short novel of equivocations and unforeseen cases, occupying the delays of a court where he passes sentence, poorly remunerated and idle.
Cervantes recounted for me the incident of the gentleman restored to health.

Your favorite poets.
I had interned myself in the wild solitude, taking as a companion the jester exiled from the court. He spoke his repartee in the form of an argument, cheerfully parodying scholars and doctors. Shakespeare curses him in one of his dramas.

Your heroes in fiction.
The dwarfs ran to save themselves in the ship of the Argonauts and confessed the origin of their misfortune. They had imitated in a cheerful manner the steps of Empuse, a crippled larva, with donkey legs.

Your favorite fictional heroines.
I have surveyed the territory of Elsinore to gather news about Ophelia. She dares to appear, during the full moon, at the spot where she lost her life. In that very place they cultivate, by my advice, the flowers from her hair and the local virgins avoid profaning them.

Your preferred composers.
The music of the spinet, solace of an impatient soul, flies off to lose itself in the infinite.

Your favorite painters.
Leonardo da Vinci enjoyed painting gaseous, shady figures. He left in the hands of Albrecht Dürer, inhabitant of Venice, a copy of La Gioconda, noted for her magic smile.

Your hero in real life.
I was encountering the companion of my fatigues less frequently. He was the son of a king precipitated from the throne and had come to me after traversing different climes.
He appeared in dreams.
He moaned inconsolably until the moment I offered him my right hand.

Your favorite heroine in real life.
Beatrice contemplates the river, facing the transitory flow and the identical figure.
The young man walks away threatening imaginary rivals. Beatrice uses, to say goodbye to him, a judicious, abstinent courtesy.
The young woman returns, in the presence of an eclipsed moon, to the severe thoughts.

The most deplorable event in history.
History has told me that in the Middle Ages the noble souls were all extinguished in the cloisters, and that the evil were left with the dominion and population of the world; and experience, which confirms this teaching, when it gives me proof of the veracity that Cervantes made his hero sterile, forces me to imitate the Sun, singular, generous and proud.

The food drink you like the most.
The flame of the reflectors would imitate the tinge of absinthe.
A red imp would fly over the empty glasses that had been knocked over.

Your favorite names.
I was opening the windows of the naked chamber and entrusting the name of the absent girl to the errors of an insalubrious gust of wind.

What you detest above all else.
Too late have I come to the world; my position is found in the sombre hideout in a forest, from which I might satisfy my outburst spying on feminine beauty, before making her moan in pain and pleasure. Unfortunately my situation is another and my fate is very harsh. This ardor is not calmed by the inaccessible cloister nor by the desolate desert. With that abstinence, madness would make me a companion of unbalanced and ecstatic saints.

The military act you most admire.
I witnessed the punishment administered by two ushers of the palace, a reed house, to a pastor of the sovereign’s flock. The victim’s resistance exhausted the hippopotamus leather belts.
The army arrived stumbling and falling down, enraptured by the spiritous drink.

The most admirable reform or social change.
No one would be able to investigate the direction of its escape.

The natural talent you’d like to have.
A summer effect.

How you would like to die.
When death finally arrives at my plea and its warnings have empowered me for the solitary journey, I will invoke a spring being, for the purpose of soliciting assistance from the harmony of supreme origin, and an infinite solace will settle on my countenance.

The current state of mind.
The pond of my contemplation had moved to an abyss.

The fault that inspires the most indulgence in you.
Love is impossible when the future has fallen to the ground, and the illness of living intensifies like a sad and frozen rain.

Your motto.
The solitary one entertains his glance through the sky in a lull from his despair.

May Glory keep you in its glory.

(*) Each one of Ramos Sucre’s answers are textual citations selected with a scalpel from his complete works.

{ Natasha Tiniacos, Backroom Caracas, 26 January 2015 }


Ana Lucía De Bastos: “La poesía es, en el fondo, forma” / Daniel Fermín

Ana Lucía De Bastos: “Poetry is, at its core, form”

                  [Photo: Nicola Rocco]

Ana Lucía De Bastos (Caracas, 1983) was given an illustrated version of Margarita, the poem by Rubén Darío, when she was just five years old. She liked the book so much she began to recite it by memory wherever she might be (at school, at the homes of family members). It was the first experience with poetry for the writer who yesterday presented her book Y ahora, extiéndeme al sol (Bid&Co, 2014) at the bookstore El Buscón in Caracas.

The first poetry collection by the Caracas author is a compilation of her old texts. De Bastos gathered poems that she had in folders, notebooks and e-mails. Until she realized there was a familiarity among them. The body, the skin, the spirit, the word, the verb, love. De Bastos explores these topics in his first publication.

Y ahora, extiéndeme al sol has fictional intentions. There are poems in which the author tells of certain situations. De Bastos believes poetry can always make use of other literary genres. “I use the anecdote as a vehicle that leads to the feeling, the emotion I might want to transmit through the text. Poems are, at their core, form,” said the graduate of the Central University of Venezuela, where she studied Literature.

De Bastos’s collection mentions other authors. Eugenio Montejo, Roberto Calasso, Hanni Ossott, Herberto Helder, among others (“we all have mothers and fathers in literature,” she said). There are also texts that make references to voices, to saying it all in writing. “Some people write because reality isn’t enough for them. I do it because reality overwhelms me, I do it as a means of facing it,” added De Bastos, who received a Master’s in Editing at the University of Barcelona in Spain.

De Basto’s passion for books goes beyond writing and/or reading. The poet is also in charge of an artisanal project (Alhilo Editorial), that for the moment has only published one title in its catalog (Días raros, by Sara Fratini). “I do it as an anchor to Venezuela, so I might have something to come back to,” concluded the author, who currently lives in Spain. Over there, meanwhile, she’s working on her first novel.

{ Daniel Fermín, El Universal, 15 August 2014 }


El hábito / Francisco Pérez Perdomo


What voice that isn’t my own
speaks for me in the suburbs
in theaters
wakes me when I sleep
with long ghost stories
startles me with alarms
when I approach the abyss
what hand that isn’t my own
(I study it and can’t decipher its message)
pulls my ears
and lifts me from certain depths that overwhelm me
like the victim of a shipwreck
what hand scratches itself for me
with nails that aren’t too long
drags me washes from my face
the morning’s impurities
purifies my skin in bathrooms
what steps taken at random
invade and fill my shoes with fever
what terribly fixed eyes
transfer my glances
This is my expiation
I don’t own the leisure of my gestures
You are in charge
I am your slave monster faithful brother
There is no truce in your threat
You kill me

Fantasmas y enfermedades (1961)

{ Francisco Pérez Perdomo, El hilo equívoco de los vocablos. Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2014 }


Confesión / Francisco Pérez Perdomo


I inhabit the zone where flesh and spirit
compete like two old rivals
I survive the disasters
lulled by beautiful specters
My idol! I confide the disorder of my tongue
to the absurd force of your maxims
I speak of the illnesses that concern me
I am my only judge
I am the only auditorium that celebrates my works
The bird that laments itself in the tree of paradise
transmitting its enigma to me
only my ear languishes listening to its message

Fantasmas y enfermedades (1961)

{ Francisco Pérez Perdomo, El hilo equívoco de los vocablos. Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2014 }


Si hay impunidad no hay un coño (o a dónde ir a protestar) / Eduardo Febres

If There’s Impunity We Don’t Have Shit (Or Anywhere to Protest)

                  [Photo by Eduardo Febres]

Was Chávez killed? It’s hard to believe, but the truth is we don’t know. I think that if we find out one day it will be through a declassified file from U.S. intelligence, because the Venezuelan State, as far as we know, hasn’t moved a finger to find out. Nicolás Maduro announced an investigation that if it ever proceeded we never found out about it, and there are people convinced he was killed, just like there’s more people convinced he wasn’t. But in terms of knowing, no one knows.

But we do know very well that the indigenous leader from the Yukpa tribe Sabino Romero, who died two days before Chávez, was killed. After many attempts, threats, warnings, gunshots, blood, and above all after a cascade of impunity, they killed him. When he was traveling from Tocuco to Shaktapa, they shot him dead in front of his wife.
And ever since then, impunity continues to drag other corpses to join them.

There are five people in jail for complicity with the murder of Sabino, all of them sentenced to seven years, none of them are the killer. The person accused of pulling the trigger, Ángel Romero Bracho, hasn’t been sentenced. And the trial wanders from the table to the dining room. Convened for January 9th, it mobilized a few people at the doors of the Palace of Justice. A handful of people (twenty, thirty people) who are following the process and paying attention to it.
Among other things, because the masterminds (who aren’t clearly pointed out, but we suppose with a great deal of precision and elements that they’re ranchers) still haven’t even been touched by the law.

When they arrive at the courthouse they find out there’s no court session. Amidst a muddled and bureaucratic circulation of information, they’re able to find out it had been moved to January 6th, the Día de Reyes holiday and practially an official day off. And in a coincidence that’s quite convenient for paranoia and evil, the street leading to the Palace of Justice was blocked off by security forces. Supposedly because of a graduation (“These motherfuckers are graduating with a degree in corruption,” was overheard).
When they lift the show of force (facing the inoffensive convocation, the suspicious-paranoid version supposes), the protest moves to the Palace, with a bit more intensity.

The protest? Nothing extraordinary in how it played out, aside from a few protestors with their faces painted in tribute to the First Peoples: a blocked street, a few hand-held signs, some shouts, proclamations and demands.
What’s extraordinary are the comments overheard, among the passersby on the sidewalk in front of the Palace.
One: “Go back to the east side of Caracas.” A purée dissociated by the State-run TV station VTV, who can’t conceive how a group of people, most of them young, most of them cheerful, most of them pissed off, would protest, demand, shout, express their indignation in the face of impunity, without being opposition protestors.
Sabino is a symbol of impunity, amid a shit storm where thousands of other injustices circulate. And he is a symbol defended with the conviction that Chávez lives, or you don’t defend him at all. As it’s also a conviction one fights for with the knowledge that in those paralyzed, prudish, rigid, aged, ignorant and comfortable sectors of Chavismo, Chávez doesn’t live.
Another: “Why are these people protesting such a stupid thing, if I just spent four hours today in a food line.” This one not as much of a purée but equally dissociated, by TV but also by his own misery (the inner TV), who can’t put the two neurons together he needs to understand that as long as there’s impunity there won’t be shit anywhere. Not for him and his selfishness, not for anyone.

The poor street vendor who thinks it’s fair to exploit the poor (and his likeness, his brother, the poor man who buys from him); the National Guard who smuggles one, two, three, one hundred thousand kilos of whatever (and his likeness, his brother, the narco or the smuggler who sets up the deal), the exploiter of the dollar exchange system, who looted until the only thing left were empty containers (and his likeness, his brother, the casual exploiter of the system, who takes a few crumbs through his credit card), as well as whoever kills, rapes, steals or tortures. They could all fit in that place, facing those who fight for the symbol of Sabino.
This place is an accomplice and artifice to all of them. This is where all the food lines could end, all the empty shelves, all the massacres, the cases like Simonovis, Afiuni, Danilo Anderson along with some type of answer as to why it sometimes seems like the government wants to and can’t.
This is where the cancer, as well, could end.

{ Eduardo Febres, Contrapunto, 14 January 2015 }


Ginebra, 7 junio (1930) / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Geneva, 7 June (1930)

Miss Dolores Emilia Madriz.

Very illustrious Dolores Emilia:

Yesterday I received your letter and your portrait in the company of sweet Leonor. I kissed your portrait infinite times.

Don’t be impatient with me. I still haven’t been able to visit Paris. The work for the League of Nations and the presence of Venezuelan diplomats in Geneva have made it impossible for me to leave. I promise I will satisfy you.

I warn you that my sorrows continue as cruel as when you consoled me in Caracas. I won’t resign myself to spending the rest of my life, who knows how many years!, in mental decadence. The entire machine has been disorganized. I’m very scared of losing my will to work. I still shave daily. I barely read. I discover a radical change of personality in me. The day after tomorrow I turn forty and it’s been two years since I’ve written a single line. I can barely console myself seeking out the lives of illustrious sick figures that fatality extinguished in the middle of their youth. I beg you don’t allow the legends that say I’m a cannibal and a savage and an enemy of humanity and women to flourish. That legend is the work of my enemies. You know that, on the contrary, I’m very accessible, very indulgent and I’ve never harmed a woman.

The doctors here in Europe haven’t discovered what ails me. I suppose it is accumulated suffering. You know my chain was always very short and heavy. I was born in the house where everything is prohibited.

I beg you excuse these confidences. I kiss the hands of my distinguished cousins and say goodbye to you the same way.

Write me.

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra poética, Edición crítica de Alba Rosa Hernández Bossio, Madrid: Colección Archivos, 2001 }


S (cuento) / Francisco Pérez Perdomo

S (Story)

Leaving the pillow’s warm melody, when he was barely thirty-two, the man descended through the umbilical chord and followed the steps of his beloved down the astral alleys. A diminutive rain was falling on the inverted heads of the walkers, who would stop for moments as though they were held at their backs by an invisible hand, and then kept walking, leaving sudden statues in their places. Blind, in the neighborhood of traffickers, the woman made her way atop a chord stretched from one end to another of the abyss, evidently seduced by the force of a flute.

Originally published in Francisco Pérez Perdomo, Los venenos fieles (Caracas: Ediciones de El Techo de la Ballena, 1963).

{ Juan Calzadilla, Israel Ortega Oropeza & Daniel González, El Techo de la Ballena: Antología 1961-1969, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2008 }


Carta a Ahab / Caupolicán Ovalles

Letter to Ahab

[L-R: Rodolfo Izaguirre, Mary Ferrero, Adriano González León, Caupolicán Ovalles, Caracas, 1962]

I, father of two children
and a wife who supports me
so fucking sick already of so much stupidity
have decided to write to
captain ahab’s widow,
roof of the whale
beneath the wind on the sea.
your kisses please me
tower of the sea to whore in the port,
where we went to live
twenty disgraces for our
on the red hill
because of you
police and ministers
discover treasures and secrets
from the past,
beneath the air of the house we inhabit
five hundred promises of love and twenty defeats.
I, father of two women
and a son to support,
wake up,
irritable, pissed off
by a decree of autumn
and the half orange
on the red hill

Originally published in Rayado sobre el techo, no. 1 (Caracas: Ediciones de El Techo de la Ballena, 24 March 1961).

{ Juan Calzadilla, Israel Ortega Oropeza & Daniel González, El Techo de la Ballena: Antología 1961-1969, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2008 }


El gran magma / El Techo de la Ballena

The Great Magma

beneath every structure that intends to enclose a process a seed of rupture already exists
we have less capacity for organizing       this is evident       than for living       living is urgent which is why the whale doesn’t need to know about zoology to live

the roof of the whale is founded in the complete uncontrollable lucidity of the orgasm       that only insomnia verifies because the whale is the only valid prism it’s the only prism its barbarism has

few realities are as exciting as a name that breaks all the liturgies of language       the roof of the whale is more than just a name

under its sway all things will have a point of encounter with the intangible       such is the meaning that’s discovered in what the whale has devoured in the skin of the iguana

on the surface of the painting devoured by its own matter the almanacs don’t register everything that can be said about the whale

it’s the cosmic hunger demanding its scream       it’s a gesture       it’s an attitude       just like the singers in style right now the roof of the whale will enjoy an extraordinary popularity

the roof of the whale is a stone animal that resuscitates for the well-being of its guests
the roof of the whale reigns among the frenetic lovers owner of an unconquered matter

Originally published in Rayado sobre el techo, no. 1 (Caracas: Ediciones de El Techo de la Ballena, 24 March 1961).

{ Juan Calzadilla, Israel Ortega Oropeza & Daniel González, El Techo de la Ballena: Antología 1961-1969, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2008 }


Para la restitución del magma / El Techo de la Ballena

For the Restitution of the Magma

We have to restore the magma the boiling matter the lust of lava to place a cloth at the foot of a volcano to restore the world the lust of the lava to demonstrate that matter is more lucid than color in this way the amorphous amputated from reality all the superfluous things that impede it from transcending itself overcome the immediacy of matter as a means of expression making it not an executing instrument but yes an acting medium that becomes an outbreak impact matter is transcended the textures tremble the rhythms tend toward vertigo what presides the act of creating which is to force yourself-leave a record that you exist because we have to restore the magma as it falls... informalism relocates it within the full activity of creating reestablishes categories and relationships that science already predicts because informalism also has its mushroom the touch of an arbitrary matter that runs to the most incredulous eyes is a possibility of creation as real and as evident as the earth and stone the mountains configure because we have to restore the magma the boiling matter Adam’s prosthesis.

Originally published in Rayado sobre el techo, no. 1 (Caracas: Ediciones de El Techo de la Ballena, 24 March 1961), shown in the photograph above. Illustration by Ángel Luque.

{ Juan Calzadilla, Israel Ortega Oropeza & Daniel González, El Techo de la Ballena: Antología 1961-1969, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2008 }


Resurrección de El Techo de la Ballena / Oswaldo Barreto

Resurrection of El Techo de la Ballena

It’s not the result of a belated and vulgar pretension to elaborate surrealist texts, nor a desire to evade realities as pressing as the recent meeting of the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela that anxiously turned out to be so poor in actual political or diplomatic results, the imminent restitution of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency of Honduras, or the ferocity that terrorism has reached throughout all borders. No, none of that, but rather, as we will try to reveal, it’s a mere desire to understand one of the most complex aspects of our exceedingly complex sociocultural reality.

This whole matter began, let’s say it without further preambles, when one of my former students thought to send me via email the following official invitation: “The Ministry of Popular Power for Culture, through Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana, has the pleasure of inviting you to the presentation of the book El Techo de la Ballena: Antología 1961-1969 coinciding with the exhibit “El Techo de la Ballena: Half A Century Later.” Sunday, 1 November 2009, 11am. National Gallery of Art. With the participation of Carlos Noguera, Juan Calzadilla, Edmundo Aray, Daniel González, Josefina Urdaneta. Dedicated in memory of the deceased members of El Techo de la Ballena: Carlos Contramaestre, Caupolicán Ovalles, Adriano González León, Salvador Garmendia, Alberto Brandt, J.M Cruxent, Efraín Hurtado, Dámaso Ogaz, Hugo Batista, Gonzalo Castellanos, Mary Ferrero, Juan Antonio Vasco, David Alizo.”

After realizing that my young friend, precisely because he’s young couldn’t perceive anything extraordinary in this text, no miracles or surrealist conjuring, and that he couldn’t imagine he was committing an abuse by sending me what for him was an anodyne invitation for any citizen, I had no awareness beyond thinking that I was facing the possibility that the miracle resurrection continues to be would very soon occur. Exactly one day before the date when all us mortals come into contact again with the dead, the aforementioned organisms of the State were, in effect, inviting us to the resurrection of one of the most important cultural (artistic and literary) groups to have existed in Venezuela, El Techo de la Ballena [The Roof of the Whale].

The sponsors of the event, who appear in the invitation as participants, are well-known intellectuals, four of whom work or have worked as functionaries or advisors for administrative organisms of the current regime and are among the most recognized intellectuals of Chavismo. Three of them, relatedly, Calzadilla, Aray and González, share another multiple condition: they are among the founders, the most active members and most prolific creators of El Techo de la Ballena.

The tribute they want to offer with this publication to the members who expressly designate themselves as such, then, is a tribute that the surviving members of El Techo de la Ballena offer to the deceased members in honor of what the entire group represented, and to the work they produced as a collective and as individuals. And this work, in the field of literature, in cultural action at conferences, gatherings and congresses, in exhibits of plastic arts and in cinema, extends throughout eight years, from 1961 to 1969. It is a unique oeuvre in the history of Venezuela’s cultural life because of its qualities and dimensions, but it’s an oeuvre that only remains in the memory of those of us who shared with them the political and cultural life in Venezuela during the sixties and, of course, in the libraries and archives where it continues to await researchers, specialists and scholars. To place those texts within reach of readers today, to reproduce the catalogs for the exhibits they held or to once again show what they did in cinema, there is no other way to describe this than as a resurrection of the group, a resurrection of The Whale.

Resurrections in the field of culture don’t represent anything new or strange. In our era, in particular, an era of information and of an ample distribution of art through media, not only mechanical but also electronic, it’s not extraordinary, nor would it usually catch the attention of someone like me who’s concerned with fundamentally political matters. But this resurrection has something absolutely particular to it: it’s not a matter, as it tends to happen, of a living person who resuscitates a dead one, usually someone who’s from another era and another spirit. Here we find that the resuscitators are part of the being they are resuscitating or, if you prefer, that the resuscitated ones formed part of the same being that now returns them to the world.

And this is the political problem and the sociocultural problem that is absolutely our own, of this era that has begun with the advent of Chavismo. Three of the resuscitators, as we have already indicated, assume their condition of being Chavistas and have responsibilities within the cultural actions of the regime. Now, the cultural politics of the current regime, the Chavista conception of culture is situated in many levels at the antipodes of the cultural actions and the spirit that moved the immense and excellent productions of El Techo de la Ballena. This production is oriented towards the struggle against “old literature, old art, rhetoric, demagogic realism, intellectualism, professors, sectarians, President Rómulo Betancourt’s police and the infantry of the U.S. Marines,” as the novelist Adriano González León wrote. And, what is even more defining of the group, freedom of creation was for them a sine qua non condition for the existence of art and literature. And, by demanding freedom of creation, they always declared themselves as supporters of tolerance and dialogue and rejected all forms of authoritarianism in the field of cultural actions by those in power.

Have the remaining members truly resurrected El Techo de la Ballena today?

{ Oswaldo Barreto, Tal Cual, 3 November 2009 }


Como si la puerta abandonada se cerrase / Diego Sequera

As if the abandoned door had closed

      As if the abandoned door had closed, the state of things comes out on its own; in itself described by means of the exit. Two oblique views don’t coincide along the way. The derivation concludes by pushing the agents that muddle their own common desire; to unify what has been in a new transfer. The essence of escape is found in all objects. Regarding the repulsion of its poles in suspense, fortunately. It’s endured thanks to the imposed tension. But another tension that invades emerging from the peripheries hinders the original resistance of things. The idea emerges forged in careless spheres of the same thing multiplied. Every goshawk sprouts irradiating the restraint of the moment sought. Not arriving. Oh entire genius wearing shoes of broken glass. In this way impatience is nothing more than the fertile surplus. Everything exits through the same coincident door. The measure denounces its own mistake of not truly calculating what the previous words say. Don’t trust. The wings of things emerge letting them fall like an initial nest. Inert, coercive. You can’t put up with too much for so much. So much more, so much worse. While you keep saving wind in a pocket without a hole, there’s no doubt it endures. The sky is oblique according to expectations. For me it’s mere lines. What a marvelous afternoon dissolved itself in the contrast between a space divided along skin and wall. Each ruled by its own constellation, according to temperament. That instant when things gain transparency once the contact with light is defined, how they acquire totality in not saying it, precisely!

{ Diego Sequera, Poemas irresponsables, Caracas: Fundación Editorial El perro y la rana, 2011 }


Bosquejo del 31 / Diego Sequera

Sketch of the 31st

Every thing considered a living entity
Living extension outside its shell
Energy administrator
All things that have surpassed
the road beyond their birth
are survivors

The thing of things tends
to follow the metaphorical fruit of what’s been deposited along the way
(In that, while the poem unwinds
with a heavy breeze in the way, all action sounds
from the edge of the doors
Today is the 31st, 12/31/06
script of the dramatized ritual)

The everything buzzes as everything
a not so machine-like state of debacle
(the infuriating confirmation
of the order of things
The confirmation of the closing and essence
an inevitable fall in each one of them)

(creosote bird and drawing of its shadow that caws)

I am every campesino recently executed by the
Extermination Group and National Guard in Chabasquén the

I’m the confused one caught in the crossfire of La
I’m a threatened social comptroller!
I’m an invader with no house or territory
who strikes back against God!

Ferocious brother (with whom I am)
who lives in the middle of the topographical path and resurrection
and for whom these surroundings the efficient dialect
in full systole of fear, in a full
fight against the neutrality of things
Fear is what burns overcome
in the face recovered and your own

It’s in false triumph (and range)
where the essence of opportune disaster resides
It’s the tenacious silence formulated by
the flesh of the other who lives in the bone
of the skin
Flower of its withered nerves!

(Today for 06 closing
a dog crosses the null cup of this poem:
Beloved be the butterfly of your soul
may we be dogs!)

(Now is when the smoke of a fissure passes through the center of the poem)

Praised be those who conquer general hunger
from the depths of their house
made of life more than roof or walls!

Praised be today so 31st on the corner
without charred and excessive genius
Genius of the last nerves while piercing
the last fall in the ascent
on its own stairs!
Praised be then all stairs!

In the end
they’re the fires
of an eternal instant in its repetition

They’re the intimate mausoleums
cynical like a moon
silent like their own transfer
That instantaneous spirit in favor of distances

New is the ground of nostalgias
Native soil ready
Planting of specific faces

20 to go until the change
as I elaborate this sketch
of the next nostalgia
when none of this will persist in its matter
Everything could be banal if I wasn’t
certain the year is dying
and surely this year I remake myself again

(The ink crab
scratches the
bottom of the poem)

Five minutes
Aqua, Hermes, Benito, Yuya, Beto and the people
(each side its own)
Remake the sad path as they pass
in the pressure of the present poem
that crosses the border
without cartridges
or passport.

{ Diego Sequera, Poemas irresponsables, Caracas: Fundación Editorial El perro y la rana, 2011 }


Snapshot / Diego Sequera


You don’t write enough for the simple reason
of considering writing a constant aesthetic moment
I listen to myself from the other side of the paper
I betray my narcissism with happiness and a bit of idiocy
forgetting the higher goal of clarity and movement in writing
which is its clear work value that pulses badly in the
completely excessive box of its only border replete with killers
by force
were robbed of their own by thugs
I speak of the face El cajón its completely excessive line
the one that draws tons of people Tons
of people hanging from and by their own hands on a fence that
the territory
Clamoring to be within the circle of oblivion In being more imprisoned
by their own absences Hanging on a fence
but inverting their values and their judgments

Its anonymizing apparatus
Bent eviction at the most lax point of expression

I speak of how I write

In this poem I can confess “This is the edge
where the shade might not be able to because of an ethical exercise
without even using that same ethics to be the companion
forced by gendarmes to an execution” On each side
to say that the intonation of these acts
deliberately thinking in the same ways
as ever Perpetuating above all the impossibility of babbling against it

It’s the only thing that hasn’t changed grosso modo.

I confess in this poem that in the actual moment
in which I write these words that barely perceive their substance
That feel and know they are no more than aspiration and
                                                            nothing else
I can clearly say due to the false investiture
that I have thrown on its text about that unprecedented mesh
I can confess in this poem the burning and true fact
that I’m losing my mind
It's not easy or honest to describe it
I almost believe myself

After each moronic syllable
Its collapse

On the other hand I think I can also confess
that at the present moment I live a very strange version
of happiness
A more devastating revelry through the regular transit of

I feel that so much splendor is rewarding but honestly too
Speaking outside the text without telling anyone
I feel that now at this moment as I type a final version
of this poem (unbearable paper transplant) An astonishing
instant always has at its core the internal version of the lightning bolt
Something like that better yet from here but at a great distance
                                                            like everything in life
and maybe like everything we make our own It can easily drift
to a space between madness and clumsy mass media editions of death
and I have an unstoppable desperation for appropriating Certain form of
                                                            deep spite
something possessive and I lose the virtues of this more dis
agreement than what was prefixed earlier Clear form of inhabiting oneself
one in everything I speak to At its best moments
Free because dissolved from understanding that sharing more than something
is the only exercise for the most visible meaning of mercy
Word that when executed at the right time isn’t rotten and plagued with a whiff
Neither of ecclesiastical diapers or any pontificated version of the
                                                            ridiculous tale
of the life from which they emerge and to which they go according to how
                                                            convenient it might be in the nomenclature
of the business to which it’s assigned
That is executed in something unfolded but by the very same
Eternally inhabited by owners and employers
We live the only act that in life justifies
in a physical corporeal way An act that can well
be coined as mercy That edition of the spoils that
act in the solitary act To accompany ourselves from the most dissolved depths
its own conjunction when it manages to join the rest
in those who accede to enter far from the person
in them as among ourselves

Remember, most beloved person who by accident
at its base most chimera which is nothing more than an impasse of your
and who because of that is now reading or listening to this poem
That this was written in a moment that’s made when I write to you
                                                            while you read
That maybe it’s that I’m writing to you And that I can feel forced
                                                            by turbulence
that can be offered from this side of the paper
a gesture I’d like to reveal (but time is already running out
for this poem) Maybe a gesture that could very well indicate
in all it’s description a desire I seek a form of offering a poem
of clear solidarity

{ Diego Sequera, Poemas irresponsables, Caracas: Fundación Editorial El perro y la rana, 2011 }


Sanctus est este mierdero panorama / Diego Sequera

Sanctus est this shit storm panorama

We’re the respectability generation.
We’re the middle class generation.


Sanctus est this shit storm panorama
of all the saints and hortalis ruficaudas
and of the twin turkey vulture of the holy ghost
Oh sacred dovecote that identifies us!
Bird as pure and dirty as shit!
don’t you all know the word Nation
is an abstract animal?
Shit roses for this promising pit of ferment!
You, dirty pigeons, you definitely know
that unfortunately being a moron is a right
(a fuckin’ democratic right)
All of you, who keep up to date
on how to bring up the baby of the family
will you let this sacred dump be stylized for you?
to be shit mud forged in the pre birth
Oh Plato, little Plato, such a whiner, so brilliant, so minuscule!
The man of shit has been proposed in opposition to the one of clay
Where they mark scribbles instead of traces
Where we are rigorously granted
the prestige of belonging
to the ovens of family warmth
to the most compact and solidified generation
of shit
(guano from the sky, guano from God)

We’re the most compact generation of shit

{ Diego Sequera, Poemas irresponsables, Caracas: Fundación Editorial El perro y la rana, 2011 }


Y alguien susurra / Jesús Montoya

And someone whispers

And someone whispers:

You should write from ignorance.
You should write devoid of any curse and desire.
You should write like swimming in dreams
like painting eyes
like inundating seas.
You should write under a dead tongue.
You should write with broken ties
with the body tattooed with stars
with bare feet
with a brilliant malediction.
You should write poisoned by parties.
You should write as if begging that someday.

{ Jesús Montoya, Primer viaje, Maracaibo: Movimiento Poético de Maracaibo, 2014 }


Oh, mancha del lloriqueo universal / Jesús Montoya

Oh, stain of universal whimpering

And not being able to leave.
And not being able to say what I’m saying now.
And not being able to even scream.
And not being able to even stop continuing.
And not being able to accept or renounce.
And not being able to scorn.
And not being able to at least burst.
And not being able to desire or stop desiring.
And not being able to forget.

Reinaldo Arenas

Oh, stain of universal whimpering.
Oh, broken body.
Oh, fleeting matches.
Oh, heartbreaking feeling of relief.
Oh, vagabond heart.
Oh, magic mirror of my chest.
Oh, marginal street.
Oh, Virgin of delights:
break my entire head
with the most blessed hangover you’ve got
I’m letting myself get lost just enough
no one will see my eyes again
I never opened them under the sea
and the waves are cold
and it’s the same things
always the same things
since forever
as ever
tracing this delicate repetition
if I’m going to hallucinate I’ll do it
from an elemental and farcical light
from a puerile and strident light
from an enamored and hoarse light
enamored and slutty like my voice on the sidewalks
whispering huge kisses
sweeping aside everything that happens around me
under the filthy spark of the stars
you will be my love
don’t abandon me in the night
and burn my hands during the day
now and forever
with the same fire
facing the crowd
facing the people heading to work on the streets
I stroll backwards through life with a tear falling from the sun
and I’m so stupid
and I’m so banal
and I’m so mundane
spinning in the unknown patios of cities
where my loves are lost
I sleep with my head leaning on their trips
cackling to myself
betraying myself in my own illusion
drawing lines on myself with the weeping of roads.

Oh, sparkling sea.
Oh, midnight prayer.
Oh, Mérida faggots.
Oh, sweet mother who waits for me.
Oh, cold and pale body.
Oh, harmonic laughter.
Oh, girl with big eyes.
Oh, mountains of the south.
Oh, crazed poet
if your face has filled
with tears again
it’s not from shame
learn that you are minimal
and that you’ve shed
your skin like a snake does
let me show you
let me explain
let me sing to you
the smallest reflection
from the puddle of my face
murky and yellowish
learn how to come back once and for all
and forget authentic departure
only within is the shade that kills you
only within the roses are furiously white
highway ruffian
prince of the binge
love of my loves
boy of my dreams,
sing with me,
sing my first trip.

{ Jesús Montoya, Primer viaje, Maracaibo: Movimiento Poético de Maracaibo, 2014 }


Escucha mi canto / Jesús Montoya

Listen to my song

Listen to my song, brother, it’s cheerful and mediocre and filled with all my visions. Feel the movement of the shadows, listen to my song. We’ve fallen vertically to embrace the rain, listen to my song. From now on you’ll know what binds me to the world, sing with me. We have named the body, not the soul. Sing, fortune is the kiss that kills us. I see the universe clearly when I close my eyes. Tell me if you see it. We’ve come to trace the golden time with white teardrops. We have formed the same circle. Tear my eyes out. Don’t stop listening to me. I will be stripped of my own hands like a criminal. I will never again laugh tangled in the fog. Brother, wake me when you start to dream. If I write that poetry is a flame, it’s because everything is shutting down.

{ Jesús Montoya, Primer viaje, Maracaibo: Movimiento Poético de Maracaibo, 2014 }


He decorado la traición de la belleza / Jesús Montoya

I have decorated beauty’s betrayal

I have decorated beauty’s betrayal.
I have made ignorance my behavior.
I have believed all the secrets,
because everything remains.

The words are choking me. I will never again lack this impossible oath to curse them. I know I live because I sing. I still possess the frightening laugh. I won’t hide anything. I feel tormented, shining, shining. Open your chest. I’m not acting. Look at me, I’ve kept the sea in my eyes forever. Let me inflate my consciousness in space. The horizon is marvelous. I’m not faking it. No one will come and spill their hands on my body because no one is listening to me. No one will edge the limit. No one will grow by embracing my words. No one. Listen closely to what I tell you: the words are burning me. That’s what freedom is like, shining, shining. Every day I feel myself disappear a little bit more. Silence, silence. My misfortune is terribly alien and its story is fleeting. Silence, silence. The birds sing and announce my departure.

{ Jesús Montoya, Primer viaje, Maracaibo: Movimiento Poético de Maracaibo, 2014 }


Pez-Girasol / Graciela Bonnet


You come from the night, in the middle of sleep, you say you’re a sunflower fish that emerges displaying a tail of sand, the tip of the fin, which is also a petal, which is also a leaf.
You come from the other side of the room, which at dawn is an infinite space, a desert like you’ve never seen before, complete desolation, the glare of closed eyelids, the sheets are superimposed solid doors closed to that other reality, the one that comes from sleep, turning in thousands of superimposed images, while you say you’re the sunflower fish buried in the sand in the back yard, amid the tilled dirt waiting for seeds, dampened so it’ll explode in a thicket of leaves.
It doesn’t matter anymore what was hidden behind those doors of memory, it doesn’t exist. If you finally open them, there’ll be nothing hidden, so nothing will be able to hurt you.
And tomorrow when the sun rises we’ll pray the waves in the patio, to the ones that pass over our heads, very high up there, lowered by the wind, the ones swimming backwards, fleeing through the clouds, sunflower fish, until the glare of the sun, until eyes closed, until never again.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


Nos gustaba / Graciela Bonnet

We liked watching the night from the window.
It was a window that opened to the city’s valley and you could see a multitude of lights shinning or turned off.
You were saying behind those lights there was life, people were loving and dying, hating and being born.
I know. I didn’t need to lean out the window to understand there were people in the city who lived their tragedies and their unimportance each day. There was nothing we could do, no matter how much we insisted on staring out the window every night, and repeating to ourselves there were a multitude of lives in the darkness; we couldn’t even understand the moment, the close coincidence threaded in the world allowing us to do that, simply sit together and watch the night, on no particular day, at any window, in an anonymous city.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


Juan Liscano / Graciela Bonnet

Juan Liscano
January, 2001

The water’s murmur rushing through the rocks.
The sunny patio, with its rocking chair, its half-finished paintings, its wooden or clay figurines.
The living room sofa with a blanket woven in vivid colors.
The angled window, right by the just-cleaned kitchen, everything calm and ready for a nap.
The smell of the sheets ironed, folded and put away with camphor tablets, a branch of lavender or a cinnamon clove.
An ancient chest, a hobby horse, the dinning room table, a cage sleeping on the windowsill.
The board in the middle with the half empty glasses.
Those words that spoke of a loosed youth.
Of a love until death, of a thought, of a thought
The book that was left open forever.
Paintings, postcards, letters, photographs, music, newspaper clippings
Everything has a face, a voice that speaks to me from inside and tells me goodbye, never, no more.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


Eugenio Montejo / Graciela Bonnet

Eugenio Montejo
June, 2008

We’re born with a few feelings and sensations that make us unique in the universe.
Since we enjoy life, we soon understand the deal involves negotiating what we have so death might not take us so soon. Thus, we keep renouncing our things in exchange for death allowing us a little more life.
One day it keeps our simplicity, and eventually it will seem fine to us when it takes our freshness, strength and confidence.
In the end, when we have nothing left, besides a pile of broken bones, we understand that it’s time we returned to our old residence.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


La torre del árbol / Eugenio Montejo

The Tower of the Tree

                                                            to Juan Sánchez Peláez

      Green is the tower of the tree
and its wall murmurs.
The wind knows it will never win,
the clouds fall from the drawbridge,
the sun traps the walls, but it doesn’t pass.
Green is the strength of its tower
and unbeatable on the earth it’s erected
from the roots to the high battlements.
At night the nests close up
and outside the eye of the sparrow
reading his Hamlet
without being distracted guards the horizon,
meditating the prince’s story
until the final act.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Réplica nocturna / Eugenio Montejo

Nocturnal Reply

      I won’t write any more tonight,
silence, shades,
cover my voices with ash and memory,
bells are suddenly wolves,
each word becomes a knife
and stains my hands with blood.
Anyways, this old lamp
lies too much.

      It won’t be tonight. I’ll fill my eyes
with drunken morning surprise.
I’m stunned by the insomniac noise of taxis
as they descend through the suburbs,
birds that become stars
but don’t sing.
I’m going to mix with the sleep of the world
until dawn arrives to pronounce the words
from my somnambulant notebook.
This lamp returns to dead butterflies
and their glass monologues
cross the centuries and cut my speech.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Una palma / Eugenio Montejo

A Palm Tree

                                                            to Ramón Palomares

      What I look at
in a palm tree
is not a leaf or the wind,
nor the savage caryatid
where color appears
to glimpse horizons.
It’s not the bitter rancor
of the rocks
nor the green guitars
of the inconsolable sea.
Some of my bones, don’t I know,
the blood that drop by drop
and man to man
has been rolling for centuries
to populate me
somewhat too of my beloved dead,
their voices,
rotates in its column
and adds me to the air.
What I touch in it
with my eyes
and look at with my hands
the root that binds us
to this deep land
from a dream that’s so strong
no storm
can displace us.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Trópico absoluto / Eugenio Montejo

Absolute Tropics

      Blue and white palm trees
sharp marine sun at the shores of the coast,
iodized wind, naked bodies, waves.
I’m contemplating this land as if I were seeing it for the first time
or were about to leave it.
I cling to it, celebrate its ancient desire
in each rock, in each little pebble.
It’s the same landscape modulating the voices
so many times heard in cities and villages,
the same sun that was burning
in the absorbed retinas of my parents.
I’m not sure if I see it from another world
and wander absently now
dreaming through the air.
This light epitomizes for me life and death
in a beam of floating colors
that my silence draws in letters for me.
In this light the false pearl of the thief,
the dark girl with the turban who crosses herself,
the street urchin’s rags,
the alcatraz, the cicada, the noise of the salt marshes,
all align in a vast rainbow
where the magic of the absolute tropics
grows in a scream in the depths of my blood.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Noviembre / José Barroeta


                                                  To Mario Abreu

Let’s go look for my father,
My body is full of apples
and I could go out into the hills
with your month's name,
to wait for the stars to come out
and take us to him,
to his black head lost in the mud.
We’re passing the houses,
where your clarity November
frightens the women
to look for my father at the bottom of the soup
that boils.
Let’s enter the cadaver through the gold holes
that the rabbits open
and let’s watch how you pose in them November
close in the eyes to animal convulsion.
Don’t leave home without tracing
neither river nor stone nor forest
go right in at the hollow
right at November’s skin
and take me to the warm place of the dead.
Leave your busy bee clearness as a symbol
that my dead father is found anywhere
nourished by that love I give the night when
I look for him.
Leave me fixed and uninjured,
like the woman who lives in my body,
as I prepare the return to the sky of the cadaver
I seek
and it moves mysteriously in god like the first movement
that was made in the world,
quick and fertile like the dead father
I seek with you November.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


En la mañana / José Barroeta

In the Morning

                                                  To Miyó Vestrini

There’s sun.
My father’s milk drops from the cadaver
into air.
An oneiric milk,
in a state of coma
knocks down summer’s shine at the beginning,
doubles white the roses where the bird poses.
There’s sun.
My siblings like chicks
start to open spaces in the
timid earth.
There’s sun.
I’m riding in the car of the dead
with November flowers
and milk from my father on my face.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


Samanes / José Barroeta


                                                  To Ludovico Silva

These samanes where the day
falls with Christ
keep the sinister away.
Death doesn’t elevate itself in them
but actually lives again
like in childhood
walking around randomly.
Those samanes
living with your father’s colors
in their eyes
they carry no time and no space
they’re calmly subject to disappear.
These samanes that don’t make sense,
because we’ll never reach them,
they make your dead father appear
amid shadows
with the light of those psalms
the wind gives the dead.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


A mi tos no hay lana que la cubra / José Barroeta

There’s No Wool To Cover My Cough

                                                  To Víctor Valera Mora

There’s no wool to cover my cough.
I’m so scared, father, that I wait
for a glass of water alone.
October’s desire to take me has passed,
but I’m scared.
The beast calls me,
my own,
the one I contained so much.
What I thought to leave in spirit
became body
and life indulges me so much
that night still falls.
When the fruit of my town drops
they’re my owners,
I’ve done nothing to keep them
in my heart.
Father, I have a great fright,
tell my mother about it as you touch
her pillow.
Tell her they stole my partridge
and the fig,
the September shade I treated
so poorly.
I can’t do it father.
My sister lives like a chicken
and I want her feathers;
I can’t stand
so much love in her belly.
My thirst for the old places
suffers a fable.
You and I, father,
made appointments in the forests.
Before showing up we imposed silence.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


Elegía / José Barroeta


While death exists I will live in song,
wandering in a wave of desperate music. In the winter,
in any season, there are so many who have died for me.

I always want to leave life without bitterness,
to leave it as I’ve seen it. The hope night gives me,
maybe the obsession of being dead, have prevented me from burying myself,
from flying over the thread of my solar soul.

I would like to dress myself with the color of death,
carry the rigorous fantasy within. Love a pale woman with
wings like nothing else.

My desire is not to flee from life but to fix it within what
snatches it away. This light today covers nothing and only the cadaver’s dream
invites us to travel.

Todos han muerto (1971)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


Victoria de Stefano: “Vivimos con temor a que el país nos arrastre” / Hugo Prieto

Victoria de Stefano: “We live in fear of the country sweeping us away”

                                                  [Photo: Elvira Prieto]

The writer is struggling with the novel she’s writing at the moment. She has chosen a Gauguin painting as a lamp that guides her path... Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Surely the country, the bog that Rómulo Gallegos spoke of, is imposing formidable obstacles for her. But we already know about her tenacity, her perseverance. There will be continuity, a line that extends to her most recent novel Paleografías (2011), but also a portrait of what we are and a renewed exploration, perhaps without the joy of other experiences, of that great theme which is desolation nearly transformed into a literary genre.

Victoria de Stefano will speak about the contemplative world, which is the world of artists and of intellectuals in general, and about her extensive literary oeuvre at the Plaza Altamira Book Fair tonight. She will be joined by another great Venezuelan writer, Elisa Lerner, in a colloquium that will be moderated by the poet Rafael Castillo Zapata. The event is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. What follows is a long conversation with the author of Historias de la marcha a pie (1997).

What’s your view of the panorama of Venezuelan literature?

I think that the crisis of these last few years (economic, political, cultural...) the crisis of a country more that divided, right? even with people completely cut off from one another, has forced everyone to feel the necessity of reading Venezuelan writers. In the 1970s, when I began to appear as a writer, let’s say, there were very few writers, apart from the already famous ones: Adriano González León, Salvador Garmendia, Elisa Lerner, Baica Dávalos, Orlando Araujo, Francisco Masiani... I could name more, but there wasn’t the quantity of writers from different generations who coexist as they do today. I’m talking about fiction, about the novel, the short story. Of course, there’s also the poets. In those years, young Venezuelan writers needed to read the elders. Now I think we read each other more. Today I have no problem reading both younger and older writers. There’s a need for acknowledgement and also, perhaps, for establishing a tradition.

That seems to come later in Venezuela, right? That is, if there’s not a tradition, there’s not a school, there isn’t constant renovation but rather a literature like the one we’ve seen: zigzagging, abrupt.

But we definitely can say that the academy has grown, the professors have grown. We can’t talk about literary critics, since there aren’t any publications where literary critics might write. I mean, the tradition of criticism is weaker, but we do have one. What I think is that there’s been an attempt to remake a tradition.

With the existence of talent, isn’t there a need for that literary tradition, that tradition of criticism?

There is a literary tradition! That is, there’s been a tendency in the country to depend on tradition. In Argentine literature, for example, where that fact is very present, there’s something interesting as well. There are even writers who in their novels make references to not only literary tradition, but they embody it in characters, in situations, in circumstances. There’s a type of dialogue with other writers, with other tendencies. We’ve seen much less of that process, but the tradition exists. We’re not going to say that it’s a tradition like the French one or what Gombrowicz calls the primary traditions. No. We still belong to the secondary traditions.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Does it make you perceive a more precarious reality?

No, more conflictive for the writer. I mean, if the writer is reduced to the local world, to the Venezuelan tradition —which of course is part of the Latin American tradition, right?—, if you localize yourself too much, you lose the possibility of creating beyond those immediate surroundings and if you turn too much to the outside, in regards to writers from abroad, that also turns you into a second rate writer. I’m going to lay it out for you as a writer not a critic, because the question you ask me about the panorama would imply that I’ve tried to internalize that panorama, something I haven’t done. I’ve never been a professor of Venezuelan or Latin American literature. What is the conflict one faces? Well, in the end I say to myself, I’m going to write what I want, what I can and what interests me, no matter how much the country might scold me for not writing about what’s happening here, regardless of someone telling me I have a lot of references to Italy in my work. Yes, those are in there.

To traditions outside our own?

We all have the right to do that. The homeland, for writers, for intellectuals in general, can’t be reduced to geographical limits. That theme of identity no longer interests me at all. That was back in the 1970s, not just for me but for many writers. Well, trying to write proudly, to write what you think has to be written. There’s a detail too. I was born in 1940, in Rimel, Italy. When the war was over, I came to Venezuela. There’s a glance, because I have a family tradition, both my father and my mother were educated, trained people. So, how am I expected to cut that world off? I can’t. Anyways, today we’re all multicultural beings.

Venezuela is a country that’s eternally under construction, that has struggled a great deal in many areas to achieve accomplishments, completed tasks. Could its literature be a reflection of that?

Each generation, each period, tries to build itself from the beginning, as if what came before weren’t there. The generation I belong to studied elementary school in the 1950s, I entered the university in 1958, we had a more vernacular education compared to students today. I say it in a more Venezulanist, more Americanist sense. When I started school, we had many professors who came from Argentina, some of them came after the fall of Perón, we used to read the poetry of Gabriela Mistral. Do they read anything like that in high school today? We read Ramón Díaz Sánchez very well. I used to levitate with “Cumboto,” With the novels of José Rafael Pocaterra. It was actually a world with a more Latin Americanist vision.

I’d like to propose something to you, since you mention Pocaterra. Many people are waiting for the novel about the Bolivarian revolution, like Memories of Underdevelopment in Cuba or the counter narrative, as Memorias de un venezolano en la decadencia could have been. But neither of them has appeared.

But that’s a petition that can’t be made to writers. I mean, Pocaterra’s book has to do with the concrete experiences of a country, it’s the biography of a writer, a writer who’s been in jail, who has known conspiracies, who also has a lineage and antecedents in England, he forms part of a time period when politics, the country and literature went practically hand in hand. The role of the writer now isn't Pocaterra’s, nor is it Arturo Uslar Pietri’s. They're more isolated figures, they’re less engaged with the country in that sense. By this I mean the country has become departmentalized, just like in France today you can’t think of figures such as Sartre or Albert Camus, it’s another era, another story, another world.

They’re more solitary, more self-absorbed.

It’s another society. That starring role no longer exists and whoever aspires to it might attain some social or media success, but it won’t go beyond that. We write, and who knows if in 20 or 30 years anyone will read us or not. I think the idea is that writers should write, regardless of whether they might hope or not hope to be read. What will be left of this small world in 20 or 30 years? We don’t know.

What’s left of that country from your first novel El desolvido (1970)?

A great disenchantment and a great sadness. But there might also be a certain nostalgia for youth, for the chimeras and the experiences that were lived and took shape.


No, not bitterness.

It’s nostalgia, a sorrowful feeling, a certain mourning, but not bitterness.

It includes a portrait of your generation.

Yes. Historias de la marcha a pie, which I wrote much later on and was very difficult to publish, is a continuation of La noche llama a la noche (1985), it’s another reflection on the same theme, amplified. In the tradition of universal literature, the theme of disenchantment is very present, there’s even a category of novels called the category of disenchantment and in Cuban literature there are great novels of disenchantment, for example, the novels of Jesús Díaz. There’s a tradition, it almost constitutes a genre. But when I write, I don’t do it based on a plan... I’ll write about this... I’ll write about that, no. I start writing from very small things. For example, in Cabo de vida (1993), which is a novel that hasn’t been read much, because it didn’t have editorial continuity, the theme is a group of waiters for a party planning agency, who go from party to party, serving, so there’s both worlds, how they see them and the fact that being waiters doesn’t prevent them from having a spiritual rather than an intellectual life.

Out of those utopias, those experiences, what remains? What line could be established in continuity?

I wouldn’t know how to answer what line of continuity might exist. There are people who lived through those experiences, some of them are writers, some are intellectuals, some are even in politics and have lived through the fact of disenchantment. Sometimes, a few of them can do this with bitterness, others not. I don’t feel any bitterness.

The characters in your novels live in surroundings that dominate them, that impose themselves, but at the same time they’re characters that reflect tremendously about that. One could say they’re not people of action and yet they experience situations of great adversity.

The theme of adversity is present in my novels. In La noche llama a la noche, there’s a man of action, who is the kidnapper, then he leaves and continues his political activities throughout the world. He dies on a train. We don’t know how, I don’t even know how, if it’s a suicide or a paranoid situation that leads to his death. In my novels there’s a reflection on action and on the contemplative world, which is the world of the artist. That’s in all my novels. Even in the one I’m currently writing. But there’s an overarching theme which is adversity. Maybe when you asked me if there’s bitterness, I said no, but there is a great fear of adversity. Of the adversity that can present itself in different ways. There’s also the theme of freedom and of how you’re determined, how others determine you, and of what the human being’s space for freedom might be. As a question. I never have an answer.

Adversity isn’t the result of an action, it’s the result of a circumstance, of events that are unleashed and those characters are unrelated to those events.

And that’s our reality, for my characters. I don’t know if I’m making sense. My characters include many depressed people, who are living through a moment of crisis. Some of them very serious, others not as much. I don’t know how a French person might live in Paris, who’s a professor or writes. But I do know how we live here in Venezuela. Those of us who are intellectuals, writers, even other types of people, we live everything as if it were a crisis, with a fear of a certain adversity, that the country might overtake us, that it might sweep us away, that we might return, as Rómulo Gallegos would say, to the bog. I do think that’s present and, surely, it can be found in many other writers.

There’s an anguish that competes with adversity. One notices that the country already devoured us and it continues to do so. How can we fight against that?

As an individual, independent from your social or intellectual condition, we all have to fight against that, individually.

With an intellectual life or a political one?

Each person makes a choice. Some are made for political life and they fight from there. Others are made for the spiritual life. Regardless, they’re not two separate things, right? Are they two separate things?

I think that in Venezuela, yes.

Ah then, in Venezuela yes.

Would you agree with that?

Yes, I agree.

Is Historias de la marcha a pie a novel about death?

It’s about illness, death, adversities. Yes, that’s the central theme. On one occasion I read a chapter at a university in Mexico, where I was invited. At first I said I felt bad with them, for reading such a terrible chapter to them. And the professor who invited me, who knew my novel very well, said: “But it’s written in such a jubilant style. One feels that when the writer writes she enters into a certain ecstasy, a certain jubilation, so read it like that.”

It’s also a jubilation for life.

Of course, exactly. That’s what he meant.

It has that counterpoint.

That’s life.

And what you’re narrating is death.

Which is a part of life.

Don’t you think death is a business we should leave to doctors, priests, conjurers?

I think that regardless of the word business, each one of us negotiates with our illness and our death, in our own way. There are people who don’t negotiate illness and death. I’m remembering a friend who was gravelly ill and the doctors told him he needed an operation and he didn’t do it. He died on his own terms.

Which is also valid.

Perfectly valid. Juan Sánchez Peláez [the poet] also refused treatment. But regardless of that, maybe recovery by means of medicine is valid. But there’s also recovery through desire, through necessity, through will. All the variations exist. So does suicide. At the moment, I’m writing a novel. Each time I write a novel, I set up a painting for myself. It’s as if it guides me, maybe it doesn’t guide me and I find another one. But the one I have for my novel right now, which I’m having a lot of trouble writing, I think I feel a certain amount of dejection. Where am I heading? What am I writing? What interest can this have? I’m not writing with the jubilation I had when I wrote Historias de la marcha a pie. Does that have to do with what’s happening in Venezuela? I suppose. Obviously yes. But the painting I set up is Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Do you know which one it is? The famous painting by Gauguin that he painted in one of those islands.

In that sense, will your next novel have continuity with Paleografías?

I hope so. But I feel that what we’re living is slightly where we come from, who we are, where we’re going and that it’s an eternal question and that maybe with us it’s more present, marked.

It’s an eternal question, but at this moment, for us in Venezuela, it’s an urgent question.

Well, eternal and urgent.

{ Hugo Prieto, Contrapunto, 16 November 2014 }