For a variety of reasons Venezuelan literature is largely unknown outside of Latin America. Even within that region, Venezuelan writers are often overshadowed by the work coming out of countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Peru, etc. Why is this? I don't imagine this situation of relative invisibility will change any time soon. One could argue that there are benefits to invisibility. Some of the vene-writers I plan on discussing and translating into English on this blog include:
Fernando Paz Castillo (1893-1981)
Arturo Uslar Pietri (1906-2001)
Vicente Gerbasi (1913-1992)
Antonia Palacios (1915-2001)
Elizabeth Schon (1921)
Rafael Cadenas (1930)
Rafael Castillo Zapata (1958)
Martha Kornblith (1959-1997)
Patricia Guzman (1960)
Jacqueline Goldberg (1965)
Having grown up in Caracas during the 1970s and 80s, I had never fully realized how that city exists as its own country within Venezuela. I've traveled to very few places in Venezuela outside the Caribbean orbit of Caracas, although I hope to see more of it in the future. At the moment, I can't go back because of some Kafka-esque legal problems I had with the "talibanes" in (the disaster known as) Hugo Chavez's "Bolivarian revolution" when I was last there in 2002, visiting family & looking for books. I wrote an essay ("Tropical Fascism") about this event, which Eileen Tabios was generous enough to post at CorpsePoetics last month (thanks again, Eileen). I'll probably post it here in the next few days.
The following fragments are from an essay on Juan Sanchez Pelaez, written by the Peruvian critic Julio Ortega in his book Taller de la escritura (conversaciones, encuentros, entrevistas) (Mexico, D.F.: Siglo Veintinuo Editores, 2000):
"It has always seemed to me that Juan is a type of Rimbaud that stayed home. Not because he hasn't traveled, nor because he is a hermit. But instead, because he never had to go to Africa. In other words, he didn't go through the dilemma of having to 'change his life', which was given to him already transformed ahead of time, in the poem."
"He is free within poetry because he has not compromised his word with the powers at hand, nor has he engaged in their mere refutation. And although sometimes more than alone he feels abandoned, he is an example of silent integrity. He has dedicated not only his youth, like Rimbaud, and his old age, like Pound, to poetry but rather, an entire life free of age."
"He has pursued various careers, such as translator in Maracaibo, teacher in Trinidad, cultural attache in Colombia and traveling correspondent for Radio Nacional. As a young man he was in Chile, sent to study by his father, whom he permanently disappointed by choosing poetry. He spent several years in Paris in obscure poverty, and others in New York, working as a translator."
He publishes infrequently, but each of his books is a universe:
Elena y los elementos (Caracas: Tipografia Garrido, 1951)
Animal de costumbre (Caracas: Editorial Suma, 1959)
Filiacion oscura (Caracas: Editorial Arte, 1966)
Rasgos comunes (Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 1975)
Por cual causa o nostalgia (Caracas: Fundarte, 1981)
Aire sobre el aire (Caracas: Tierra de Gracia Editores, 1989)
Poesia: 1951-1989 (Caracas: Monte Avila editores, 1993)
Elena y los elementos (Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 2001)
Elena and the Elements: II
Dragged under anvils without noise or caresses
Another time another moment
Separate me from my body's planks, the spoils
The spoils of my soul
Toward a nest of fright, chaos growing there.
Then a pistol interposed itself
Shot into the air three times
By love drunkards.
My close friend died three years ago
From three bullets shot into the air.
She was scandalously dressed for a masked ball
She was playing a game of poker at the fatal instant.
I remember my close friend.
I'm certain I knew her three hundred years ago.
I forget her now.
Another time, another moment.
The halo of specters inundates me.
Elena y los elementos (1951)